I am a creature who lives in his memories. They have sustained me through some really hard times and for that I am grateful. Tonight is such a night. Some might call me pathetic for it. I don’t give a damn what they think.
I have mentioned before that one of the things that woke me up and reminded me of my worth during my divorce was an old box of letters from a girl who used to carry my heart. Until I broke hers. The grass was greener, or so I thought. I’ve always thought of that moment in my life as a low point. In retrospect, I needed to leave because we weren’t progressing as a couple. Back in those days, we probably needed to figure out who we were as individuals first, but I didn’t do it that way. I rushed into something else almost immediately and realized it was pale to what I had. I was married two years later to the wrong woman. Then divorced fifteen years later.
I read those letters in that box. Two years worth of them. It wasn’t so much that it built my ego as much as it was it reminded me of who I was back then. It reminded me that I could be desireable, when my marriage had tried to prove I was anything but.
Three years ago this weekend, as I was still mending from a heartbreak, I met someone wonderful. She awakened something in me that had been asleep for a long time. Probably around twenty years. It hurt like hell to lose her a little under a year after we met. She was good to me, but couldn’t watch my ex-wife break me or my son anymore. It was breaking her too. So she left.
I had a friend who was there for me, who sat with me through that grief. There were times I sat with her through hers. We were friends. We got close. We talked every day. I knew her faults. She knew mine. There was always an attraction between us, regardless of who we were seeing, and sometimes I put her well past arms length because of this. She did the same on occasion. Then, after a few years of leaning on each other, our friendship became something else. Something I hadn’t ever experienced myself, yet reminiscent of those letters in that box. Knowing someone’s mind before knowing their body. She told me my crazy ex wasn’t a dealbreaker, and that scared me a little bit.
I felt such things for her, even though we hadn’t met yet in person. Welcome to the difficulties of modern relationships. But we shared things. And she knew me and all my foibles and I knew hers as well. We made plans to meet. We didn’t have letters, but we texted every day. Sometimes for hours. I would write her bedtime stories to help her sleep. If I was having a panic attack, she could call or text and it would stop.
Tonight I re-read our texts from a year ago. Fuck, I have been missing her. I didn’t miss the way she made me feel about myself either. I missed her. A year ago, I knew, just by her words, her voice, her smile, I was undone. I knew she had problems. Demons. Don’t we all? But already, the cracks were beginning to show, and even the day I drove up to meet her, she was hesitant. Rather than meet me right away, she hung out with her friends for a couple hours beforehand. Maybe she was psyching herself up. I don’t know. I knew she was having problems at work and school and the general chaos of life. There were days she seemed exhausted. Days that I would say something sweet to her and she thanked me for always making her feel like my words were genuine.
You see, I decided to open my heart again. To my friend. To someone much more.
When I kissed her…it was like my first kiss all over again, only instead of a night in front of Niagara Falls in June of 1993, it was on her front lawn in 2021; no less wonderful. Like we were old lovers, meeting again for the first time after a while of being apart. It was that way for me anyway. With that first kiss…I knew what my heart wanted. I told her she was an amazing kisser.
What she said to me could have broken my heart. “It’s not like I haven’t had a lot of practice,” she said. She took that moment away from herself. She doubted her worth at that moment. If I would have said that, she would have shaken me!
Our weekend was amazing, even though I was stressed out over life that hit me hard in the face as well. I was fighting off bronchitis again, and would go into coughing fits for a long time. I was tired from driving and stress and being in a new town and trying to make a good impression. Then there were things in motion with the custody battle for my son.
I read some of her messages again tonight. The cracks I saw were exhaustion, but her emotions at the time were solid. There was the reciprocity, the companionship I learned to cherish from my last relationship. And there was such friendship! We knew each others’ lives so intimately, even with only meeting just then. Hell, it worked for Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks more than once.
Not long after we met–just a few weeks–I felt her pull away. She was going through some crap, and she did what I do too. Instead of reaching out, she pushed away. She’s had to solve her own problems her whole life. I understood. I tried to be supportive. Until the beginning of August, I felt a distance between us. I was told it was my own insecurities. But when you feel the vibe is off from someone you’ve gotten to know really well…you just know. And then, I said some things I regret. And she said some things too. Or rather…it’s what she didn’t say.
I re-read those messages tonight. Such passion. Such vulnerability. Such connection. I’ve tried to tell myself it was all bullshit. I’ve tried to get angry about being led on. I wasn’t. I just think…she wasn’t ready to be loved like that yet. I read those messages tonight, and I understood something about myself. I know now that I will never let someone in that way again. Not out of resentment or being broken, but because that was for her. That way of loving someone. My friend. My heart…anything else just reminds me of what we shared.
It isn’t that I don’t trust it anymore. It’s just that it was something I gave freely and cannot give again. I hope she holds it inside in some secret place. And when the times get tough again for her, I hope she can look at it like I did that box of letters. And she will remember that a man once looked at her smile and heart-shaped face, and it could put happy tears in his eyes. That eyebrow raise really, truly just disarmed him.
It was like falling in love for the first time again. It was unique. I felt safe with her, yet thrilled at once.
I have passed the midpoint of my life. I used to be angry for being denied a love like that. After all, she never said it back, even though I could tell. But I have seen the pictures. I have heard her voice. I have read so many of her words. Just because she was afraid to say those words, doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. I knew. I loved her. I still do. I’m content to go through the rest of my life knowing that I won’t have something like that ever again. I know this now. She moved on and I had to say goodbye for my own sake. It isn’t healthy to love someone from afar and see them with someone else, knowing what you know.
Every time is like a song. Each love I’ve had is a story unto itself. Beautiful and strange. Losing her hasn’t made me bitter. I just know it won’t be like that again. The terminal optimists who say “It will be better! You deserve better!” Fuck. “Deserve’s” got nothing to do with it.
When I see the sunset like it was tonight, I think about her and the night we watched fireworks in her yard. I think about the long nights we spent talking. Those good mornings and good nights. The little details I can’t seem to shake from my memory. I miss those times. I miss my friend. I’ve tried to forget her, but I can’t. I knew a woman who was blooming. Realizing her self-worth, until she stumbled again. Fuck, we all stumble.
My close friends think I’m okay because I don’t talk about her anymore. It’s only because I know they are sick of hearing it. Tired of being reminded that I had someone closer to me once, who has left an empty spot in me, like the gap of a missing tooth you keep tonguing. Or rather, a ghost of who she was still sits with me and she’s just as confused as I am with what happened.
A big reason I write this is right now it feels like a long, cold night is upon me. I’m at a crossroads again. I have only a handful of very close people. But because I’m not going to post this on Facebook, they won’t even know to look for it. One of them is struggling right now. They have pushed me away and are in a place I cannot follow. Another is a dry drunk. A year ago, I would have talked with my friend about it. We could have talked about a great many things. But now, I have only myself again. Because I also grew up having only me to rely on.
I know I’m oversharing, but I’m low on connection lately, and there are times I think putting my story into the aether like this will somehow give it meaning. Life right now has been insular. The world is broken and doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense how two people who shared so much…weren’t meant to be. It’s not right. Everybody wants to fall in love like they do in the movies.