The Cure for the Broken Heart

 

Jake sat on his living room couch, gazing at an old picture of himself and his fiancée …

 

Not anymore.

 

That thought made his heart lurch.  He closed his eyes through the searing pain, willing it away as best he could, knowing that that never works—the pain will always linger, and come back stronger next time the thought enters your head. 

 

I hate this.  Why did you have to leave, Miranda?  Why did I have to be such a jerk?

 

Teary-eyed, Jake put the picture to his forehead, wishing for all the world that it was all just a bad dream.

 

But it’s not.

 

Stop it.  Doing this to yourself isn’t helping anything.

 

He knew that.  Jake knew that sitting on his couch moping, wishing things were different, wouldn’t change anything.  In the end, he would still be sitting there, and he and Miranda would still not be together.  Nothing was going to change that.

 

Wincing, Jake forced himself to put the picture down.  “Walk away,” he whispered to himself.  “Put your mind on other things.  Focus on moving forward.”

 

All standard advice that almost bordered on cliché, but that would be much more difficult than it sounded in his head.  For everywhere he looked, memories of Miranda lingered.  They had lived in this house for five years before things came to a slow and steady halt.

 

It wasn’t all her fault—Jake knew that.  No matter what people say, more often than not, the demise of relationships usually has to do with both parties, not just one.  Jake knew his faults—he could be a bit selfish at times, he didn’t like having his plans disrupted, he could bit a bit moody sometimes.  But for all of that, he knew that he was a really good guy too—he was compassionate, caring, very giving to everyone around him.  He just had some tendencies that he couldn’t shake off.  For example, he had to have control of the living room TV at all times. 

 

I mean, occasionally I give it up, but let’s face it—I’m the TV hound.  I don’t know why that is …

 

Actually, he did.  Jake was an only child, and not used to having to share that much with people.  Sure he’d give the shirt off his back to anybody, when it came to people he was living with—even those he loved dearly—he had trouble sharing his own stuff sometimes.  But, in Jake’s own opinion, people let him get away with it because he was such a good and giving guy.

 

I wish someone would stop me sometimes.  Make me wake up and see what I’m doing.

 

Actually, Miranda had tried—many times.  Jake just hadn’t listened—

 

Alright!  I get it—I’m a screw-up and a failure!  This whole thing is my fault!

 

Jake buried his head back in his hands, trying desperately to regain control of himself.  He knew he shouldn’t do this, but avoiding it was impossible—the pain was just too near.

 

Just then, his cell phone rang.  “Forever and For Always” by Shania Twain was the ringtone.

 

It was Miranda’s.

 

Jake groaned.  He still wanted to talk to her, but it hurt every time.  Miranda didn’t have that many people in her life, and Jake had insisted that they not lose touch, despite Miranda’s protests—she didn’t want to hurt Jake.

 

Jake answered the phone.  “Hey.”

 

“Hey.  How are you doing?”

 

“Eh, you know … it’s hard, but I’m hanging in.”  Jake didn’t see any need to dance around the issue—they both knew how the other felt.

 

“I’m sorry.”  Her voice was low and sincere.

 

“There’s nothing for you to be sorry about, Miranda.  It just didn’t work, and we are both at fault for that.”

 

“I know,” she replied.  “I’m not doing much better over here.”

 

“I know,” Jake said.  “So how is everything else going?”

 

“Okay,” Miranda answered.  “It’s tough to concentrate at work, but I get by.”

 

“Well, that’s good.”

 

Awkward silence, and then Miranda finally asked, “How’s our puppy?”

 

Another heart lurch again as the word “our puppy” sank in, then Jake glanced down at the black lab lying on the floor, asleep.

 

“Midnight’s doing good,” Jake answered.  “He misses you.”

 

He’s not the only one.

 

“Awww … I miss him too,” Miranda replied. 

 

Another awkward silence, and then Miranda said, “Well … I guess I’d better get ready for work.  You … you take care of yourself, okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Jake practically whispered into the phone.  “You too.”

 

Jake hung up, and he spent the next few minutes staring at nothing and analyzing every syllable of the brief conversation.  He knew that no more should be read into it than necessary, but he couldn’t help it.  When he finally realized what he had been doing, he had no idea how long he had been standing there.

 

“Enough of this,” he muttered to himself.  “I have to do something, put myself to work.”

 

Jake’s gaze fell upon the pile of dirty dishes heaped up in the sink.  That seemed like as good a task as any.

 

Yet, when he was finished and putting the dishes away, he found himself putting them away the way Miranda preferred.  He’d put a glass in one spot, and then say to himself, “No … she wouldn’t want it there.”  Then he would move it to where it was “supposed” to go.

 

He suddenly realized what he was doing, and that pushed him to the breaking point.  Anger at himself boiled in his chest.  He grabbed a nearby coffee cup and smashed it hard on the floor.

 

Suddenly his front door swung open, and Jake’s friend Oliver was standing there, fist cocked.  Midnight jumped up and started growling and barking until he realized who it was.  Oliver was a tall, well-built African-American with a penchant for odd jokes. 

 

“What the hell, man?”  Oliver said with a gasp.  “I thought you were being attacked!”

 

Jake scoffed at him.  “Who would attack me in this neighborhood?”

 

“You never know, man,” Oliver responded.  “Some of those old neighbors of yours are crazy.”

 

“Only when it comes to their gardens,” Jake replied.  “What are you doing here?”

 

“I came to see how you were doing, only to find you attacking poor defenseless coffee cups.”

 

Jake glanced down at the cup.  “You’re right … I was attacked.  I responded in self-defense.”

 

Oliver gazed down at the cup incredulously.  “I don’t think that will hold up in court.”

