I couldn't breathe. My head was spinning. My heart was racing. Everything was a blur and I couldn't think straight. There I was on the other side of the world, in the middle of Hollywood, crying on a deserted backstreet absolutely heartbroken and confused. I just sat there trying to digest the conversation, but it didn't feel real. I kept repeating the words “It’s okay, you’re okay” over and over again hoping that I would finally believe myself, but I didn’t. It’d been only a year before that I was crying on the streets of West Hollywood because I’d broken my leg in a gay club, and ironically here I was, yet again, crying on my first night in Los Angeles. But this time it was over a broken heart. I tried to keep it together but it felt like someone had just shot me. The shot came out of nowhere, the pain was instant, the bloodshed quickly followed and didn't stop. I had so many unanswered questions and so many thoughts running through my head, and the only person I wanted to speak to about it was him. But he was the culprit. He was the boy that broke my heart.
I touched down in Los Angeles earlier that day and my schedule was crazy, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. By the time I made it back to my hostel it was only 6pm and I was meeting my friend for dinner at around 7.30pm. I had been messaging Nathan and explaining how exhausted I was and how badly I wanted to nap but knew it would make my jet lag worse. I told him I missed him and wanted to hear his voice to keep me distracted while I tried to stay awake so he called me. He was asking me questions about my flight and LA and then all of a sudden he just went quiet. “I have something I need to talk to you about” he said in a serious voice. I went to make a joke to ease the tension but I sensed something was wrong and just answered “of course, whats up?”. My mind was racing, and he said the eight words I dreaded the most; “I don’t think I can do this anymore”. It was like a shot. My eyes instantly watered and my heart sunk. I was in a hostel dorm with five other guys and I just ran out of there as quick as I could. “Give me a second, give me a second. I just need to go outside”. Tears were rolling down my cheeks and leaving a trail on the ground behind me. I bolted through reception and tried to control my breathing.
As I stepped outside the neon signs around me were all blurry and felt like they were revolving around me. I covered my face with my hands while I tried to pull myself together to have what was going to be the most difficult conversation I’d ever had. I ran down a backstreet and collapsed on the ground hiding in the dark shadows to try have some privacy. “What do you mean? Nathan, I’m so confused. Where did this come from? Why?” All these questions were falling out of my mouth in a plea to understand why he was doing this. Why now of all times? “I just can’t do the long distance anymore, I can’t go without seeing you and not having you here”. This statement angered me; it’s not like it was the most ideal situation for me either. I missed him more than anything and would have done whatever it took to make it work, but he was willing to throw it away so easily. He kept reassuring me that I did nothing wrong and that it was just the distance that made the situation unbearable but I couldn’t wrap my head around the timing. It was my first day on a three week trip, which I was already nervous about because I couldn't financially afford it and I had anxiety over being back in the place where I’d broken my leg. And he knew that this trip wasn’t easy for me but he still consciously decided to break up with me in that moment. I didn’t know what to say or how to react. The only words I could find to explain my emotions were “fuck”. Not the best word to keep repeating but it was the only one that summed up my internal monologue. “Is there anything I can do to change your mind?” I asked but he just replied “no”. All I wanted to do was hop back on a plane to Australia and talk this out with him because he meant more to me than a holiday. But he didn't want to talk about it. “So that’s it I guess” he said. I felt defeated. I felt betrayed. I felt heartbroken. I just said goodbye to him and hung up.
I sat there sobbing, praying that I’d actually just fallen asleep and this was a twisted dream I was having. I was a mess and felt like my heart had just been ripped out of my chest. I didn't move for 20 minutes and then I started pacing up and down the street before my phone started buzzing. It was my friend Liam asking where I was because I was meant to be at his house to head to dinner half an hour ago. I explained to him in between sniffles what had just happened and that I wasn’t up to eating and was just going to head to bed. “You are not heading to bed Thomas. You need to hop in an Uber now or I’m coming to get you. You need to be around friends”. I really wasn’t up for socialising but in hindsight I knew that it was what I needed to do to distract myself. I just cried and vented my frustration, we went out to a diner with his housemate until the early hours of the morning when I headed back to my hostel and silently cried myself to sleep. And to be honest, I deserve an award for that. It is not an easy feat to cry in a hostel dorm unnoticed. But I fell asleep that night hoping to wake up realising it was just a dream, or to a message from Nathan saying he didn't mean what he said. But none of those wishes came true.
