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Published: Sat Jul 1 2017
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, El Fracoso de los Texeles / The Failure of the Church Women (detail), 2004, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Breakup Tips

1. Avoid social media

Step into the shower. Scald away the slick of who you were, who he was on you—your bacteria, his. You are your own now.

Find a pen.

When you think of him, draw along your arms. When you hear his voice, press the nib to your throat: don’t speak don’t scroll don’t check don’t cry. Do not update. Press the black ink into your own body, and you can be anything, anything you want to seem to be. No one has to know. You are a book with no face.

2. Find yourself

Pull your phone from your purse or your backpack or the pocket of your jeans, where you know you shouldn’t keep it but do anyway. Sweep your finger over the screen, transform yourself. Become a blue dot in a vast tangle of grey and green spaces, maize roads.

Stand still and pulse.

Note the silence. There are no cars, no crows, no cicadas, no exhalations, no heartbeats, no children, no him, no him: nothing. Only you, centred, throbbing like a beacon, calling the world into resolution.

You are free to move, go anywhere you like, though you are a speck and the map is vast. You must never look up and out or you will find yourself somewhere, and that is not the point. The point is to get from here to there, on roads that have not yet been built, in a world with no plans.

3. Move on

Stand behind the yellow line, the city train will arrive on Platform 3 in approximately two minutes.


Time stretches like a worm in dirt. Feel the space between segments: the concrete cracks in the sun, dead cells swirl off your arms, lipids grip the sides of your arteries. Sense the engine as it approaches, buzzing on the rails like when you fell in love. Like when he touched you.

Board the train and stand near a window, facing the back. As the train moves forward, look out. See the outside pass over the inside like fluid; see the places you are become the places you were with dizzying swiftness. Watch where you’ve been, and step back.

4. Cultivate a hobby

Go out back, to the patch of your garden that never grows well, no matter what you do. It’s clay. Dig it up, all of it. Pile it around you, under your nails, in your hair; paint your face with it; mound it between your palms. Hide.

Don’t hide. Form what you have into something you can use, a cup for your coffee. Shape it. Dry it. Glaze it. Bake it. Let it bear fluid weight, let it become your treasure, the one that lasts.

Ignore the taste of clay.

5. Commune with nature

Get out of bed. It’s empty with only you in it, you cannot sleep.

Outside, the garden swamps with rain—so join it, let the cold mud ooze between your toes. Take the cup that you made, break it smaller and smaller until all that is left lines the prints of your fingers. Particles finer than you are. Smear them into the earth, until you can no longer tell what was yours

and what wasn’t.

6. Begin again

Amanda Niehaus is an American-Australian biologist and writer. She is an Australian Research Council fellow at the University of Queensland, where she studies sex and death in wild animals. Recipient of a 2017 Varuna Residential Fellowship, she was also a finalist for the New Philosopher Writers’ Prize (VI). Her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Noon Annual, AGNI online, Monkeybicycle, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhere. For more about her research and writing, visit her website. (updated 2/2017)

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