Written by Sammie Lee Wilhoit
I knew it was over from the moment I opened the present. Perhaps even before. The bag and tissue paper was re-used from the Christmas present I had given him a few weeks prior. A simple shrug was given in response as an apology for the lack of funds as a college student. Still, it showed a certain lack of thoughtfulness, which was off-putting.
Removing the tissue paper revealed two items shrouded in darkness. From the moment I saw them, I knew exactly what they were. I had specifically asked him for both items, but now, upon taking them out of the gift bag, they looked more like a funeral outfit, already prepared for mourning.
The first item was a black baseball cap with the fitting title of my favorite podcast, Just Break Up— a hat which I would later wear when I gazed into his eyes and leaned up to kiss him. As I did so, the bill of my hat poked him in the eyes and caused momentary blindness. With this sign literally hitting him in the face, he broke up with me a few days later.
The second item was a t-shirt from my favorite band, The Regrettes. Looking at both sides of the shirt caused me much distress and misery, which I promptly hid behind a reassuring smile. The front of the shirt features a small heart, defeated by love, carrying a withered flower in one hand and a ring in the other. The other side yelled out their first album title, Feel Your Feelings, Fool!
My feelings were of embarrassment, disappointment, and wonder. Since I had wanted these presents, was I trying to tell myself these messages all along? It wasn’t fair to blame the meanings of these gifts on him. After all, I had told him they were what I wanted, and he, knowing this, had bought them.
Still, opening this present revealed an awareness that what we once shared was over. For two weeks, we chose to ignore the signs. Each of us mourned the relationship before it ended. We had serious conversations that led to lapses in silence, followed by dinners where we talked to each other with ice breakers and superficial conversations. His shoulders slouched everywhere he walked and he avoided eye contact with me while I pretended like everything was fine, not knowing how to let go. In the end, neither of us broke the silence. He broke up with me over text, proof of our inability to verbalize all that we knew had been lost and was over.