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Day 347: ce jour-là


I'm sitting at Cafe Borgia on Price Street, wrapped up in a thick, over-sized, gray sweater, and sipping on my second extra-hot vanilla latte.  Spring is here...or so they say. You could have fooled me with these forty degree overcast days as we wait for the sun to warm up and follow the lead of the bees, tulips, longer days and the blooming trees that with each gust of wind, creates a gentle storm of petals.

Although it doesn't feel like spring here in New York or in Paris, I wouldn't trade today, this moment, my life, for last year's early seventy-five degree days. All I need to do is to is close my eyes and run my bottle of Marc Jacobs "Lola" perfume under my nose to bring me back to this dark time of my life...one haunting day in particular. 

Picture it. Paris. Today last year.

I was returning home from another numbingly long day from my job as an executive photocopier, wondering what the hell I was doing with my life. The fact that I'd be pressing a button for nine hours a day was the initial appeal of the position - the idea was to not think - not realizing within weeks I would grow restless and hungry for more meaning in my life. Unfortunately rent and bills happen, so pushing a green "start" button was my reality and also, what was keeping me in Paris. We do what we have to do.

As each mockingly picturesque day went by, where my big life decisions ranged from which metro stop I'd get off that day, would I go to the Franprix by Saint Paul or the G20 on Rue Vieille du Temple, and what could I watch when I got home that wouldn't make me burst out in streams of tears, I decided to be a wild child and walk home from work that day. With my cardigan stuffed in my work tote, I rolled up the sleeves of my sky blue H&M button down, and went from George V to Hôtel de Ville, not even the aimless tourists on the Champs-Elysées encroached on the comfort of my haze. The only thing I had to focus on was walking straight, the simplicity of this task was soothing. 

Champs-Elysées turned into Place de la Concorde which turned into another long stretch on Rue de Rivoli towards the Marais. Finally making a left from this busy street onto Rue des Archives, I passed by all the cafés that MF and I would sit at for early evening apéros. On our good days, we'd sit out on one of the terraces, side by side, me tucked under his arm and we'd look out onto the Marais and talk about our life, future and share funny anecdotes our day. As I let my mind become intoxicated and seduced by memories of my former life of cafés, rosé and Gitanes, I saw him. I hadn't seen him since he dropped my things off at my new apartment and now there he was. MF at a café, one of our cafés...with another woman. I have watched this scene played over and over in films, where the lead actress sees the man that she loves with someone else and while it's supposed to be devastating, it never got much sympathy from me. It's not until you've lived and experienced it for yourself that you are able to understand the magnitude of pain of being replaced by another woman. My heart shot right down to the caverns of my stomach seeing the two of them laughing and enjoying each other at Caffe Vito. They were savoring this warm evening in the Marais as I was miserable, watching the days pass in my chambre de bonne, trying to squeeze in one little chuckle a day by humiliating myself at Belly and African tribal dance classes, trying not to explode into tears when told by my boss that I needed to be trained in filing paper, my life had been turned upside down but here these two were, living life to its fullest at one of our cafés. I wanted to smash him. 

The woman, I immediately recognized as someone who had been sniffing around his restaurant, always proposing to get a drink with him after work, feigning innocence in her little request to spend time with the man I shared a home with. Of course I was always the bitch for questioning her intentions, and even the suggestion that I thought she was being inappropriate for pursuing a taken man, caused a two day war between MF and I. Sometimes, I really don't understand women. I would never do that, but my days of assuming other people would do the ethical and morally correct thing and act as I would are long over. Barbara McRoy taught me that lesson. 

Before I could even consider turning around to avoid him, I felt his black eyes on me. I had been spotted. I had to be a big girl and deal with this. I took a deep breath and approached the café where he got up from his seat and met me on the sidewalk, away from his new girlfriend. Once we were face to face, I couldn't look at him. How could he be on a date so soon? And with someone I had suspicions about months before! I wanted to scream this at him because in my mind I still had the right to, but the shock of how quickly he stopped loving me rendered me speechless. He tried to go in for the casual double kiss but I wouldn't let him downplay the situation with a trivial bisous. I put my hand up and flinched back as if he was poison, like a cat reacting to strong perfume. We weren't friends and I didn't want to assuage his guilt of him pressuring me to finally give up my apartment at La Motte-Picquet and fully move in with him, to have him dump me two months later where I was scrambling the streets of Paris looking for a new home. Forget him. There was no way I was going to let him think that it was now all in the past and we were now buds. My wounds of his impulsiveness were too raw. I don't remember much after this, just leaving him behind with my head hung low, holding back the wall of tears building up in my eyes, and walking as fast as my little ballerines would take me. We had nothing to say to each other. All I wanted to do was hole up in my apartment for the rest of my life.

My sadness was much deeper than a mere feeling of disappointment for a relationship gone wrong. This was the kind of pain that burned every time I thought of him, her, and the worst; him with her. A stinging sensation would shoot through my entire body at the thought of them and couldn't help but wonder what was really going on those nights when he came home at 2 am. I felt sick from the assumed betrayal. Everything was heightened that night, not even a glass of wine and a conversation with Aunt Terry out in L.A could get me out of this one, I was planted right in the thick of my own madness. This was the very moment that I knew that it truly was over.

