Most days, you don’t exist in my world.
Most days, I am walking and breathing and focused on a million other things. I am writing trite and sad poetry about other men. The one after you, or the one before. You are rarely ever the focus or the muse. You are a footnote that I don’t even think of until I pass by someone with your name, or a friend makes a pop culture reference I know you’d get. I always find you in small pieces, never completely whole. It is a moment. A suppressed memory. A fleeting desire to text and see how you are. But I don’t.
I slip with the drunk messages and let questions I later regret fly with such an ease, I should probably think of locking up my phone. But with you, I don’t. With you, I remember how much it hurt. I remember how hard it was to get back up off the floor and that I would have waited for you if I hadn’t. With you, I had to numb myself. Or I would have collapsed. Permanently.
The feeling of being left for someone else does something to you. It’s a sudden fogginess when, just days before, you had been so clear. You could see futures and horizons, held out your hands and knew someone would be there to grab them. But they don’t. And everything you thought is ripped out. You must face a new reality, a much harsher one.
I really thought you’d be there. I remember having sex with you in the home my father passed away in and just thinking, “This is it. It makes sense again.”
We understood one another in the ways only someone who has dealt with overwhelming grief can. There was a darkness inside you I could see. And it didn’t scare me. I felt it too. But when we kissed, it was light. When we spoke of our hopes and fears, I could see a way out of the bleak. It would never be perfect. It would never be the way it was before we learned loss. But I just knew, I just knew – you and me, we could have been something.
In my truest moments, when I do not have up the shield I crafted when you walked out my door, I think it’s still true. But she must make you happy. This is what I say when I cannot fall asleep because the night I held myself alone on the cold, linoleum floor still haunts me. It wasn’t a clean break. Perhaps, for you. But for me? It wasn’t over when you left. Life can be funny like that. Or just an asshole, depending on how you slice it. You weren’t fully out of my life the day you left. Not yet.
I never fully loved you. I was so close. I was at the door knocking and had you opened up, instead of walking away, I think I would have. You are still a name that hurts my stomach. You are still a face I see and I think about the what-ifs. There is so much unsaid between us. Things you never asked and things I didn’t have the strength to tell you.
So now, I will tell you.
I wanted to love you. I could see who you were, the parts you were afraid to show, and I wanted to hold them even closer. You are flawed and did things I still can’t understand. But even now, after all this time, I feel like you understood parts of me. You saw me. You saw the darkness. You saw the loss and devastation, and still understood. You understood me.
She must make you happy. And for that, I am grateful. Because as hard as I tried to hate you (and trust me, I did), I never could. I couldn’t. I wanted you to be happy. Even when it meant I had to pick up pieces alone. I had to face unimaginable loss, alone. I thought about you happy, about you finally finding some peace, and it was okay. I need you to know I am okay. I am okay with you, with her, with what transpired. Your smile still stings and some nights, I imagine running into you under the Golden Gate Bridge. But it wouldn’t be like it was. And I know that.
I still think about loving you and how it would feel. I fall asleep and dream about us reuniting one day, and all that could happen. But I know it won’t. Probably. I guess, I never thought our ending would occur the way it did. So I shouldn’t make promises. I know so little.
But I know this much:
You changed me. You are someone I try so hard to forget, but you find me. What happened between us burrows beneath my skin when I’m least expecting. You are not a footnote. You are a highlight.
And I’m finally admitting it.