Owen and I had just finished our usual hour-long meeting in the Rand study room, our calculators open and my notes still sprawled vulnerably across the table - completely incognizant to what he was about to say.
He retrieved his planner from his backpack, opened it to the school calendar and tried to tell me (gently), "I want you to be independent. Let's make a goal. Let's say that we will stop seeing each other by Thanksgiving Break. Do you think that sounds fair?"
Don't get me wrong, I've sat through conversations like this one before. The boy's head tilts sympathetically to one side as he delivers some stale line like "We should really talk." The words, however trite, are usually timely, warranted and somehow appropriate.
In high school, I had lost my first love, during freshman year, I had lost a Carleton romance and during sophomore year, I had lost a punk rocker from Sebastapol. However, nothing had prepared me for this particular head tilt. Nothing had prepared me for these particular words. Not from him.
"Stop seeing each other?"
"Yeah. I mean it's not like you'll be alone. You can find someone else in your class to meet with - even on a regular basis - just like we do."
I looked at him blankly. He thinks we should see other people?
"It's not like I don't want to see you anymore, it's just that, well& I want you to be independent."
Independent? I consider myself a self-sufficient young woman. I don't enter into relationships with a naïve expectation for long-term commitments.
Moreover, I had felt like things were going so well. With final exams nearing, I couldn't afford to lose him.
So I enlisted another tutor friend to do a little pro bono investigation.
Apparently, I wasn't the only tutee being cut free these days. It's as if tutor-tutee breakups are in season.
Tutors break up with their tutees as the first November frost dusts the Hill. But it's no coincidence; it's the Academic Support Center's protocol for tutors to disengage their tutees and to encourage them to become more "independent." My friend even confessed that she was nervous to break up with her tutee, because she felt like he was very much dependent on their relationship.
Was I just another needy tutee?
Linne Jensen of the Academic Support Center mandates that all tutors make independents of their tutees before the semester's end. With a salary of $7.65 an hour, Owen couldn't afford to wrestle with authority.
So I comforted myself by saying, "Don't worry, it's not you. It's the system."
Truly, though, I felt weak and defenseless. I couldn't indulge in the usual breakup spectacle. Most people hadn't known that we were together, and I didn't have time to weep over a pint of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey. After all, I had pending problem sets and Moodle quizzes to tend to.
A couple of days later, I had almost come to terms with the reality of the situation. We were breaking up. Yet little things still reminded me of him: graphite smudges on my palm, certain calculus notations and green felt-tipped pens.
That evening at dinner, however, my dear friend and physics classmate detonated the final bomb.
"I was just thinking 'is Owen available next semester? I mean you'll be abroad and everything. I just thought that maybe'"
If Owen had been there, he would have reminded me that the best way to solve a physics problem is to write out the givens and to then draw a free body diagram. He would have uncapped his green pen and scrawled a bold force vector starting at my heart and continuing to the ground (the force of gravity).
I felt the weight of my heart catapult to the floor at Fg = 9.8 m/s2. It's confirmed. Love (indeed) hurts.