Exactly one week before school started, Carissa Hayward broke up with me over chocolate-dipped soft-serve cones at the Dairy Queen three blocks from my house. We were supposed to spend our senior year together. I tried explaining this to her, but she wouldn’t listen.
It’s been five days since she yanked my heart out of my chest and ground it through a pepper mill. I’ve been calling her and calling her, but nothing I say is enough to change her mind.
I call her and try again.
“Brad, please. We’ve been over this a million times.” She sighs. “Stop calling me, okay?” And then she hangs up.
Five days, and already she has sliced me out of her life, as cleanly as if she used a brand-new X-Acto knife. She seems surprised that I am having a harder time wrapping my head around things. I mean, we dated for eleven months. We went to Homecoming and Prom together. She was my first kiss, if you don’t count Bethany Morris in third grade (which I don’t, as it was during recess and Bethany was running away from me across the playground. I only caught her because the sandbox tripped her, and after I kissed her she ran away shrieking, “Eww, cooties!”).
What I’m trying to say is, Carissa and I have history. You’d think all that history would take some time to unravel. You’d think I would have gotten a little warning.
But no. One minute we were sitting at our favorite table at the Dairy Queen, the one by the window next to the drinking fountain (ice cream always makes me thirsty), talking about the summer reading assignment for our dinosaur English teacher Mrs. Ostertank. The next minute, ice cream was dripping all over my hand as I tried to comprehend the words “break up” coming from my girlfriend’s perfect lips.
Carissa had finished reading A Farewell to Arms by mid-June, and her report was already written, edited, rewritten, printed out, stapled, and waiting in her binder.
“How about you?” she asked. “How’s your report coming?”
“Yeah? So, what’d you think of the ending?”
“Oh, I haven’t gotten there yet.” I bit into the chocolate shell. “Don’t ruin it for me.”
“You haven’t finished the book yet?”
“What page are you on?”
“Eh, like… a hundred, I think.”
That was a lie. I was on page forty-six.
“Brad, I can’t believe it,” Carissa said, looking wounded. “I thought you were going to take school seriously this year.”
“I am, I am,” I insisted, still calmly unaware of what was coming next.
“You say that, but really? Page one-hundred? There’s no way you’re going to finish the assignment in time!”
“Don’t worry, babe. I work best under pressure.” And for good measure, I flashed her my signature winning grin.
She didn’t smile back. Carissa was usually helpless to the charm of my signature winning grin, so when she didn’t smile back I should have known something bad was coming.
“Brad,” she said, looking down at the plastic tabletop. She wiped up a chocolate splotch left by a previous customer. “This isn’t working for me.”
Still, my internal alarm bells remained silent. I worked my tongue around the ice cream cone. “What do you mean?”
“I mean...” She sighed. “I think we should break up.”
Here are the reasons Carissa Hayward gave for breaking up with yours truly:
1. “We’re just different people.”
Well, duh. Isn’t everyone “different people”? This is actually a positive thing about our relationship. It means we are not clones or distant relatives. Edgar Allan Poe may have been entirely happy marrying his cousin, but he also was a creepy guy who wrote horror stories. For the rest of us, I say, No thanks.
2. “We have different interests.”
Sure, Carissa likes taking painting classes and browsing thrift stores downtown, while I like playing video games and uploading my goofy stand-up comedy routines to YouTube. But tell me, what guy doesn’t like video games and stand-up?
And okay, so I got drunk. Twice. And got a C in Chemistry because I got lazy and didn’t turn in all the work. That was last year. I’ll do better this year. Those things are changeable.
When you get down to it, my only real interest is Carissa. And that’s what I told her that day in the Dairy Queen, but Carissa only shook her head and moved on to number three:
3. “We’re going different places.”
Yes, she has stellar grades and a million extracurriculars and a whole school filled with adoring teachers dying to write letters of recommendation for her. She’ll get into any college she wants—and she wants a ridiculously hard-to-get-into college. In other words, a school I could never get into, not even if I somehow managed to tap into Bill Gates’ bank account and steal a trillion-dollar bribe for the admissions counselor. I’ll probably end up going to the community college the next town over. But that’s okay. I told Carissa that we’ll work it out. What matters is that we love each other.
4. “I’m sorry, Brad, but I don’t love you anymore.”
Okay, I admit, this one hurt. But the thing about love is, you can win it back. So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll win back the love of Carissa Hayward.
How? I’ll change my ways. I’ll show her how awesome I am, and she’ll remember how great we are together, and she’ll fall in love with me all over again.
It’s only a matter of time.