You did it. You won. You’ll walk home through the dark like nothing happened, like you’re the same person you were twenty minutes ago, like you didn’t just leave someone standing in a doorway with the shreds of what used to be. This had been coming for some time now and it was right. Right? If only there were more cars going by or more people on the streets or anything to listen to instead of your own affirmations. Shake the old sounds from your head and find some new ones. Take firmer steps so your shoes collide with the sidewalk in a rhythm you can get lost in. Now there’s only soft breezes and streets bathed in moonlight. Such a beautiful night for a heartbreak.
You thought winning would be applause. You imagined congratulations and Beyonce belting out anthems to the masses, but instead it sounds like those desperate railroad bells that won’t stop clanging from somewhere out the window. It sounds like gates opening and closing with no visitors. It sounds like text messages not sent and not received. All the feel-good nineties songs on the planet won’t take the hollow ringing from your ears. All the you-did-the-right-thing’s from your friends’ lips won’t drown out the it’ll-never-be-the-same’s from your own.
Because maybe he didn’t deserve it. Maybe you were too harsh on him. Maybe it could have been something if you’d given it a chance instead of ending it before it took its first breath because you were scared and stuck and selfish. But now he’s gone, and you’re here, and he’s hurt, and you’re sorry, and it’s too late, and it’s all different. Why is that track on repeat? It’s the train roaring into the empty subway station. It’s the bartender pouring another whiskey and coke. It’s the alarm waking you to start another gray morning. One of these days you’ll sleep without dreaming of him. One of these days.
But how many? Two? Twenty? Two-hundred-and-twenty? Winning sounds like numbers, too, and you hear them all the time: 8, 12, 3, 14. Eight hours since you sent that drunk message that you wish you hadn’t sent and haven’t gotten a reply to. Eight. Twelve days since he held you in the doorway. Twelve. Three weeks since you were dancing together on a rooftop. Three. Fourteen months since you met.
So you make things as loud as possible. Turn the speakers up as far as you can and only hang out with the friends that don’t stop talking. Make sure the T.V. stays on and the talk radio program doesn’t time out. Don’t ever let the quiet get you, especially at night because the nights used to sound like bikes and wind and inside jokes. They used to sound like phones buzzing and doors opening and hands touching. They used to sound like him. The ceiling fan still spins lazily above your head, but he can’t hear it and won’t tell you it helps him fall asleep. The door still creaks in the middle of the night, but he doesn’t know it and won’t complain to you anymore. The neighbor still comes down the stairs loudly, the train still rumbles in the distance, and people’s voices still float through the window indistinguishable. So this is what winning sounds like.