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This Is How Your Heart Breaks

Photo by Jamez Picard on Unsplash

You meet him in a crowded bar in East London. He’s tall and shy and although you keep making eye contact, it’s you who speaks to him first. His voice gets louder and faster when he talks about something he loves, a crescendo that builds until it breaks, an ebb and a flow. You watch his mouth as he talks. You play pop songs on the jukebox, giving each other coins and daring one another to play the worst song, the one that will make each other cringe. You go to the bathroom and you look in the mirror and you just know. This one’s different.

When you leave the bar you look up at the sky, the dark clouds framing a yellow moon, and you gulp air into your lungs.

Two days later you call the guy you’re seeing and you break up with him. You’ve been dating for a few months; he’s nice, but you can’t stop thinking about the one at the bar. You don’t even know if you’ll ever see him again, but knowing that he’s out there – that whatever you felt on that rainy Friday night is out there – is reason enough for you.

You never stop looking for him. You think you see him at a local cafΓ© once or twice, but it’s never him. And one idle day in January, when you’re least expecting it, when it’s been six months and you’ve pushed him far enough away that he’s only a flicker in the back of your mind, he’s right there in front of you again. He remembers your name.

The flicker turns into a roar, and everything else falls away.

That night you stay up until dawn drinking whisky on a rooftop high above the city, a blanket wrapped around your shoulders. You can hear the trains in the distance when he kisses you for the first time, the heavy thud of steel on the tracks, a thump that matches the feeling in your chest. The sun comes up and the sky turns shell-pink and there’s this moment where you just look at each other, really look at each other, and it’s he who smiles first. You feel so happy you think you might burst, a million pieces of you splintering into the sunrise.

You fall in love. It’s everything you hope it might be and more. Life feels different; it sparkles somehow, now that he’s in it.

When he breaks up with you on a crisp autumn day, you don’t cry. You focus on the way his jaw tenses and releases, tenses and releases, watch his hands fold and unfold in his lap. The opening and closing of him. You wait until he’s gone to allow yourself to realise his hands will never touch you again. You understand that it was a long time coming and you realise that maybe, right now, as he’s walking away, he feels… relief. Thinking about this, you lie down on the hardwood floor, and you cry.

It’s never what you imagine it will be, is it? It takes its time, those tiny fractures on the surface like cracks on ice – delicate at first, but at any moment ready to break through. You believe that if you just stand still, if you don’t move, you won’t plunge into the icy water below.

This is how your heart breaks: slowly and deliberately, and then all at once. The shock of the fall overwhelms you, drowns you.

You try not to think of him. You try not to remember the way his eyes looked in the morning sun, the way they turned from grey to green. You try not to remember how you felt when you’d watch him walk toward you, those infinite seconds when the world slowed down. You force yourself to laugh when you’re out with friends, force yourself to not let your eyes roll and dance around the room, looking for him still. You leave your phone at home, hoping it will help you feel less distracted, less haunted. You obsess over what was so wrong. You obsess over what was so perfectly, so inexplicably right.

This is how your heart breaks, again and again.

The seasons change, the sky shifting from a wintry pearl-grey to a cloudless pastel blue. You go for walks. You stop listening to the mix tape he made you. You start to heal. You realise he’s not in your dreams as much anymore. And sometimes you sit on that rooftop, listening to the trains, and you start to feel warm again, you start to feel like you again. The shattered remains of your heart start to fuse together, becoming one.

You run into him on an unusually warm winter’s day, over a year since you saw him last. You agree to go to a little pub that’s new to you both, a spontaneous meeting, just like your first. He orders pints of Guinness at the wood-panelled bar. He turns to look at you, his face shining gold under the lights, and you realise everything will be OK.

An hour with him still feels like a minute. You talk until the pub closes. We can be friends now, you say to one another, but you both know that isn’t true.

You say goodbye outside the pub under a dark, moon-filled sky. You look at each other, really look at each other, and it’s he who smiles first.

Goodbye, he says to you, smiling, searching, and you know you’ll never see him again. You know you can stop looking. You give him the last broken splinter of your heart, because it will always be his. You watch him walk away for the last time until he blurs into the city backdrop, a sea of black cabs and double-decker buses, their headlights washing the streets in a pale silver glow.

Sometimes you think of him, wonder what he’s doing. Sometimes you hear the thump of your heart beating in your chest, that healed heart, that powerful heart, and you listen.


For more like this, check out The Last Time I Saw You

43 Responses to This Is How Your Heart Breaks

  1. Paige October 3, 2017 at 12:30 am #

    Lovely as usual! That’s such an amazingly accurate description of heartbreak. I swear you always publish one of these when I need these kinds of emotional explorations most. Or maybe I’m just very emotional all the time. Hmm. πŸ™‚

    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

      Ha ha if you’re emotional all the time, then so am I. πŸ˜‰ Thanks, Paige!

  2. Cate October 3, 2017 at 12:48 am #

    That was so beautiful Brenna- it made my day! You encompassed the feel of heartbreak so well with your words, I can completely relate. You are my inspiration, darling!

    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

      Thank you so much, Cate!

  3. Kate October 3, 2017 at 6:43 am #

    Beautifully written. Really can relate as I keep dating guys like this too. Everything is magical in the beginning, until it’s not. But we heal and move on and learn more about ourselves in the process. Love these posts!

    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

      Yes, we definitely learn a lot from relationships, good and bad!

  4. Kuheli October 3, 2017 at 8:44 am #

    This made me cry.

    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

      Aw, I’m sorry. <3

  5. Kate October 3, 2017 at 9:05 am #

    Such a beautiful and moving read!

    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

      Thank you!