 

Jake sighed in exasperation.  “What can I do for you, Oliver?  Or are you just stalking me?”

 

Oliver shrugged.  “I’m stalking you.  Actually, I was just about to knock when I heard the crash.  I came to see how you’re doing.”

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“And that’s where you are wrong, my friend.  I don’t like being lied to.”

 

“Then stop asking questions.”

 

Oliver just stared at him in wonder.  “What’s with the attitude, man?  I’m just trying to help you.”

 

Jake knew that—just as he knew he was being an idiot.  He sighed and walked over to Oliver, patting him on the shoulder as he passed.  “I know, man.  I’m sorry … just having a tough day, I guess.”

 

“And you’re lucky I understand that, my brother,” Oliver replied with a wide smile.  “No need to apologize … I expected to see moody Jake today.”

 

“Miranda called me a little while ago.”

 

Oliver’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head.  “What did she say?”

 

Jake shrugged.  “Not very much … she just wanted to see how I was doing.”

 

Oliver held his hands up in front of him.  “Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

 

Jake frowned at him.  “Why?”

 

“Because at least she still cares.  You two could be fighting tooth and nail right now—it can always be worse, brother.”

 

“I think I would almost prefer fighting with her.  Probably wouldn’t hurt so much then.”

 

Oliver shook his head.  “Man, that’s just stupid.  I know you remember all those messy breakups you had.  You prefer that to a friendly separation?  You want another Sara situation?”

 

Sara.  The very name make Jake smirk with distain.  It was a situation years ago where the two had been together for a while, then things just kinda fell apart.  Sara promised she wanted to work things out, but three weeks later, Sara’s engagement to her ex—who never treated her with any kind of respect—was being announced over the loudspeaker at their work.  Jake heard it just as he was about to eat his lunch … he’d gotten up from the table, put his lunch back in the break room refrigerator, and confronted Sara.  She acknowledged that it was true, and despite the pain and anger over what had just been done to him, Jake had hugged her and congratulated her.  The two never really spoke again.

 

Jake scoffed at the memory.  “And Tina?”

 

Oliver shook his head.  “Man, that woman was crazy.  You should get down on your hands and knees and thank your lucky stars that you two didn’t get married.”

 

“She actually told me that I was too good for her.  Who says that?”

 

“A psycho cat who’s missing a few marbles, that’s who.  You want an explanation of her craziness?  Look no further than the fact that she had been cheating on you with her ex who used to beat her.  There was definitely some screws loose there, let me tell you.”

 

Women who always seemed to go back to their terrible exes—aside from Miranda, that seemed to be Jake’s hopeless pattern.  He never could understand that—they spent so much time crying about how they were treated, and then they leave a “good guy” (always their words) to go back?

 

It drove Jake crazy for a while.

 

“What’s wrong with me, Oliver?”

 

“Ain’t nothing wrong with you, man.  You’ve just got bad luck when it comes to the ladies.”

 

There was no doubt about that.  The stories they had just spoken of were only a couple in a long list.  His stories had made grown men cringe.

 

“You know what you need, man?”  Oliver asked, his voice brightening a little.  “You need to get out, spend a night on the town and take a night to forget all this.”

 

“Wouldn’t do much good,” Jake responded.  “I’ll still be thinking of her.”

 

“Of course you will,” Oliver agreed.  “You’ll be thinking of her for a long time.”

 

“You’re not helping.”

 

“Hey, do you want me to sugar-coat things, or do you want the truth?  If you just stopped thinking about her, then your relationship didn’t mean anything to begin with.  But you’re much better off going out for a bit and just thinking about it here and there than just staying here by yourself all night, doing nothing but thinking about it.”

 

 Jake knew that his friend was right, but still … the very notion sounded like the most unappealing thing he could think of.

 

And if I saw her out there …

 

“No thanks, man.  Think I’ll just stay here and occupy myself for the evening.”

 

Oliver smirked.  “Yeah … occupy yourself with thoughts of her.”

 

Jake didn’t respond.  Again, he knew his friend was right.

 

“All right then,” Oliver said suddenly, clapping his hands together.  “What are we doing tonight?”

 

Jake frowned in confusion.  “What do you mean?”

 

You’re not spending the day by yourself, brother.  You need someone to be there for you, and right now, that’s me.  So, what are we going to do?”

 

It was too much for Jake.  He had been suppressing his emotions ever since the split took place, and with his best friend’s steadfast show of support, his pain came flowing out of him.  He collapsed on the couch, instantly in tears.  Next thing he knew, Oliver was next to him, his arm over his shoulders. 

 

After a few moments, Jake calmed a little.  “I’m sorry,” he said, still sniffling.  “I didn’t mean to start blubbering like a child.”

 

“Hey, man,” his friend said, “they say that men shouldn’t cry.  That’s a load of BS—we’re humans like everybody else, and we have emotions like everybody else.  I mean, I’m not going to spoon with you right here or anything, but I can still put my arm over your shoulders and help you chill a little.”

 

Jake chuckled at his friend’s comment, and it felt good.  It was just a small chuckle at a joke, but still, it was the best he’d felt in quite some time.  He was a long way from being healed, but for the first time, he felt like there was a chance.

 

“You know, I think a night of chilling with my best friend is exactly what I need.”

 

“That’s the spirit!”  Oliver beamed.  “Now, how about a movie?  Something with Jim Carrey … that man is insane.”

 

Jake laughed.  “You’re an idiot.”

 

Oliver smiled a wide, goofy grin.  “I know.”

 

“But … you’re a damn good friend.”

 

Oliver smiled again, a little softer this time.  “I know.”