Start off on the deep end. You are anything but ignorant, because you came into this knowing how it would end. You both knew all too well that nothing is forever, and you decided to do this anyway, together. Because, as you convinced yourself, a brief happiness beats none at all. You smile at your innocent idealism, and hers.
You are usually clear headed. You are a mind-over-heart type, but in this case your brain decides to take a nap in the backseat and your heart takes the wheel. Dangerous, and you’re aware of it because the rest of you is in the passenger seat. There’s a seatbelt, but you somehow don’t feel the need to put it on. Denial, your friends would say. Where can this possibly go? But you shake your head and smile enigmatically, as though that could mask the vacuousness of your response.
Armed with this shaky reassurance, you embark on this, whatever this is. She can’t put a name to it and neither can you, because you fit no real conventional label. You aren’t together, aren’t a couple, but you’re intertwined in a way that makes you feel more comfortable than it should. You let the days ago by. You spend more time together, and you enjoy it to the fullest, without conscious restraint. You listen intently as she pours out her heart. You brush her hair back tenderly, kiss her lightly on her forehead with all the love and concern you can summon. You whisper the well0worn cliché in the face of her personal demons: “It’s going to be okay.” But somehow, it seems right, because you meant every syllable. You watch as she smiles tremulously, watch as she struggles to believe you.
Start to feel at ease, more so than you’ve felt in a long time. But with this unease comes a inkling of doubt. You quash that doubt and repeat the words like a mantra, tell yourself that you came into this knowing how it would end and that you have no expectations. Willingly let yourself slide into blissful denial.
Against your own self-proclaimed philosophy, start to care more and more. Expect reciprocity, because that is human nature. Start thinking of things to do, places to go, ways to make her happy. Notice, at the corner of your mind when your messages start to solicit fewer and sparser replies. Curse yourself every time your fingers bring up the damning ‘last seen’ page. Curse yourself every time you jump on her messages like an overeager puppy. Curse yourself, for repeating this cycle again and again. Ignore the warning signs willfully, because you keep telling yourself that it’s okay, that you don’t expect anything.
Painfully start to realize that expectations don’t match up. Physically reel when it hits you like a ten-ton truck, the fact that the word ‘expectations’ even crossed your mind in the first place. Flush with embarrassment, even though nobody’s looking, because even you cannot deny the extent of your emotional folly. Realize that you have failed miserably. Realize that you have only failed yourself.
Begin to pick yourself up again. Understand that you have violated your own rules, and laid yourself bare. Understand that even as she was the one who seemingly led you into this, she adhered by the rules so much better than you ever did. Smile bitterly as you realize that you have no one else to blame for that malignant ache inside. Because you expected far more than you deserved, you shouldn’t be surprised with insufficiency of reality. Finally let her go, far too late than you should have, because you realize that she isn’t good for you and never was.
Come to terms with your actions and expectations. Know that even as you wanted more, more was never an option for you. There is an inherent happiness in having expectations, because you work to elevate yourself to those expectations. But more importantly, recognize that she could never have been yours because a part of her was always lost to you. That’s why she kept to the rules and you couldn’t. Because even through everything that she ever shared with you, she never gave herself to you. This is how she could expect nothing in return, while you could not.
So this is how you do it. Gradually learn to extract a part of yourself from the equation. Learn to preserve this as yours and yours alone. This is how you avoid past mistakes. This is how you wil care, without consequence. This is how you will give, generously but always with restraint. This is how you will love, with intensity but without completion. This is how you expect nothing.