This is a story about love. It is not a love story.
Ten years ago I met a man. He was a friend of a guy I dated, the first guy to ever break my heart. Through many group outings, my boyfriend’s friend became my friend too. Despite a shared love of goth culture and music, he was completely different from my boyfriend in a thousand awesomely wonderful ways. He was funny and sweet and I genuinely enjoyed his company, sharing inside jokes about his harem of women (I was jokingly the “Thursday Night Girl”) and spending one-on-one time with him to dye his blonde hair black or to talk on the beach.
I didn’t know then just how important he would become to me.
After sustaining many years of heartache and feeling like I was in a relationship all by myself, I ended things with my boyfriend. Though it was a long time coming, I was a bucket of tears and sought immediate comfort in my friend. His friend. My friend.
Over a breakfast I can barely remember, he comforted me and assured me that any guy would be lucky to have me. Though I was still upset about the breakup, I felt a little better after seeing my friend and was so grateful that he was there when I needed him the most. That was the last time I saw him for many, many years.
I went back to college and he went back home which was 500 miles from where I lived. We talked on the phone a few times and I sent Christmas cards. Eventually, Facebook came into existence and I accepted his friend request as soon as I received it. Emails were occasionally sent updating each other on our lives and all that we had missed since our last meeting. The contact was seldom, but it was nice to see that he was doing so well.
In January, Facebook once again brought us together when he posted a vacation snapshot. He was in the area visiting family and I insisted we get together for old times’ sake. We caught up over a meal and it was like no time had passed between us. A few days later, I reclaimed my Thursday night spot in the harem and we watched The Hobbit. It was so wonderful to spend time with him just like we used to. Though this time, our once meaningless flirtations took on a whole new meaning. After the movie, we said our goodbyes since my friend Rose was coming to visit for the weekend and he was going back home on Saturday.
And though we only spent two evenings together, I already missed him.
The next night, I found some stupid reason to text him and soon we were back to our flirty banter. When I found out his only plans for the night were to pack, I told him to at least have fun while he did. Though he always said I was the one who invited him, it didn’t take long for him to offer to treat Rose and me to a night of bar hopping if we didn’t mind driving as his car was so packed it barely fit him let alone anyone else.
Rose was game. She had remembered me talking about him in college and was excited to finally meet him. We finished our chicken tikka masala and headed to pick him up, joking as I got lost going to a house that I had been to so many times before.
Quick introductions led to fast friends and we made our way downtown. Our first stop: one of the local haunts that he used to frequent with my ex when I was too young to get in. By the last bar, our flirting culminated in a kiss that seemed to shock the hell out of him. I tried to play it cool, but it was clear that this had been a long time coming and one kiss led to many.
We decided to end the night the way we always had when he lived in town: at the beach. Rose decided to hang back so that we could have some privacy. Stumbling through the sand in my boots was not an easy task and the cold sea breeze turned my straightened hair into a puffy mess. Not that it mattered.
The whole scene was straight out of a romantic comedy. He enveloped me in his hoodie while we kissed and he told me things that I never expected to hear, but what any woman would be so lucky to hear from a great man. I was overwhelmed. I knew that he once had feelings for me, but I never expected them to be quite so strong or to be unloaded on me all at once. It was too much for me to hear and I did exactly what I always do: I freaked out. Was I leading him on? Could I really date a friend again? Was I willing to do long distance?
The thing was, I was happy. I was really, really happy. I just didn’t know how to process it or if I was even ready to process it.
The next day, he drove the seven hours back home and I tried to understand how I felt and what I wanted. We talked a few days later and I subtly tried to tell him where I was at. I guess I was too subtle because he thought he was being rejected.
A week after our first kiss, I sent him the following text message:
I know I’m crazy and I freaked out, but for what it’s worth, I can’t stop thinking about you.
It was the truth.
He called me a few hours later and made me explain myself. This is what I knew: here was a fantastic guy who had seen me at my worst and still wanted to be with me, who had known me for a decade, and who I would regret not giving a chance to. I told him I wanted to come up to visit and two weeks later, I drove seven hours with eager anticipation to see him.
The weekend was everything I hoped it would be and I found myself blissfully comfortable just being a part of his life. We toured an old gold mine, we hung out with another couple who I adored, we did laundry, we were just together and we fit like two pieces of the same puzzle. There was never that awkward period of hiding quirks that you’re not ready for your partner to know about. We already knew each other’s faults and we were still willing to give a relationship a try.
After I returned home, euphoric from the time we spent together, we fell into an easy routine of morning and evening chats. I was on cloud nine. I woke up to his calls, received texts throughout the day, and ended the evenings with calls while he was on his way home. Here I was, interested in a guy who was not only interested in me, but emotionally available and willing to do the work to make me feel wanted. The only problem we had was a matter of 500 miles.
Each of our monthly visits felt special and I started to fantasize about our future together, something I rarely let myself do in relationships. I was ready to uproot my entire life to be with him. I applied to jobs in his area (though I never told him) and scoured real estate websites looking at homes. I envisioned being a stepmother to his two sons and having some kids of our own. I was ready to leave the familiarity of my life for love because I had never felt this way before. I fell for him and I fell hard.
For a while I was convinced that he felt the same way, but slowly I began to doubt that we were on the same page.
I started to feel unimportant.
It happened gradually and then all at once. Texts would go unanswered, calls were shorter and less frequent. Whenever I got a long weekend, visiting him was my first priority especially since my schedule became harder to predict and I didn’t know when I would be able to make another trip. One free weekend, it became easier if I didn’t come. That hurt. That hurt a lot. Out of respect for him, I won’t get into the details, but the distance, which had once propelled our relationship, made me question everything. I couldn’t just talk to him face-to-face about what was bothering me. I felt like I had to wait until he got a free moment in his schedule in order to communicate where I was coming from and when those moments came, I had a limited time to get my point across, if I even had the nerve to do it. Unable to be comforted by the only person who could, I let my imagination run wild and of course, it went to some very dark places.
My nights became sleepless. My appetite disappeared. I couldn’t concentrate at work. I felt like an option in this relationship I had waited so long for and after everything my past has taught me, I promised myself that if I wasn’t important to someone, I needed to leave them behind. So I did.
I walked away from love and it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
There has been no relief, no weight being lifted off my shoulders. In fact, my heart is completely broken. But I still hope. Just like all the chick flicks I’ve watched, I waited for something, anything to show me that I was important, that I did matter to him.
But nothing happened and that hurt too.
My imagination kicks in at times and I find that it’s easier for me to believe that none of it was real, that he never loved me, that he’s glad to be rid of me, that he was a dick. But the truth is, I know that’s all bullshit. It was real and he is not the villain of this story. It was a great, big love and one that I don’t see myself getting over anytime soon, no matter how hard I try. For his sake, I hope he’s having an easier time than I am.
To protect myself, I have had to slowly erase his presence from my life. I hid his posts on Facebook and stopped allowing myself to look at his profile. I put away the shower gel he left when he came to visit and the shells we had collected together at the beach. I changed his ringtone back to the default setting and deleted all of the voicemails I had saved, including every single time he said “I love you.” It’s been a slow process, but not having these little reminders helps just the slightest bit.
Tears inevitably fall when I least expect them to and my heart literally hurts at the thought of what I had and how it ended. Some days are easier to handle than others. For now, I keep reminding myself that time will help ease the heartache. I’ve been keeping myself extremely busy lately (trips to the beach and county fair, taking on more volunteer opportunities, working out five days a week, etc.) because the moment I have time to think, my mind only focuses on one thought. One person.
We dated for 165 days and I loved him.
I still love him.