I woke up from my restless sleep at the crack of dawn. I stumbled outside to the courtyard of the hostel and tried to process what had actually happened the night before. It sounds like I’m trying to explain a morning after a drunken night out, but instead I was dealing with day one without him. I needed answers because I felt like long distance wasn't a valid enough excuse to break up with your boyfriend while they’re on an overseas holiday. Where was the logic in that? I tried looking at the situation from his side for a moment and found myself empathising with him. We fell for each other quickly. There’s no denying that. And I personally just think it got too much for him. He went from thinking he was bisexual to two months later being in a relationship with a guy, losing his virginity, coming out to all his friends, his sister finding out he was gay, all on top of dealing with long distance. It was a lot all at once, and I felt for him. He was going through a dramatic life change and I couldn't be there for him, all I wanted to do was be there by his side and I couldn't offer that. I kept telling myself that it was nothing I did wrong and it was just timing and being in the wrong place in our lives. But I couldn't help but wonder if there was something more. Had he met someone else? Was I too much for him? Or did he just not love me. I messaged him letting him know that I will always be there for him and he replied saying the same. Secretly I was hoping he would say he wanted to call me, but he didn’t. He was okay with the breakup and I wasn’t.
The first week of a breakup is always going to be the toughest, and that week was no different. I faked a smile and continued my trip. I flew to New York to meet up with my two best friends and while I was so excited to be in one of the worlds most magical cities, I was so broken. I wasn't sleeping. I didn't want to eat. And I was just faking a smile in every photo opportunity to not worry anyone back home. I still hadn't told my Mum yet, I felt like once I confided in her it would be real. I still believed that he was going to call me up and ask to get back together, and the scary thing is that I would've said yes. Usually I'm all about self empowerment and would NEVER let a guy have that much emotional control over me, but he was my kryptonite. I would’ve been back with him in a heartbeat and that terrified me, I felt like I was opening myself up to the potential of more heartbreak. It didn’t take long for my Mum to realise something was up. I hadn’t messaged her in days because of the mental whirlwind I was in, so she did what any mother would do and Google searched me to find my social media accounts. She stalked my twitter and quickly found out bits of information from my “cryptic” and emotional tweets. I received messages from my sisters saying “please call Mum ASAP”, and I ignored them for a bit because I wasn't ready. But as I was walking through Central Park I decided to just dial her number. She answered the call quickly and I broke down in tears. It was finally real.
New York is such a fast paced and crazy city, that it kept me distracted during the days. But as soon as I was in the shower or laying in bed it would hit me and I would break down. I would cry every morning and every night just because I didn't understand, and I was missing him so much already. One of the nights we attended Waitress the musical, and it was all good until the second half of the show. That was when the two main characters had their relationship hardships which resulted in them breaking up. It was a bit too fresh of a wound for me to hear emotional ballads and that second half had them all. But what I resonated with most was the ideology behind their relationship breakdown. They didn't separate because they didn't love each other, they just agreed that their relationship was a perfect moment in time and they were in two different stages of life and had to move on. And that’s how I saw Nathan and I. I still loved him and a piece of me always will, but we are at two different moments in each others lives, and we both have issues to work on. It hurt me to hear it like that but it helped for the time being. That week went quickly thanks to all the distractions, but it was in Orlando where it all truly hit me. I said goodbye to my two best friends in New York and departed to do the rest of the trip on my own. Leading up to this moment I had suppressed the breakup to the best of my ability and distracted myself with my friends and activities, but now I was on my own and I had to face those thoughts 24/7. On my second day in Orlando I was on one of the buses between Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom at Disney World when I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was looking around at all these happy couples, families, and groups of friends and there I was by myself absolutely miserable. My breathing started getting fast and my head was spinning. I felt like the bus was shrinking in size and I instantly felt sick. I broke down crying and I hid my face from the packed bus as tears streamed down my cheeks, I closed my fist imagining Nathan’s hand intertwined in it to try calming myself. A lovely Californian woman who was sitting in front of me heard my quiet sniffles and turned around to ask if I was okay. I politely told her I was fine and was just having a rough day. She invited me to join her family for the day as I was by myself, but I explained that I had to do this day on my own. I tried to pull myself together before I entered the park. I was giving myself a serious pep talk and was like “you are in America on a dream trip right now, pull yourself together and go straight to the Disney Castle and take a cute photo and start your day fresh”. So I did just that. I was feeling so confident until I was about to get my photo and the guy in front of me decided it was an approbate time to propose to his girlfriend in front of the castle. “No, no, no, no, no this can’t be happening”. I was standing there convinced that this had to be a joke. I was dramatically looking around like “someone is pranking me, Where is Ashton Kutcher?”. But sadly this guy was just in love and wanted to propose to his girlfriend (she said yes, if you actually care) but the irony was too real for me. The rest of the day I was on edge and while I was in the happiest place in the world every little thing reminded me of him.
The rest of the Orlando trip went a bit smoother, I caught up with an old friend who happened to have a show one of the nights I was there and met some great people. Back home there was a massive storm which hit Townsville really bad and my friends were messaging me to keep me in the loop. I immediately texted Nathan because I genuinely wanted to make sure he was okay. The response I got was blunt and breezed over the topic. “Thanks Thomas. We are all good”. Did I deserve anything more? Did he not care to see how I was dealing with this breakup by myself in another country? Was this just selfish thinking? I had so many thoughts, but for the most part, I was disappointed.
