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Photograph by Will Harper

Breakup Hell

Spring is enough to kill a man with a broken heart

By Will Harper

IT'S 8:34 TUESDAY MORNING, making it exactly 32 hours and 48 minutes since I got dumped by my girlfriend of two years. I am sitting on a bench at the Delta Queen Classic Car Wash on Hamilton Avenue squinting in the sun to read the most unromantic book I could find, Underboss, the story of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, the mob killer-turned-snitch.

The grande nonfat mocha I'm nursing doesn't seem to be helping revive my senses, which have been dulled by two almost sleepless nights. Just as I start drifting into a drowsy moment of self-pity--"God, how could she do this?"--I hear a frantic quacking emanating from the onsite pond.

Then, to my left, a shaggy duck the color of my mocha emerges from underneath the bench heading toward the detailing area. QUACK, QUACK, QUACK!

Soon enough, I spot the cause of her distress: A white goose with orange bill who has appeared from underneath another bench. He waddles hurriedly after her and follows her onto the wet black asphalt. A real-life wild-goose chase.

She protests his advances loudly but doesn't fight him off as he gets on top of her back. He can't seem to get in the right position. He's got her neck clasped in his beak, but he keeps wriggling and re-positioning his pecker. This goes on for 20 seconds or so, when he finally slips off her back onto her side.

Obviously bored by this round of orifice target practice, the female waterfowl rejects her would-be suitor and shakes herself away from him. He sheepishly--wait, can geese act sheepish?--waddles the other way. As he does, she again starts quacking loudly, taunting him.

By now, a few patrons have gathered to watch this Discovery Channel moment, and a guy standing next to me chuckles, "Hey, she's laughing at him!"

In my current state, I can't help but feel sorry for this poor, rejected goose. I know how he feels.

OK, so am I pathetic, or what? Here I am finding a common emotional bond with a farm animal. Hey, at least I'm not fantasizing about humping a farm animal. Yet.

In all honesty, our breakup was quite amicable. Without going into the gut-twisting personal details, suffice it to say that things just didn't work out between us. But even in "amicable" breakups, the first question friends always ask afterward is, "Who broke up with whom?"

The reason for this, I'm told, is that people need to figure out how to best console their heartbroken pal after the obligatory "I'm sorry to hear that." See, during breakups, friends are like boxing trainers, waving smelling salts and rubbing Vaseline over open wounds. Their concern is not who was right or wrong. Their primary purpose is to get their fighter back in the ring again.

The dumpee--me, in this case--needs major ego reconstruction. Friends of the dumpee thus must be armed with compliments. Think of Vince Vaughn's character in Swingers, who keeps telling his jilted buddy, "You're so money!"

I heard plenty of variants on the "You're so money" theme: "You're a great catch." "Soon, you'll need a bat to fend off the hordes of women chasing you." "You're excellent, just trying to muddle through the maze like everyone else." "My god, your penis is huge!" (OK, so no one said this last one, but a guy can dream, can't he?)

And, of course, friends are bubbling with advice. Sometimes, the advice is of dubious quality. For instance, many guy friends seem to subscribe to the Rebound Theory of burying pain. One example: "Date someone else quickly, even if you do not find her as attractive as your ex." Brilliant. Think I'll stick to serial masturbation instead. To paraphrase Woody Allen, "At least it's sex with someone I love."

A poker pal suggested I get myself a fine child-bride at russianbride.com. "They don't allow any skanks on the site," he assured me, "maybe a couple of women with really bad taste in clothes."

But this same pal also offered the most brutally frank assessment of my situation: "I'm sorry you have to go through this. Nothing helps except time, and that is never any consolation."

Of course, he's right. Having been through this before, I know that only time and distance heal the broken heart with the Holy Nirvana of Detachment.

It's been a few weeks now since it happened. I have definitely not achieved indifference. I still miss her. But I see little signs of progress. I don't always hope it's her anymore every time my phone rings.

I keep thinking about the day at the car wash. I'm not religious, but sometimes I can't help but think we are meant to see or hear something at a given time. Maybe the message that day was that a goose (me) and a duck (her) just aren't meant to be together--at least not on the wet tarmac with 20 people watching.

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From the April 20-26, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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