  6. Tammy Mahon October 3, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

    And still years later you see a man,you see his shape or hear a voice, his voice, you turn, your heart beats faster, you look it’s not him, your heart sinks. One true love, you never forget, you never stop hoping. You missed your chance. You go forward alone. Always alone. Forever.

    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

      Hmmm I disagree – I don’t think there is necessarily one true love for everyone, nor do I think I’m going to be forever alone (yikes!!) just because one relationship didn’t work out. I am much more optimistic than that! πŸ˜‰

  7. Katie October 3, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

    This is beautiful but dammit WHY DID HE BREAK UP WITH YOU? I’m sorry but he’s a fool. A FOOL. (Someone had to say it. πŸ˜‰ )

    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 2:28 pm #

      Ha ha, aw, thank you Katie!

  8. Laura October 3, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

    Beautifully written! I hope the next one doesn’t walk away. 😊

    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 4:54 pm #

      Aw, thank you! And I hope so, too, ha ha…

  9. Amsterdive October 3, 2017 at 6:23 pm #

    Damn. I’ve tears in my eyes.

    My heart broke into pieces as well while reading this piece of writing.

    Thank you so much for putting THIS into words.

    My heart is back together. And “I listen”. πŸ™‚

    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 10:34 pm #

      Aw, thank you so much!

  10. Shannon October 3, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

    This is beautifully written! You’ve captured those feelings and emotions so perfectly. Thank you for writing it and putting it out into the world.

    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 10:32 pm #

      Aw, thank you Shannon! That’s very kind.

  11. Elina October 3, 2017 at 7:20 pm #

    This was so beautifully written. I love your love stories, I feel like I can really relate to them which is nice because I sometimes feel so goddamn stupid for falling for guys so easily, haha. Please keep writing them! I don’t think a broken heart ever completely heals, though, it stops hurting but leaves a scar, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing since – and I know it sounds really clichΓ© – I’d always rather care too much than not care at all.

    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

      Don’t worry, I will keep writing them. πŸ˜‰ I don’t think it’s a bad thing either – I agree that it’s better to care too much than not care at all! Thank you for your comment, Elina.

  12. Jessica October 3, 2017 at 8:51 pm #


    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 10:31 pm #

      Thank you πŸ™‚

  13. Cathie October 3, 2017 at 8:52 pm #

    Made me cry too. You write these so well, but the romantic in me wants a happy forever after ending for you. One day ….

    • Brenna Holeman October 3, 2017 at 10:32 pm #

      Aw, thank you so much, Cathie!

  14. Haley October 4, 2017 at 2:01 am #

    This is beautiful.

    • Brenna Holeman October 4, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

      Thank you!

  15. KMunoz October 4, 2017 at 5:44 am #

    Oh I loved this one. While I was reading it, the song “Lousy Reputation” came up on my playlist and they were so good together.

    I’m happy you don’t put a time frame on these, I like guessing when they all happened. πŸ˜‰

    • Brenna Holeman October 4, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

      Thank you so much! Yes, I have a bit of fun with timelines πŸ˜‰

  16. Alex - My LIfe Long Holiday October 4, 2017 at 7:17 pm #

    It’s ok for others to have a piece of our heart – better is it to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

    • Brenna Holeman October 5, 2017 at 4:29 pm #

      I think we learn something from each love πŸ™‚

  17. Eden October 12, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

    Recovering from flu and dreaming of my next travelling experience, visiting India, I stumbled across your blog and then this – which deftly perforated the layers of rice paper I had built up as an “effective human” – those masquerading as tough glass walls and “those tiny fractures on the surface like cracks on ice – delicate at first, but at any moment ready to break through” were broken open. So, you touched and restarted an emotion we have all experienced and perhaps arrogantly think we have learned from, or surmounted. Clearly, we haven’t and don’t. it is not far from the surface. So thank you………

    • Brenna Holeman October 13, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

      Aw, thank you, Eden!

  18. Mo October 13, 2017 at 3:50 am #

    Oh my god Brenna, this post was perfect!!! Maybe because I had my heart broken recently, everything in this exactly captured the feeling. I definitely teared up a bit!

    • Brenna Holeman October 13, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

      Aw, thank you, Mo! And I’m sorry about your broken heart… it’ll heal soon. xo

  19. Neha October 25, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

    You are a very gifted writer! Read some of your love stories a few days back and I am hooked on to your blog since then. Love the fact that you write stories and not just informative travel articles!

    And also you don’t try to make a vast majority of your articles into a commercial thing. That defeats the purpose of blogging I feel. But I understand the logic, sometimes it’s necessary! You inspire me to start a more meaningful blog and that there are still bloggers who are writing for the love of writing! God bless you and hope you find the right guy soon. Xxx

    • Brenna Holeman October 27, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

      Aw, thank you very much, Neha! What a lovely comment. Best of luck with your writing! x

  20. Zalie October 26, 2017 at 3:20 am #

    Oh Brenna, you painted such true emotion of heartbreak with your words. You captured everything that is so horrible to go through in such a beautiful way. I think this has to be one of my favourites. xoxo

    • Brenna Holeman October 27, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

      Thank you so much, Zalie, your support means so much to me xoxoxo

  21. Rachel November 7, 2017 at 11:20 pm #

    Wow that captivated my attention. Is it a true story?! Beautifully written and a lot more eloquent than what I would have written when my heart broke like this!

    • Brenna Holeman November 7, 2017 at 11:43 pm #

      Yes, it’s true. πŸ™‚

  22. Jennifer Kerven November 20, 2017 at 1:03 am #

    This is beautiful. It speaks so much to me. Heart break is the worst, but this is the most beautifully written thing. As someone who just had my heartbroken, it reminds me that everything will be Ok.

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