I got to the airport the next morning to fly to San Francisco and I wasn’t feeling clear headed after the blunt encounter with Nathan. The airports in America are so big and the security checks are invasive, and with the amount of people around me I started freaking out. My head started spinning and my hands started shaking. I quickly headed to Starbucks to grab a drink to calm me down because I convinced myself that it would help. But my heart wouldn’t stop racing, my eyes started welling up and then out of nowhere I had this overwhelming impulse inside of me to start screaming. I didn't want to hop on the plane, I couldn't think of anything worse. I just wanted to be home, I didn't want to travel anymore. I had no one to talk me down or console me, I was completely on my own. I knew I just had to let it pass so I sat in the bathroom stall balling my eyes out and trying to pull myself together. I took deep breaths in, wiped away the tears away and got up. I walked towards the plane as the staff member at United made the announcement “United Airlines are now in the process of final boarding, please make your way to the Gate” and I walked up hesitantly and made it to my seat. There was no turning back now. The airplane took off and once I was up in the air I had an overwhelming sense of calmness. I think it was because I no longer had control and didn't have access to social media so my mind was able to settle.
Once I got to San Francisco I allowed myself to get lost in the beautiful architecture of the city. I walked to Union Square from the North Beach district without any hassles and did some shopping. When I was trying to head back to my hostel I had trouble getting an Uber, so I mapped my hostel from the shopping centre and discovered it was an easy 15 minute walk. The locals had already warned me to be careful at night but I was so emotionally ruined that I didn't really care. So I started walking and didn't realise that in doing so I crossed into the wrong part of town very quickly. I noticed two men in my peripheral vision had started following me and I didn't want to freak out straight away because they may have just been walking the same direction as me, so I crossed the road. But then they crossed the road and I was like “okay, this is happening”. I also thought that it may just be a coincidence so I crossed back again and they crossed back too. “Okay, this is really happening”. My internal monologue was in overdrive. I was freaking out and already planning my own funeral. I saw a convenience store up ahead so I ducked in there and explained that I was being followed to the shop assistant and asked if I could just chill inside while I ordered an Uber. He agreed and let me pace the aisles anxiously. The guys walked past the store and stopped a couple hundred metres up the road waiting to watch what I was gonna do next. I felt uneasy. And then these other random guys walked into the store and started talking to the guy behind the register, they handed him a ton of cash and in return he handed them some undisclosed white substance. “Oh fuck, what have I walked myself into” I muttered to myself and while I was staring at my Uber app thinking “can this guy hurry up”, one of the guys sees me looking awkward and roughly exclaims “what you looking at?”. I nervously yelled “I’M WAITING FOR AN UBER” which seemed to suffice and thankfully the driver turned up. I just sprinted out and jumped in the car yelling “go go go” as if I’d just robbed the place. I watched the other group of guys angrily give up and walk away after I jumped in the Uber. When I returned safely to my hostel I swore to never go out at night again.
The next morning I woke up and headed to Fisherman’s Wharf and found myself walking down a deserted Pier 39 before opening hours. I was alone with my thoughts and the fresh air. As I made it down to the end of the wharf there was a playlist of random music playing out loud and “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat started blasting. Nathan sent me this song when we first started dating and told me that it reminded him of me, it became one of our songs. I burst into tears. I had successfully avoided all songs that reminded me of us for the majority of the trip, I even asked my Uber drivers to change the radio station whenever Ed Sheeran's “Shape Of You” would play because it brought back too many memories. But I couldn't escape this one. I had to allow myself to sit in my emotions, and this wasn't the only time I was going to have to do this before my trip ended. I attended two Ariana Grande concerts in Los Angeles and there were a couple of songs in particular that brought back memories. I lost myself in one of these moments and I sent him a message saying “I miss you”. It was three simple words. They were genuine and honest. He read it, and didn’t reply. I can’t say I was surprised, but I was hoping he would have a weak moment too and tell me he was struggling, but he didn’t.
It had been nearly three weeks and I was still as confused and heartbroken as I was on that first night crying in a back streets in Hollywood. Suddenly it was my final day in America and with only a couple of hours until my flight home I decided I was no longer going to let Nathan have control over me. “To get over someone you have to get under someone else”. That was the advice I kept receiving from my friends, but the problem was I had no interest in even talking to other guys. I decided to disregard that, download Grindr and hope for the best. So I started chatting to a guy who was close by. I agreed to go over to his place where we had sex, and then I quickly made it to back to my AirBnb in time to pick up my bags and head straight to the airport to make my flight home. I felt liberated, and as if I’d taken a massive step in finally accepting what had happened with Nathan. I may have thought about him the whole time but the wheels were in motion for me to finally move on. So I touched down back in Australia with a new found confidence and a whole lot of emotional baggage, but that wasn't the only thing I was bringing back.