January heartbreak is the worst kind. Nothing to buffer it. Days are shorter, dark is darker, and slush abounds. The walls are quiet. Stark.
He was gone. Twenty-three years-old and sure I’d never love again.
Couldn’t eat. Barely slept. Alone in a new apartment we were supposed to be in together – but he was across town with her, the new one. Everything she was became what I wasn’t. I stopped seeing myself. I was grey, I was slush. I was colourless as January. Just me and my broken heart, pulsing through winter together.
Heartbreak made me stare at the walls a lot, in my (supposed to be our) new apartment in Parkdale. It was so pretty: the marble floors, the mahogany cupboards, the fireplace. So pretty and empty.
I told him no contact. Just come get your shit, I said. You want to see icy? I can do icy. I can do icier than ice storm. Something’s gotta protect this heart. Alone, I cried. Sobbed. I missed him. I was even in a goddam healing course with his mother, so every week – in the absence of him – I had to look at her and see the origin of of his face. They were identical. It was a most strange substitution for this guy I thought was my soulmate.
Then February. The days were a long, drawn-out reel of heartbreak and self-deprication. Anxiety like a motherfuck. A red heart on the calendar. February fourteenth. Valentine’s Day. Not gonna think about where he is or what he’s doing or what she’s wearing or how good their sex must be.
I’m gonna take myself out for dinner instead.
The 501 streetcar, pushing across Queen Street with me on it. This is my first adventure, I think. I’m out in the world. Heart with a cast on it. Each movement cracks the plaster a bit. Something’s gotta protect this heart.
I get off at Niagara, cross Queen Street, walk into Terroni, and take a seat at the bar. It’s bustling and lively, the glasses clink and conversation is loud. I’m shy. There’s shy all over me. It’s bold to dine alone on Valentine’s Day and I know it. I want to feel mysterious and alive, but I’m just a tender thing. I’m like a chick, wet with my own tiny birth, slick and slightly cracked. But I’m out.
The barstools are orange leather, and they swing just right. There’s a couple next to me, very clearly in love. I smile at them, look at their food, and tell them they chose well. Then I put my face into the menu. I order a Ciccio, which is what I always order when I go there. Ciccio and a glass of wine. I’m not sure where to put my eyes. Where do you put your eyes when you’re dining alone? Didn’t even bring my journal. I look at the wall. Cans of tomatoes. The server. The guy making pizzas at the end of the bar. My hands.
I can do this. I can sit here. The couple keeps looking at me and smiling. I smile back. Some time passes and I feel no less awkward. But I’m out. The couple finish their food, pay, and before leaving they say goodbye to me. I’m not sure what it is they are seeing in me, but I like it. I eat my Ciccio and it’s delicious. Prosciutto, peppery arugula, bufala mozzarella, and tomato, all tucked inside a warm folded pizza crust. I eat the whole thing, proud of my appetite. Take it as a sign.
There’s a trill in my belly. It’s a new feeling. It’s excitement, maybe even happiness. It scares me because I know how fast anxiety will rush in by morning, how anxiety can eat everything inside like acid does. But I stay with the good feeling – sitting alone and feeling the openness of the whole world, how the whole world can be a feeling, a promise of what’s to come.
I ask the server for the bill, and he says, your dinner was taken care of.
“Huh? By who?” I ask.
“That couple that was here sitting next to you.”
(I hope you anonymously buy someone dinner tonight xox)