#9 - Heartbroken in Prague

All I want to do is to sleep. But I can’t. Partly because I have work to do. But I also had nowhere to go.

Even before I confessed my feelings for her, my mind was preparing for the worst. I even messaged Alex and asked whether I can crash with him for a bit. Deep down I felt that this wouldn’t work, just like every time before.

She saw that something was off. On the tram ride back, she asked me what was wrong and I replied that she couldn’t do anything about it which was a lie. I didn’t want to back out now but I kept telling myself over and over again that this wouldn’t work. But that was a lie too. The reality was that this was all in my head. I had no idea how she would react and there was always a chance. A small chance maybe even a pico one. But a chance nonetheless. After my first heartbreak, I promised myself that I would always speak up if I felt strongly about someone and I was going to keep this promise.

As we got off the tram and walked towards her place., I started to speak. “I like you” I said “and I have been trying to tell this to you for a long time”. She remained quiet as I went on for a bit. Finally, she replied “Thanks for telling me. Please don’t take this the wrong way but I like someone else”. I looked at the ground and grinned ironically to myself. My premonition was now true.

We kept talking as we went back to her room. Inside we sat on the beds at the opposite sides of her small dorm room and kept talking. I can’t remember exactly what we talked about but it was about relationships and their differences across our cultures. She was trying to make me feel better, but it was not working. I alternated between twirling the paddles of her dismantled bike between the two beds and looking at her for as long as I can bear. I was fighting back the urge to say something to guilt trip her. She had hurt me and deep down, I wanted to hurt her back. But I knew that none of this was her fault.

This conversation is going nowhere. I knew it from the start and eventually I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to run away. “I am going to go” I told her as I stood up. Once outside, I called Alex. “Man you should have let me know more in advance but sure you can come” he replied with an amused voice. Out of all the things that he has done for me, I am incredibly grateful to him for this and for having my back over the next few days.

I was broken, in a way I haven’t been for a long time. When I woke up the next day, I didn’t feel like doing anything. But I had no choice. I was in Prague for a few days to handle the visa process. If I didn’t do this now, my visa would expire in a month and with no way to renew it, I would be deported. I also planned to get work remotely for a bit but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I took a day off and turned to what I do when I am upset. I turned to writing.

A morning of writing later, I felt no better. But I had to pick myself up and get to a post office to pick up a document. Somehow I managed to do that without any incident but afterwards I had no energy left. I just wanted to sleep. But I had nowhere to go. Alex only had one key to his place and I could only get in after he got back from work. So I went to park and lied on the grass with my backpack as a pillow. As I stared at the clouds, I groaned in agony as my heart ached with a dull throb. Why is this so hard?

Meanwhile, I switched between asking her random questions and then deleting the entire message history. Why?. Why did you say no? Is there something wrong with me? No matter what the question was, she always wrote me back. I can’t remember what she said but it helped with the situation and I am grateful to her for that. I wanted someone to talk to about this and I asked whether she would like to meet again. She then told me that she too had spent the entire day sleeping to recover and that she couldn’t afford to keep doing that. Knowing how hard she worked to survive on her own in Prague, I understood this. But for the first time, I saw that this was hard for her too.

I only knew one way to move on from this. I had to completely cut contact from her. Distance and time were the only things that worked for me in the past. So I deleted our conversation history for the last time and removed her from my Facebook. But later when I was later rummaging through my backpack, I found the jacket she had lent to me. Despite my resolve to build distance, I wanted to return it to her. I am many things but by principle, I am not a thief.

As she climbed down the stairs in front of her building, I gave her a watery smile. “How are you?” she asked. “I am not doing too well” I replied. I couldn’t bring myself to look her much but when I did, I saw that she was shaken up a bit as well. She saw me struggling to look at her and knowing that any conversation was futile, she said goodbye. As I watched up climb back up the stairs, I processed the fact that she was hurting too. Maybe not for the same reasons as me. Somehow knowing that it was hard was her too made me feel better.

But I was still in a downward spiral. I wasn’t living in Prague back then and every time I visited, I used to go to Wenceslas square. It feel alive when compared to the empty České Budějovice. The crowds made me feel less alone and in some way, it made me feel more like home. But now it wasn’t working. I wanted someone to talk to but there was no one. I didn’t know many people in Prague and I didn’t feel like talking about it with the few people I did know. Alex was still at work. All the people I knew were back in ČB and it would be several days until I returned. As I stood at the centre of the square staring ahead, I thought to myself “How can one feel so alone in a city so full of people?”

Wenceslas square at night

Ultimately I followed my initial resolve. I cut all contact with her. It was over a year until I met her again and I realized that I was completely over her by then. We chatted for a bit and it was normal. But then while she was talking to the others, she glanced at me and I saw it. We both knew what had happened but it is all over now. I flashed back to the moment I stepped out her door that night. “Don’t give up” she said. I looked at her and with as much sincerity as I could muster I replied “I will try”.

I was reminded of this story as I was riding the tram back at 3AM in a situation very close to that night. While I am over her I haven’t felt that strongly about someone since then. As time goes on, I feel like I am locking away more and more of myself against the repeated heartbreak. The smile on my face dulls day by day as I grow more and more stoic. Occasionally I smile but it is a smile painted on shattered glass that breaks into more and more pieces as time goes by. Maybe this is the reality for a lot of other people today as well.

Even though it was a long time ago, it all comes back to me as I write this. All the heartache and the loneliness. Even though it is not my current state, I am only a few steps away from it. I keep distancing myself more and more, keeping myself more and more estranged while paradoxically wanting the opposite. Life has given me many things but romance and deep connection is not one of them. I sometimes ponder whether I would trade the adventure and growth in my life for this and I honestly don’t have a definitive answer. I keep telling myself that this is the price I pay for adventure and growth. There is always something that must be sacrificed to gain something. But I can’t stop wondering whether I can have it all.

I envy the people who find this more naturally. I see couples on the street and I ponder, “How do you do it?” I know this is something that comes through experience and practice but I have neither and no idea where to start.

Over the years, I have become increasingly pessimistic. It stills surprises me that I was pessimistic enough to ask my friend to host me hours before I asked her. The moment I feel something for someone another part of my mind immediately pipes up saying that it will never work. I feel like all it takes is for me to show interest in someone for them to run away. So far, all of this has been true. I am trying to change that, to believe there is at least a small chance that it will work but it is a battle against years of conditioning.

Many people tell me to stop worrying so much. To a certain extent I accept that.The most amazing moments and turning points of my life happened when I was least expecting it to, so it could be the same for this too. But at the same time, I believe that I am in control of my life and that I am in control of this too. So letting go feels counterintuitive. But I feel that letting go is right and that is what I am trying to do. This too is a battle. Trying not to think about something only makes you think about it even more. The alternative is having other things to think about which is what I am trying to do through my work, this blog being one of them.

I feel like I am heading for a life of increasing solitude but this can be my pessimism talking again. The truth is that despite how much I speculate, I don’t know what the future holds for me. But the one thing I have committed to, regardless of the good or the bad, the beautiful or the ugly, is that I will always keep moving forward.

Story from 15 Aug 2017, Published 23 Sep 2018

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