I can’t remember who she was, how she did it, where she did it, or why she did it, frankly. All I remember is my buddy Dan shooting his arm out, making a fist, and pulling it back before unclenching his fingers and making them pulse as though he were holding a still-beating heart in his hand. He grinned, clenched his fist once more, and raised it above his head. We were in a crowded bar, and the glances from bystanders were puzzled but fleeting.
“She Temple of Doomed him!”
He dissolved into giggles before launching into a breathless explanation for the aggressive gesture, but he didn’t have to define it — I understood. Of course I understood. Anyone who’s seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom immediately gets this, and anyone who’s walked away from a breakup they didn’t see coming really, really gets it. The Indiana Jones film series — starring Harrison Ford as the cranky, gruff archaeologist turned hero — offers plenty of vivid, supernatural scenes among its four films. In Temple of Doom, Indie finds himself in the depths of an underground temple where a sinister priest leads a ceremony that involves throwing a man in a cage and lowering him into the hellish depths of a fire pit. Dan had just invoked this movie’s bloodiest scene to describe his buddy’s brutal breakup, and lo, a new verb for heartbreak in the modern age became a permanent fixture in my romantic vocabulary.
Before the bad guys lower the victim into the fire pit in Temple of Doom, the priest reaches through the bars of the cage, penetrates the skin and ribcage of the victim with his bare hand, and rips the heart out of his chest. It’s bad enough that the poor motherfucker is about to be given the barbecue treatment, but this priest just haaaad to go above and beyond to yoink the still-beating heart out of him before sending him to hell.
You can still see his gushing veins and ventricles before his heart, too, bursts into flames — and you totally know how he feels. Why? Because we all know how it feels to have our hearts ripped out, and thanks to Indiana Jones, we have a brutal, gnarly image we can refer to in our time of need.
The beauty of co-opting Temple of Doom as a verb for romantic devastation — i.e., “He Temple of Doomed me!” or “I hope I don’t wind up Temple of Dooming the guy, but I don’t think he’s going to see this coming,” or “Jesus fucking Christ, dude, don’t play any Ryan Adams songs around me for the foreseeable future, I was recently Temple of Doomed” — is that it’s completely absurd and thoroughly relatable. (Hell, this explanation came about because the last man to Temple of Doom me texted me a Temple of Doom "I [flaming heart] YOU" meme, as he knows I use the term on the regular.) There’s no way you can be misunderstood when you employ the phrase to describe a recent breakup and the bloody pulp of your defeated feelings. The added bonus is that there’s no way you can say it or hear it without cracking up, too, as the campiness of the scene and the ridiculousness of the image are enough to bring you out of your romantic malaise.
So on Valentine’s Day, don’t Temple of Doom someone — but do feel free to use the verb to get through today’s blitz of heart emojis and Hallmark platitudes. Indie always got the girl in the end, even if it took him a few brushes with death to get there, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t see firsthand what happens when someone steals your heart and doesn’t give it back.