Plymouth, UK

In Praise of Green Light

I think about pain by separating it into two categories; High and Low.

High-level pain is the sort that we feel on a daily basis. It’s the emotional tide that we’re riding at this very moment. When someone makes us angry or upset, when we’re annoyed by the weather or when we hear bad news from afar, those are all jolts of High-level pain.

Whilst that’s the fleeting sort, there’s another kind altogether though. Low-level pain is the kind that sticks around and that’s because it’s the type of pain that makes us who we are. It’s why we avoid a neighborhood or why we walk quickly passed a certain coffee shop. Low-level pain is what happens when we see a hairstyle or an outline and we begin to shiver with memories.

Lately I’ve been experiencing an awful amount of High-level pain but I want to hurry it along. I want to push it deep down into a Low-level pain as quickly as possible even if I know that’s naive and foolish. These mushy, useless feelings will take their damn time and there’s nothing I can do to hurry them up.

And I realize now that’s what a breakup really is: the movement of one kind of extraordinary pain into another, from High to Low.


The odd thing about this breakup wasn’t the pain however, although that’s certainly more difficult to bear than anything I’ve ever experienced before. The strangest thing has been an absence of light.

My phone has an LED that shines brightly whenever I get a new message and throughout this relationship my phone was always aglow in the brightest, most beautiful of lights. When the two of us were apart I would wake up and find my room glowing in the dark and when I was sat at my office its light would always remind me that she was there, somehow, in the light itself. All the other notifications were pale white and boring LEDS, but her’s were always a radioactive, verdant light.

And so when we broke up I tried to barter with my phone, I begged for the return of the light. I wanted to pull the LED out of its socket, to hurl my phone into the Bay and pretend that I might be able to repair whatever curse I had thrown upon this tiny bulb whilst hopefully curing myself of its unrelenting attraction at the same time.

Anyway, I still miss the person that left me – dearly – but I also miss the flicker of this stupid LED on my phone, too. It’s such a simple thing but I can’t describe how vital its presence was. In its all-seeing omniscience it would calm my nerves, it would guide me along each day and it would soothe me when I was alone in the evenings. It was a reminder that I should be smarter and funnier and more charming than I really am.

So it’s been more than a month after the breakup now and there’s still a part of me that’s waiting for the green light. Several times a day I’ll look at my phone expecting to find that glimmer where a quick swipe would reveal where she is and what she’s doing. It might be a simple joke, or a nervous selfie, or a question, or a song. And somehow that green light means all of those things to me now. I know, I know, that’s pathetic and weird and I should grow up. But that’s why I want to push this High-level pain as deep down as possible.

Because how long will I be waiting for the return of the green light, and for how long will I await the return of my best friend?