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Catching My Breath This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Everyone has moments that, when looking back, you pick apart and reconfigure as they should have been, the way they would have been if only you had been smart enough. These are the moments that, no matter how hard you try to forget, haunt you with endless "what ifs" and "if onlys." These are the moments that broke your heart when they were happening and keep breaking your heart every time you think about them.

***

"So, I'll see you," he said.

"Yeah, I guess," I answered, choking back tears.

"I'll miss you. Please call and stuff, okay? Don't just stop talking to me because things are different now."

"I'll call," I whispered, those stupid tears dripping down my face. I gave him a hug and told him I hoped he'd have fun in college, but I didn't mean it. Slowly, he got into his Mustang and drove away. There is nothing sadder than watching someone you love get smaller in the distance until they simply disappear.

I walked back into the house trying to ignore my growing nausea, stunned at the scene that had just played out. Why hadn't I told him how much I would miss him? Why hadn't I told him I still wanted to be his friend, his best friend? Why hadn't I said something cute and clever that he would remember every time he thought of me? Why did I just stand there like an idiot and say nothing? I had let him leave thinking I didn't really care.

It took a few minutes to realize the impact that scene would have. Ryan was gone. The person I had spent every waking minute with for almost two years was gone. An agonizing pain in the bottom of my stomach moved to my chest and I could feel the pieces of my broken heart being eaten away by that awful sensation. I ran into my room and shut the door, trying desperately to avoid my family. I rested against the door and willed myself to stop crying. I looked around; there were so many pictures, too many pictures of Ryan and me, and in all of them I looked so ridiculously happy. I started tearing at the pictures, ripping them down, but suddenly my hands froze.

My eyes fell on the picture in front of me and I couldn't breathe. Our very first picture. It was at a football game and he was standing behind me in his dumb varsity letter jacket with a million of those stupid "I win everything" patches on the back and his arms around me, his head on top of mine, smiling away. One of my eyes was half closed so I looked like a monkey, but a really, really happy monkey. I picked up the picture to destroy it but as my hands began to pull at the corners, my heart dropped and all I did was slam the picture into my sock drawer.

Everywhere I looked, there was something that reminded me of Ryan. My room was like a shrine to him!

"Oh my God, how pathetic," I said out loud. I began to panic that I would never be able to get him out of my room. I didn't want the pictures, the sweatshirts, the flowers; his memory was too painful.

I turned into that dramatic movie girl, yelping and moaning, sprawled across the bed. In flailing, spastic movements I punched at my pillow. I knew I would never get away from Ryan. Even if all of his stuff was gone, there were too many memories I could never forget and actually didn't want to. I didn't want to admit it, but I had my first broken heart. And even if I couldn't stop the pain, I could stop the tears. I read somewhere that it takes half the time to get over a break-up as the time you were together. Ryan and I dated for two years, so my excellent math skills revealed that I would need a year to "get over it." There is no way I could handle feeling like this for a year.

It's been months since that day; Ryan is in college on his way to meeting another girl, older and inevitably better than me. And I am stuck in high school, feeling like I am starting over, but even with the hurt I feel, I have no regrets. For two amazing years, I was Molly Ringwald in "Pretty in Pink" with my very own Jake. Sure, some days aren't as sad as others, but sometimes I miss him so much it's hard to breathe. I read somewhere that life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away. Ryan will always be my high-school sweetheart, my first love, and I will always remember how every moment with him left me breathless.

He is gone now, and it will never be the same. The fantasy is over, and it's time for me to find out who I am without him, because I have no idea. I wasn't ready for my journey with Ryan to be over, but like the cheesy song says, "I will survive," and I will move on, but first, I just need a moment to catch my breath.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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