When I was nineteen, I fell in love for the first time. I had dabbled in it previously, had pined over guys here and there, but nothing like this. We had known each other since we were thirteen; we met on the first day of high school, when we were seated alphabetically next to each other in a fateful math class. We became friends slowly, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I always knew his feelings for me ran deeper than merely friendship. We went to senior prom together, and I was so nervous that I’m not sure I ever even let him give me a proper hug. Fast-forward a few years, to our sophomore year in college. He came over one night, right before Christmas, and we played board games before he kissed me in my driveway. A few days later, he came to my family Christmas party, and after driving all my drunk family members to the bar, we sat in his car and decided to become boyfriend and girlfriend, while listening to “Anticipation” by Carly Simon.
I have never felt for anyone the feelings I felt for him. It was years ago, and I still struggle to describe it; I suppose that’s how you know it was true love. My life revolved around him, in the best possible way. He made me happy beyond measure, and I knew very early on in our relationship that he was The One for me. We traveled together, we spent holidays together, we made life plans together. We spent the rest of our college years together, traveling between Chicago and Central Illinois for each other, falling more and more and more in love each day. I absolutely loved his family, especially his mom, and thought to myself on a daily basis that I was the luckiest girl in the world to have found him, especially at such a young age.
And then, one day, it was over. Just like that. We were in the middle of planning a two-month long backpacking trip to South America, had sat down with a travel agent and everything. I was on a four-hour drive by myself, and smack in the middle of it, he called me and dumped me. It was too serious for him, he had never dated anyone else, he felt suffocated. And there was one other, unspoken reason: there was another girl.
All through high school, while he and I were making shy googly eyes at each other, I had a best friend. If you’ve ever had that one high school best friend, you know what I’m talking about. She and I were eerily similar, but it worked out wonderfully because we had all the same interests. We played on the tennis team together, spent our summers at concerts and country clubs, and most importantly, we took care of each other. We were both green-eyed lefties who loved Sister Hazel and Panera; we had every intention of becoming college roommates; we sent each other cards for no reason, and we always signed them “love always”. She knew my deepest fears and insecurities, and I knew hers; no topic was off-limits, no secrets went unshared. We were best friends, plain and simple. Until one of us didn’t get into the college of our dreams, and we lived two time zones apart from each other, and life got in the way. We tried many times to fix it, to patch things up, to be what we once were for each other, but it just never worked.
Somewhere in there, as I was falling more in love with my boyfriend each day and simultaneously dealing with a semi-falling out with my best friend, the two of them began a friendship. It crushed me, from day one, but I did everything in my power to not be envious. After all, at the end of the day, he was my boyfriend. But slowly, his lies mounted. And when he would go an hour or two without texting me on any given weekday evening, I knew he was busy talking to her. It wasn’t paranoia, it was instinct.
After that, it was only a matter of time before he left me and took up with her. I don’t think those two occurrences overlapped; and if they did, I don’t want to know. It goes without saying that I was devastated. Absolutely heartbroken. I didn’t eat a real meal for months. I lived at home with my dad at the time, and had no one to talk to. I threw up daily, basically every time I had a thought about the two of them. I thought my life was over, because I didn’t understand how I would ever make it past the constant, throbbing, aching heartbreak. I tortured myself constantly, thinking about how much better than me she was; “he loves her because she’s so skinny, if only I were skinnier he wouldn’t have left me”. Being a girl (or really, just a human at all) with a broken heart is one of the absolute worst life experiences. It is hands-down the worst thing that has ever happened to me, and my stomach clenches just remembering what those first several months were like. It’s difficult enough to deal with a broken heart; adding betrayal to it was almost too much to take.
It’s been almost three years since he and I broke up, and I still have days where I struggle to breathe. If it were a normal breakup, and he had left me for some stranger, maybe things would be different. But he didn’t. He left me for a girl who is just like me, a girl I knew better than anyone at one point in our lives. The sick, sad irony is that they are the two people I have loved most in my life, and I lost them to each other.
Their relationship has moved with lightning-speed, no doubt impelled by the pressure they feel to justify what they did. They moved in together quickly, which required him to move across the country for her; they were engaged soon after. I’ve watched their lives progress together as though through a telescope; seeing as we have many, many mutual friends, I’ll never be totally free of them. I haven’t spoken to either of them in months, and I don’t intend to anytime soon. It’s still just too damn hard.
I don’t hate them. Sometimes I think I do, but I don’t. I just hate what happened. I hate every single aspect of it. I hate that I can’t recall with fondness the memories I have with either of them, as those memories defined much of my adolescence and young adulthood. I hate that my stomach still gets tied up in knots when I think about their impending wedding day, with all of my friends there, watching them make a life together. Sometimes I still want to scream at her that he’s mine and she can’t have him, but I know that that’s insane. Sometimes I want to scream at him that she was my friend before he ever knew her, but I know it doesn’t matter. It’s too late for any of that. Anger is useless, and regrets are just a waste of time. And maybe their love is meant to be, maybe this was all just a big lesson for me, but it’s hard to see that. There are just certain things a person shouldn’t do; purposefully stealing your best friend’s boyfriend all but tops that list.
At the end of the day, I know it will all be okay. It will. Partly because things have a tendency to even themselves out, and partly because I’m determined to not let this one shitty thing define my otherwise beautiful life. My biggest struggle is in finding hope that one day, I’ll love someone that much again. So far, I haven’t even gotten close. I hate that my friends have to tread lightly around me, because they don’t know what to say. I hate looking weak or pathetic or like I’m stuck in the past, because I don’t think I’m any of those things. I just think that people underestimate how long it takes, once your heart and your mind have decided to love just one person forever, to take it back.