As long as I live, I don't think I'll ever forget how this felt. Do we ever forget this kind of heartbreak? Is it even possible?

Being able to comment on this a year later, as a stronger woman, a heartbreak survivor, I'm grateful for this! Thank God it didn't work out! He wasn't the one for me and it truly is no one's fault but my own for locking myself so deeply into his life, where starting over on my own seemed close to impossible. I did it to myself and it took me a year to realize that. The spring season is reminding me of my own personal growth and experiencing pain, as harrowing as it can be, isn't always a bad thing. I wouldn't be who I am today without it.

26 comments:

  1. Just discovered your blog. I've started reading it from the beginning while also reading your new posts. You've come a long way baby! Congratulations!

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    1. Hi Tara! Thank you so much!

      Yes, it's been quite a year!


      ..and welcome aboard. : )

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  2. When you are down, the only way is up, as the cliche goes. Unfortunately, you can't see that when you are in the middle of the misery. Later, you can put it in perspective. That is why it is so sad when young people think their lives are over. You write so well - so vividly! Your reader can almost feel your pain - even when you are describing an event almost a year old. I am so glad you are happy now. GM.

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    1. Thank you so much. The response to this post has been overwhelming. I'm so pleased that it touched so many of you. We've all had that heartbreak moment, so we can all relate!

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  3. As anonymous said above, you are an incredible writer. I could feel your pain so clearly in this post. I'm so glad that you had the courage to start this blog so we could all see your progression and know that life can get better if you make the effort. You're wonderful.

    Also, I love the changes to the site! It looks so great!

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    1. Thank you Miss MCJ!!! You're too kind. I feel like I won an award this week! You are all so encouraging and inspiring! Thank you!!!

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  4. I've also never had much empathy in those movie scenes, but I've also never run into an ex with his new girlfriend sitting in one of "our" cafes. Oh, that would be painful.

    I had an ex that got together with a women that had been sniffing around the very weekend I broke up with him. I think I was more disappointed in myself for not listening to that voice in the back of my head that said something wasn't right in our relationship. If anything, the fact that someone else wanted him made it harder to break up with him even though I was unhappy. He wasn't a bad guy. So I waited and wasted time, and hoped it would get better.

    It wasn't that I wanted him back, it was that I couldn't even trust *myself* to make good decisions and that made me feel even more alone.

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    1. How awful, I'm so sorry you had to deal with that. It hurts when someone moves on so quickly but the truth is, they moved on way before the relationship ended, I think that's what hurts the most. Especially if you were trying to make an effort to salvage the relationship when they had already mentally checked out.

      Now that I wrote about it, and shared it with all of you, I can now move on. I was holding that story in for a while because of how painful it was. But it's over and he may or may not be with this person still...who knows, it's none of my business.

      Thanks for your comment, dear! : )

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  5. Great post, Ella! Congratulations on your journey and may you continue to find your way.

    Your words remind me of when I was complaining about something to a friend, who is Buddhist, and she told me that I should welcome challenges and be thankful for them because that's how we grow. She went on to say that I should view them as small Buddhas (I can't remember why) so whenever something happened, I always told her that I had just had another encounter with a tiny Buddha. Even though MF was a massive Buddha, at least he taught you a valuable life lesson. Stay far away from guys like him!

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    1. Thank you MK!!

      I love this idea of tiny buddhas! So much more gentle than the four letter words I associate with challenges and pain. From now on, they are buddhas.

      It's cliche but so true, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger and every curveball that's been thrown my way has only shaped the person that I am today. It's been an incredible year and I'm so glad that I found all of you as I enter the next phase of my journey.

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  6. You go girl. And the VERY best feeling - when you see him again, with or without that girl, and you can smile knowing that you feel nothing but relief that you didn't wind up with this jerk and your heart made room for a man that lights you up more than you could ever imagine.

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    1. So true! I don't think I ever want to see him again. I'll try and make sure that that happens. I have no place for him. I say good luck to that girl! Buona fortuna!!!

      A hard break-up is the universe saying "wrong way". I finally believe that. This time last year? Not so much. But now, I finally get it. : )

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  7. What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, and obviously you've come out of this entire thing beyond victorious.

    I remember when I stumbled onto your blog way back then and I'm so happy you're in a better place, surrounded by awesome people and still living in Parrriisss! Yay! Go on, girl!

    Life. Is. Good.

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    1. i'm loving that Kelly Clarkson song. Every time I hear it, I do a little shuffle and perhaps a little "roof raising". It's so perfect!!

      Yeah, life is good, isn't it?

      Thank you for your support and kind comments. : )

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  8. Ella - this was such a beautiful post. I love your writing so much. I'm so sorry that you had that experience and had to face him - although I think you handled it so well! And now that I know a year later, I will say, you are one of the strongest women I know! Happy spring and here's to new beginnings!

