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  • Alena Helzer

Broken Rules for Broken Hearts

Broken Rules for Broken Hearts


On the list of things a single woman shouldn’t do, meeting an internet stranger outside a hotel at 11 PM falls somewhere towards the top. Flying to Switzerland to see them two months later is a close second. But something about him made me want to throw the rule book outside the window, and then, for safety measures, drive over it a few times. Which is what got me here: seat 25A on a flight from JFK to GVA, breaking all the rules in my book.


Rule No.1: Never go on a first date on Valentine's Day. Even if you meet up long after the lovers have cleared the streets, romance will linger in the air like perfume. Before you know it, your 30-minute stroll will turn into a 3-hour tour of the city. Suddenly the town you grew up in is marked with memories of a stranger. You'll cover the city in captivating conversations. And you won't be able to resist his offer to watch bad horror movies until the sun rises.


So maybe wait until the 15th for your first date because it’s best to keep your guard up on Valentine’s. The worst thing that might happen is you meet someone who makes every other Valentine's pale in comparison. Next thing you know, they make other suitors pale in comparison and you notice yourself doing weird things. Like defending the end of Game of Thrones and researching China’s plan for their Olympic Half Pipe. Things you’ve never done before, things that require a new rule.


Rule No.2: Don't drive in a snowstorm to see him a second time. That is unless you want to get snowed in with him and have to spend all night swapping stories like currency. You'll tell him about the time you performed on Das Supertalent and he'll one up you about the time he slept with a BBC actress. And then you'll spend a week wondering if you and Phoebe Waller-Bridge have him in common. And after a few dates of asking every question that pops into your head, you'll be surprised to find out there's still more you want to know- like what song always makes him cry and how many seven years old does he think he could fight (six but leave one survivor to tell the tale). Turns out, the questions will never stop coming. You don't need the Valentine's air or the Snowstorm's captivity to keep you wanting more.


Because there's the obvious: the curve of his lips after a good joke, his resurrecting pulse for life, and his commitment to all night cuddles. And then there’s the less obvious, his stories and how diplomatic he gets when he’s deflecting details. The way he creates so effortlessly from video to drawings then downplays them as “doodles.” How often he talks about his niece and the two daughters he’d like to have one day. You'll especially like it when he calls you ‘weapon’ as if the standard pet names don’t satisfy him. You'll like so much of him, you'll wonder if there’s anything left to like yourself with.


He likes you. That was made clear the night he spent two hours watching all of your Tik Toks just so he could “better understand your intellect”. But his career is his life and it will always come first. How can you blame him, if you had your dream job too you would treat it the same way. You’re not the only girl he’s disappointed with this news. He left his first big love in Australia because he couldn’t bare to spend a lifetime putting her second. He confessed his love in a letter that he keeps in his camera case while he travels the world. You like to think you’re special and that the rules don’t apply to you, which is why #3 is the most important.


Rule No.3: Don't get attached. Remember what he told you in the snowstorm, and by the fire, and over FaceTime: he can't invest in you. Won't invest in you. The most Swiss thing about him is his neutrality on dating you. So don't be confused when he FaceTimes you out of the blue or compliments you until you're red. Don't read into it when he tells you he's never talked with someone the way you two talk. And certainly don't let the intimacy get to your head, that's just the fiery passion of two acquaintances. His priorities don’t lie between the sheets with you.


If you're still feeling a gravitational pole to him, remember that he owes you a Tupperware, a team jacket, and season 1 of Fleabag. None of those things matter to you, but lie to yourself and say they do, like the way you say he doesn't. Because the worst thing you can be is attached.


“See you soon” he’ll say on your last morning together in America, so casually as if Time and Distance aren’t rising with the sun.


“Maybe.” you’ll reply, doe-eyed and defenseless, no longer ‘Weapon’.


“No, we will.” he’ll answer matter of factly, laying the groundwork for another broken rule, another broken heart.


Rule No.4: Don't buy a ticket to Switzerland. Even the dark of the night flying over the Atlantic can’t cloak your shining hope. Who are you trying to fool here: the man or the moon? How are you supposed to keep your expectations in check when you've made the Alps your backdrop? Then again, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to date someone like him. You’d rather buy the ticket and be disappointed than sit at the crossroads of What-If and What-Now. Some questions are worth 5,000 miles. Some lessons need 5,000 miles.


So you'll meet in Gstaad under a full, all knowing moon. Accompanied by a bottle of Don Julio, you'll sit on a balcony and bare your soul. He's opened a door you're afraid you can't shut, but you jam it with words until you have this letter.


Rule No.5: Don’t send him this letter. The least you can do is make him chocolate strawberries, tuft him a rug, and fly to Switzerland. The most you can do is send a letter written in the ink of insecurity. Sometimes you wish you could store all your feelings in a camera case so they’re with you but not in you. Maybe if you did that, seat 25A would be empty. But you know yourself better. You want more than a story to spill out at parties with your Don Julio. You want more time, more stolen smiles, more walks and more cities. Mainly you just want him to want you enough to break his own rules.


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