Maybe He Was The One Who Got Away

Leo Hidalgo
Leo Hidalgo

This is my inquiry for someone to build me a device that stops my brain from dreaming about specific people. I’ll make a Kickstarter. I’ll fund this bad boy, I just need to find a scientific genius to join me. Together, we’ll change the world – one dream about an ex or unrequited crush or nightmarish silhouette from the past at a time.

Think of the pillowcases we could save!!! No more waking with tear-soaked sheets! Dare I say, we even solve insomnia?! Those folks afraid to fall into REM cycle because they know what could happen. They know how their subconscious brain loves to recreate images and distant memories. They know what happens when they fall asleep and wake up to someone who isn’t there.

We could change the world together, babe. Let’s do this. Have your people call mine.

It was weird to have a dream about him. It’s been years, you know? I’ve focused on other people a disgusting amount. Obsessed, you could even say. Failed relationships and those almost-somethings that still tickle the back of my throat. Because there’s the unknown of it all. He was closure. He was beginning and end.

But I think I always thought our end was a temporary one. We would find a way back into each other’s lives because that’s what happens when you love someone so much. That’s what happens when you find someone who tucks you into bed and rubs your belly when you’re sick. That’s what happens when you find someone who hangs out with your Mom while you’re in class so that as soon as you get home, he will be there. On the couch. Suffering with allergies.


The first time we took a break, I cried myself to sleep every night. Even though we still constantly texted. Hell, we were broken up and I still went over to his house. And we slept together. But it wasn’t out of pattern or hormonal need. We just never knew how to be apart. Our bodies couldn’t handle it. Neither could our hearts.

He thought it necessary to see if he could be without me. We were so young and doing long distance, something everyone in our lives tried to talk us out of. But we didn’t really care. You don’t listen much when you’re caught up in the throes of young love. At the risk of pulling some Nicholas Sparks shit, I might even say true love. An all encompassing kind. Keeps you awake at night because it feels too good kind of love. Drives 30 minutes to see you for 10 minutes kind of love. Our love.

But it was inevitable, our reunion. I remember picking him up from the airport right before our reconciliation dressed like a chauffeur with a sign. I had spent the prior day going to Halloween stores figuring out the perfect outfit. This gimmick I thought would remind him how goofy and wonderful we were together. That we’d be back where we were. I wore a bow tie and fake glasses, waited to see him and that dimple smile coming down the stairs.

And there he was. Off a 6 hour flight looking like my GQ guy, my Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but better because he sang me songs when I felt sad and drew me cartoon pictures of zombies. And he kissed me. I want to dream about that night again. If I could live that moment again and again, I would. I would trade every other moment I’ve had with any guy for that. Just once.

The second time we ended things, the permanent time, was a year later. I was moving to a new city and we kept trying to make things work. We were going through the motions, in love, but too many other things were weighing heavily. I began to pull away first when we’d hug and he knew it. He’d ask why. And I couldn’t even answer. This chasm between us opened and for the first time, I couldn’t see us on the same side. The plates had shifted and he was across from me. He was too far for me to reach.

The two years following, we had moments of contact. The phone call when I was taking out the garbage. And I ignored it. Until he texted “please call” so I did. I heard his voice as I took the barrels down the driveway and wanted to cry and hug him. He was my best friend. And when you hear your best friend for the first time in months, it can feel like surgery you haven’t been sedated for. Like someone is cutting you open, but you think maybe it’s going to be a good thing. They are maybe saving your life or you could flatline right there. He said he still loved me. I couldn’t say it back. I hung up. And collapsed onto the pavement. Because I did.

I did still love him. But we were still 3,000 miles apart. And I wasn’t even sure I was someone he would love. I wasn’t the same as I was at 18. And I’m sure neither was he. But his voice still felt like the closest thing I’ve ever come to feeling whole. Feeling like I did before my dad died. He was the closest I ever came to being a complete person again. I know how that sounds, like I needed him to be okay. But that’s not it. I didn’t need him. I wanted him.

So I wake from a dream. And in it, he’s getting married. It probably doesn’t help that my best friend texts me, “I ran into T with his girlfriend.”

I want to ask if she’s pretty, as if that matters. As if that does anything.

I wake up with a sharp pain in my chest, like maybe someone actually did stab me and I just haven’t seen the blood yet. I look him up on LinkedIn, just to see his face. I know that picture. I remember it well.

Dear T,

I hope you are so happy. I hope you are so filled with love and that you get married and she is everything I couldn’t be. I hope you have kids with little half dimples and they sit at the piano with you, little legs that dangle and can’t reach the ground. I hope Iron Man still makes you think of me, even when you’re 65 years old and aren’t even sure why that cartoon makes your throat suddenly thick. I hope you keep surprising people with your talents and that your creativity has a place to blossom. I hope your mom is healthy and surrounded with happiness. I hope you know that you changed my life.

I hope you know that you changed my life in the best ways. In the painful ways. In the “I know what love feels like when it’s actually good” ways.

It has been three years. And I think I’m realizing part of me will always love you.

It’s the ending to a movie I really loved. Some nights, I think of watching it again. But I don’t have the DVD. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


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