When broken bones heal, so it is said, they are stronger than the original bone. The new growth, the knitting together of tissue and fibers that seal a fractured limb is supposedly more resistant to future breaks.
Not so with hearts. A healed heart, one that has relearned how to trust, how to love, how to beat in concert with someone else's heart is no more resistant to the pain of breaking again than a taped-together photograph doesn't show where it was ripped.
The scars open, the pain pours in, and your body is flooded with the aching, numbing sensation of wretched familiarity. Ah yes, you remember. This is how I fall apart. This is how it feels to lose it all.
"I love you, Cait, but I just can't do this anymore."
Thud, thud, thud. The blood pounded in my ears as I heard these words, the words I never thought I'd hear again, the words she swore she'd never say, the words that ended it all.
"Why?" was the only thing I could think to say.
Because I didn't support her enough, I didn't do enough, I couldn't be what she wanted or needed or hoped for, especially over the last five months of incredible difficulty, sickness, and loneliness (for both of us).
I want to fight for this, I told her. I'll do whatever it takes. I made a promise to you when you asked me to marry you, and that promise was that I would always, always fight to make this work between us because there is nothing that means more to me than being with you. I've been fighting so hard for us these last few months, she said. So have I, Alix. So. Have. I. Every day that I got out of bed when I didn't feel like I could, I was fighting for us. Every time I ate a meal when the demons in my head were screaming, telling me not to, I was fighting for us. Even when I made the incredibly hard decision to move to Boston in order to surround myself with a support network to help me grow stronger and healthier, that was me fighting for us. I won the battles but lost the war.
I asked if she loved me. She said that she did. I said good-bye.
I hung up the phone.
I grabbed a pillow, clutching it to my heaving torso and called - who else? - my mother.
"Mama," I gasped. "I need you. I'm coming home."
Eight hours of empty highway stretched before me. Dry-eyed, I drove and drove and drove, until, shaking, I collapsed into my parents' warm bed. The dam broke. I cried like I've never cried before until, finally, I was able to get the words out as I tried to explain what I couldn't (and will probably never completely) understand. "I tried so hard," I told my mama. "I tried so hard. I did the best I could, every day, to support her, to be there for her, to be what she needed. Why wasn't it enough? Why wasn't I enough?"
"Sometimes," she softly said, holding my hand with both of hers, "sometimes, there are needs and voids in people that nothing and nobody can fill."
It hit me then - "I can't bring back Alix's mom," I said, "and I can't change the hurt in her family, and I can't take away her sickness."
"No, you can't," my mother said. "No one can."
A wave of peace washed through me. This isn't about me, I realized. This is not my fault, I realized. Everyone has demons. And we are all, every day, fighting like hell against them. I will fight my fights, I realized, but I cannot fight hers too.
I gave it everything I had, and then some, and when push came to shove, I was ready to keep fighting for what we had.
I will mourn the future that she and I had planned. I will grieve for the children that will never be ours, the dreams that will never be fulfilled, and the love that could have grown over the decades to come. I will cry when I hear our songs, when I see old photos of us, and when I see my engagement ring tucked away in my nightstand drawer.
But I will also get up, every day, and keep fighting. My feet will hit the floor and the fight will begin. Because in the end, what matters is this:
I am enough.