Guest Writer: Tommy McPhail – Car Crash Hearts

Guest Writer: Tommy McPhail – Car Crash Hearts

She literally jumped into traffic to win me back.

As I rode in the passenger’s seat to see her for the first time in five months, I realized I had finally caved. Countless hours fighting the urge to internet stalk, ignoring late calls, and attempting to move past a toxic relationship had led me to giving up. After all, they said she’d been in an accident. She could have died. So much would have been left unsaid, and I’d have been the seething ex left with nothing to hide behind except my own insecurities and stubbornness late at night.

At the time, I was under the impression that my ex was a victim of one of the worst jogging accidents in suburban history. The story was that she’d been struck by a deaf, mute woman ballparking 55mph through a residential neighborhood. Switching to a 30 Seconds To Mars song while turning a corner, my ex had been left bleeding on the pavement as unable to communicate as the woman who struck her. One miracle ER visit and a few long nights later, she was back resting at home – reaping the rewards of every last acquaintance from every corner coming back into her life for one reason or another to express their thankfulness of her being alive. Some were selfish about it. Others were genuinely grateful she was still breathing. I fell somewhere in between stunned and irate – unable to process the flurry of texts saying “She’s been hurt…We’re at the hospital…She wants to see you…”

This was the woman who had verbally abused me at every chance she had. This was the woman who treated my fears as ammunition to get what she wanted after a bad night. Time after time, she had manipulated me into serving her own twisted narrative. Though I’d escaped, here I was willingly running back into her battle-scared arms, hoping for a do-over and a second chance at the happiness we’d so carefully immortalized online together.

We made up with little fanfare, and she successfully pulled me back into her gravity. We saw a few bands, a movie or two. At first, we dated in secret – sneaking make outs in bathrooms and encounters wherever our excuses would allow. Within a few months, our relationship rose and fell the same way it had before – with enough emotional manipulation and frustration to make St. Anger-era Metallica look like The Wiggles. I hadn’t learned from my mistakes, but instead let the gravitas of a car crash speak overrule what I knew to be true – we were not meant to be.

Months later, two mutual friends finally sat me down and spilled the truth. There had been no accident. She had intentionally flung herself into traffic to win me back, and had meticulously planned the events down the song that would provide pre-ambulance ambience in her headphones. She predicted the catastrophe would send me running back to apologize, and she’d have her chance to grip my intentions with an iron fist. I was floored. She proved herself willing to risk severe bodily harm to herself and others because the fumes of nostalgia were more intoxicating than a fresh start. Hers was a car crash heart, and I was stupid enough to put making her happy over my own mental health all along.

Just because we’re willing to step into traffic for the things we love doesn’t mean we should. Just because somebody once made you feel like the center of the universe doesn’t mean they’re entitled to room in your orbit forever. Where there can poetry in desperation, there’s also beauty in the courage of walking away from those who scar us. We may not be able to change the damage, but we can have a say in who might damage us next, and we’d be idiots to let person after person hurt us the same way again. You don’t owe your heart to anyone – especially not someone who justifies emotional abuse with occasional burritos, filtered memories, and an unchecked sense of self-entitlement.

I didn’t get that back then. Instead, I drove to her house, convinced that her gravity couldn’t be resisted.

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Tommy McPhail

Tommy McPhail doesn't sleep much. Follow him on Twitter @tommymcphail

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