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    1. Thank you so much. : )

      It was a shitty situation but i guess it was bound to happen. I just wish sometime had passed and I wasn't so raw but hey, it's not a perfect world, is it?

      Thank you again for your kind comment and yes, Happy Spring!!!!

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  9. Ouch, I came across the wedding photos of a guy I was with for 6 years a while back. Luckily the wound wasn't still fresh and I wasn't surprised since he was the marrying type, but it still made me wince... Must have been tough to see that so soon after xx

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    1. I'm glad you say that, I thought it was just me. I guess it's never fun seeing someone move on without you. Perhaps it's our ego talking..I know that I feel a pang when I see photos of an ex married off, even if I'm over them. The ego is powerful and I try to keep that in check.

      But seeing him with that woman fresh after the break-up...I wanted to die. It was awful.

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  10. Miss Ella, wow this post is so beautifully written. I even teared up reading parts of it. Some of our ex situations are so similar. I too was questioning a girl that was lingering around his work and would ask him to go for drinks, or call him with "important" questions and I too was made to feel the fool. Then, like you, once we broke up all I could do was focus on the task at hand to get me thru each and everyday, only see them less them a month later together, and posting pics of themselves happy and "in love" all over FB. Granted it wasn't in person, but the sting burned just the same way.

    Now to look back (it being about 6 months now) I realize what a waste of my time, moping and feeling so sad was, even though it's part of the process, it seemed like he was out there enjoying life and I was home tearing up over lifetime. Then once some time went by, it was like eMerly says, it wasn't about being back with him, it was more so how could my instincts be so far off? How could I trust myself to make a good decision going forward? And, that's something I still struggle with, but everyday that goes by I am content where I am and know that everything happens for a reason, that this is all a learning experience.

    I am so happy that you are able to look back on it all for what it is. That is a lot of growth and strength and I can't wait to be there too. And, like all of these other commenters state, keep writing, you conveyed exactly how I (and probably so many others going thru break-ups) feel and think. Thank you for that.

    xo

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  11. This month marks four years since my world dropped out from under me, and I still have flashes of that pain from time to time. The sheer surprise and utter humiliation of it all is not something I'm sure I'll ever forget. But it definitely does happen way less now - maybe three times a year now instead of three times a day like it was in the beginning! So it definitely does get better, but I am not sure if one ever recovers 100% from TRUE heartbreak. (But ask me again in a few years lol)

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  12. Haven't you found that French women find it a challenge to steal a boyfriend away from someone else, even if it's a best friend.?They are brutal that way.

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  13. Man that was good. Writing, that is.

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  14. I remember my second boyfriend when I was sixteen. He was a year older than me and stupidly I thought he was 'the one' if such a thing exists (how cynical am I)? We went out for five and a half months, at sixteen that was a long time. Six weeks after splitting up (read: he dumped me) I bumped into him and his new girlfriend whilst I was shopping. It was awkward to say the least. Fortunately in the UK, it's not common to do the bise, so I was at least spared that. However, I can still recall the moment even though I have long sinced moved on.

    With regards to MF, you are WAY better off, but it's never easy to be the one who didn't move on first. Like Kanye 'philosopher' West says, 'What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger'... here, here.

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  15. Reading this brought back memories of my own past heartaches. It's amazing how after all these years I can still feel that horrible emptiness in the gut along with the lump in the throat. But I truly believe that 1. the pain makes us stronger (sucky but true) 2. everything happens for a reason and 3. it all works out as it should.
    And here we are, stronger, more fabulous women, despite the a**holes. Or actually, in spite of the a**holes. bis x

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  16. I agree with everyone else that you write beautifully. You paint the pictures beautifully with words and describe feelings so well. I have experienced betrayal; imagine catching your man with another woman at a bar while still in a relationship with him... Wow. I had already experienced heartbreak once, then this was my 2nd experience. I felt both failed relationships at the pit of my stomach, and had both ex's contacting me afterwards. I was all alone in NYC, still healing from my childhood trama, the loss of my best friend, financial difficulties, etc.. just hell. For a few years, every day was hard. It took a while but I am in a better place now! Phew! I feel like I can appreciate life better now because of it, and I am sure to surround myself by good people.

    I'm proud of how you've grown so much. I hope all is well in NY with your fam. I didn't end up making it to Paris this month because i got sick again. I'm dying to visit and reading about it through your blog, even if the subject is sad, pulls me there. I read the street names and I know exactly what it looks like.

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  17. What a Powerful story.
    Haven't we all made those same mistakes..
    it's part of the process...some of us never figure it out either.
    I moved to Brazil for 3 months because of someone's insistance.
    After 2 weeks it was crystal clear it wasn't going to work but my place was sublet.
    I couldn't go home.
    You survive and are better for it.
    Especially if you learned something tough there is no other way to learn.
    People can tell you things over and over but you just don't hear it until it happens to you.
    c'est la vie
    It must be meant to be that way.

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