1. take the news standing up. It will be the last time you are ambulatory for a while. Immediately retire to your bed and contemplate every single one of your character defects -- they have been spelled out for you in detail. Stare at the ceiling fan, feel like you are Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. Steel yourself for the horror. The horror.2. Start keeping a diary. Write in tiny, crabbed letters, and keep a concordance. The words "loneliness," "pain" and "betrayal" will recur constantly; you will be insensitive to the editing process for some time. The day the words "evil" and "pig" begin emerging, encourage their entry into the sad fray.
3. Decide that bathing is an exotic activity, one that makes you appear less toxic and ill. Cultivate black circles under your eyes, and select clothing from the damp recesses of your laundry basket. Wear sunglasses constantly; further accessorize with Kleenex.
4. Clean your entire place with a frenzy once reserved for Joan Crawford. While vacuuming the walls, decide he would fall in love with you again if he could see how industrious you are. Leave the sheets alone. Litter them with more crumbs, mascara-sodden paper towels and cat hair. Decide your cat is your only friend in the meantime -- hug him until he lashes out and scratches you. Let the scratch fester and burn.
5. In a moment of fragile optimism, telephone every person you have ever liked, including a boy who shoved your face in the mud in elementary school. Come on strong, and meet them dressed like a deranged streetwalker. Frighten and appall them, go home alone and write in small, crabbed letters in your now waffled diary.
6. Start seeing a therapist. Refuse to discuss your personal past or role in the breakup. Ask the therapist why this happened, how it could have happened, while twisting yourself like Mr. Salty. Keep switching therapists until you find one who's comfortable tossing around terms like "pathological narcissist" and "psychopath."
7. Start spending more time with friends. Start questioning friendship as a concept if any of them express concern about your appearance and monomaniacal world view.
8. After spending many full days in a darkened room, throw open a window and notice it's spring. Realize your Roger's Cable man looks exactly like Tupac Shakur. Keep ordering more services. Cry when they send over a little old man who's shaped like a potato. Buy sexy things, like birth control and a whip. Notice every man and woman on the street -- feel like you have just been sprung from the Big House.
9. See your ex with his new partner on the street and spend hours online staring at photographs of "living curiosities" until you find one who looks just like her. Cut up all his pictures and make a collage that would scare Goya. Remorsefully reassemble all the pictures, remembering something sweet he did once. You know it's all your fault. Rush to therapist and bask in his opinions about infantilism and the male psyche. Notice you are carrying around one of the decapitated photo heads. That it rains every day. That you live alone and hate Gloria Gaynor. Decide you will survive anyway.
10. Date someone so inappropriate that you wonder if you have in fact amputated your common sense with your own boot knife. When your friends express concern, date someone worse. Meet a nice person and feel this phase has finally ended. When the nice person dumps you, send him 200 e-mails. Quote Edna St. Vincent Millay and Mario Puzo. Tape fingers together: you are banned from e-mail.
11. Listen to other people talk on the phone with their lovers, to your neighbours' love affair, see people kissing on the street. Feel like Lucifer creeping into Paradise, watching Adam and Eve with a mixture of envy and contempt.
12. Take people's advice and start a hobby. Resume decoupaging photo heads on a piece of wood.
13. Have an affair with someone new. Terrify them with your new Seka-meets-Blanche-DuBois personality. Fall madly in love and then add his head to the decoupage.
14. Occupy your entire bed and listen to the sweet sound of no snoring. A woodpecker has taken up residence in the tree outside your window: it sounds like opera to you.
15. Read in a book that you will be crazy for two years. Notice you are only 1/8th through. Host a karaoke jam at your apartment and sing Nancy Sinatra until the cops show up. Remember that Virginia Woolf thought of madness as a soothing lava, one that abetted her creativity. Stay bobbing in the waves, not waving or drowning, merely awaiting the kindness of sailors, the turn of the tide.