Your girlfriend will take you to an office Christmas party. It's full of cops. You don't really like cops. But you'll forget about it for her. Despite the shorter hair, the badge on her chest and the gun that usually rests at her hip, she is still essentially the same girl you met at that Nada Surf concert back in 1997, when you knew the lyrics to "Zen Brain" in French.

While slow jazz music plays in the background, your girlfriend will tell you that she's got some bad news. A bullet grazed her right hip last night. Apparently, someone decided to act like a tough guy outside of a liquor store near the hospital downtown. She's not hurt, but the chief wants her to get out of the field for a while. They want her to take a desk job.

"We can't have you running around with a hole in your side, Corey..." Your girlfriend isn't the best at imitating the chief's voice, but you get the point.

She will ask you for your opinion. Say that you'd be glad to make money without being at risk to be killed. She will probably respond with this after downing her glass of chardonnay:

"Fuck it. Not gonna worry about it."

Your girlfriend will order two screwdrivers from the bar. One with vanilla vodka, the other with Ketel One. The latter is yours. Be sure to order another after the first one is done. Your girlfriend will have a few more drinks, most of them involving ever-increasing amounts of whiskey. You will keep up her pace. It has never been too hard.

The next morning, your bed will be destroyed, and clothes will be scattered around your bedroom. What remains of your alarm clock will be faintly humming, signaling a wake-up time that is long, long passed. Most importantly, you will feel like you've been hit by a truck. Well, that's not accurate, as getting hit by a truck feels quite different, but it's the only thing you can think of that describes the hangover that you feel. Stick to the old standbys of Gatorade and cocktail peanuts. Maybe a couple of Alka-Seltzer tablets. It tastes like salt, but it works.

Clean the room up while you call your girlfriend at the precinct. She won't answer. Leave a message with the dispatch officer.

A week will pass. You'll wonder why your girlfriend hasn't contacted you. Tell yourself that you shouldn't be too worried. This has happened before. When the shooting happened at Halter Lake High School, you didn't see her for 10 straight days. Yeah. Nothing crazy.

Later, a voicemail message will be left on your phone. Three guesses as to who it's from - the first two don't count.

It'll sound something like this:

"Asshole! You are a goddamn asshole! I sincerely fucking regret every hour I spent with you. If I ever see you again, I will fucking kill you, and you can fucking count on that!"

You won't understand why she is mad. Do you ever? Sit this one out for a little bit. Head to the bar. You know the one.

After nursing a glass of Crown Royal for a few hours, you will come to the conclusion that something must have happened at the Christmas party. That's like eight hours you completely don't remember, which should have troubled you a week ago. Either way, it'll be time to do what you always do when something like this happens. You should go to Walgreens to get a Whitman's sampler and a bottle of wine, but you should leave the wine at the counter and swap it for a card. Your girlfriend always loved getting those when you were first going out. Maybe another can help.

On the way to her apartment, you take the highway to beat traffic. A guy driving a Mack truck will decide to pull up alongside you.

When the paramedics pull you out of the wreckage, you probably won't be able to feel your right arm. You sure as hell won't be able to hear a sound, except for the faint muted sound of your girlfriend screaming at the top of her lungs. It sounds like "Good fucking God! Jesus fucking Christ! What the fuck happened!? Colin, you son of a bitch, don't you fucking die on me!"

But you can't know for sure, since the next thing you'll hear is the faint sound of an EKG machine.

A guide? To ending a relationship? That's like,

-How do I go through a plane crash?

-How do I survive a shipwreck?

I think you just... watch everything unfold, like

-Will we still be going to the same grocery stores?
    Can I say hello to you if I ever see you again?
    How can I say hello to you? How do I ever do that again?

-Who gets to take this with them?
    We bought it together
     You even paid for half of it

-Can I still keep all the friends you gave me?
    Can I still care about your family? your neighbors?
    Can I still love the people that I once loved for you?

-Will we ever reconnect?
    Has our own unique plot of soil between us become so
    poisoned that nothing can ever grow there again?

-Can I feel happy for whatever will become of you?
    Can I feel shame, anger, sadness for you? Or do I even have
    the right to feel anything about you anymore?

-Can I still feel you,
    even when you're not there and
    I know you're not coming...

-Can we ever reconnect?
    Will we be able to sit down together again one day
    and talk without soreness or temptation or anger?

Or is this the final release?
Is this the ultimate disconnect, pitch black and we will
never find each other again even if we tried, and

It's impossible to know these things
while you're in the middle of the ending, it's like
being in the middle of a hurricane that you can't see
and you watch it all unfold

All the packing and all the somber silence and all that slow decline of a new reality will settle onto your existing one softly and slowly like snow until it replaces what you have loved, what you have known, moment by moment as the disaster becomes itself and

-What the hell am I going to do?
    It's like running through a forest fire, you should just
    do everything you can to survive,
    and show some gratitude when you do survive,
    regroup, and heal, and let yourself continue
your natural course

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