I take his unfamiliar hand and lead him into the elevator; forcing myself to breathe as we rise 22 floors above the city. He lays in my bed as I brush my teeth and my hair and change into a big t-shirt and purple cotton shorts. I take my time as I question once again whether I can allow my battered heart to get involved.
I look at him stretched out on my bed, take a deep breath, and flip the lights off.
I crawl over to put my head on his chest. Our legs tangle together. The dark masks my questions. His right hand moves to my back and traces letters I’ll never be able to read. This is new. To both of us.
I drift in and out of consciousness, sleep threatening to seduce me, until he pulls me on top of him and clasps my face. He kisses me gently, softly. This is new.
His fingers inch their way up my rib cage, slowly, matching every indenture of my skin. They move with purpose. I control my exhale and work to keep my mind clear. I feel wanted. I feel sexy. I feel safe. His hands make me feel safe. Our history makes me feel safe. I exhale sharply into his neck and lean my head back in desire. Instantly I forgive all the times he’s left me confused, choosing to forget the way he makes me feel unimportant and instead focusing on every new piece of my skin his fingers discover.
I fall asleep on his chest as it rises and falls, rises and falls, sinking deeper into him. And then at 1:30 am, I feel him sneak out under my head. He tucks the blanket around me, comes in for another kiss, and like that, he is gone.
I don’t know how long I lay awake. The time drags on as I think about him, about us. I think about the dates we’d been on, the road trips, and the still-uncertain way he leans in to kiss me. I measure the joy he brings to my life versus the frustration. At 2:30 am I sit straight up, thinking objectively and seeing things clearly for the first time.
All along he’s thought I’m the one who wants commitment while he’s had the power. And tonight I realize that’s not true. I have the power. I have the power to make decisions for my own life. I have the power to step back from my desire for attention, my desire to feel loved, and make an objective decision. And with this new recognition of power, I realize that this isn’t what I want after all.
My romantic night comes to a screeching halt as I realize that I don’t want someone to “hang out” with. I want someone to fall madly in love with. I don’t want someone to spend time with me when they have nothing better to do; I want someone who chooses me first. I don’t want to “kind of exclusively, but not really boyfriend/girlfriend” date. I want to be with someone who is proud to point at me and say “She is mine. She chose me.” Casual dating is in. Casual dating is easy. But casual dating is not what I want.
This is the night I realize it’s okay to stand up for what I want. It’s also okay if what I want is to have someone to hang out with on Saturdays, cuddle with at night, and send funny links to via email. And then, it’s okay when I decide that I want to actually be with someone who thinks I’m great. And when that’s not him, it’s okay to walk away.
So that’s what I did. The next day I drove to his house and with an ungraceful “I’m done with this” and nearly no response, I skipped out to my car. Realizing that I have the power to choose changed everything. Every moment hasn’t been easy. It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone and to the future you had planned in your head. But every step I walk away is just another step towards the person I’m meant to be with.