It doesn’t hit you all at once. It’s a gradual creep, a feeling you can’t exactly put to words. Your gut tells you things aren’t right. But there’s no specific reason. No one thing you can point to and say, “YEP! That’s it.”
It doesn’t work that way. Instead, confusion begins to cloud everything you once felt so strongly. You are a walking mannequin, you know the routine. You’ve got the moves choreographed and figure going through the motions is just something that happens. This is just what happens.
So you ignore. You deflect. You avoid any moments of truth. Because the truth will come out eventually. And you finally have a sick understanding of the phrase: “The truth hurts.”
You notice things begin to change, slowly. It’s nothing big or grandiose. But you don’t jump at your phone when he calls anymore. You let it ring. Once. Twice. Occasionally, you just let voicemail get it. You come up with excuses as to why; work is really busy right now, your mom needed help moving furniture, you were absolutely exhausted and asleep napping. But excuses are just that — excuses. Your phone was within reach the whole time.
He knows you’re pulling away so he holds you even tighter. You end hugs first and wonder if he knows you kiss him with a different mouth now. His insecurities begin to pop up and you hate yourself for it. He starts to crave more reassurance, talks about the future in the way you both used to love doing. When you were just kids sitting on the roof of his car, pointing out constellations and coming up with potential baby names. How could you map out an entire lifetime without knowing where you’re even going?
He begins increasing the amount of times he says “I love you” and you, of course, say it back. But you notice it burns a little in your throat. It tastes a bit like betrayal. It’s not a lie, you love him. You would pull out your own organs and give them to him. You would take bullets and protect him with every muscle you’ve got. But love doesn’t mean in love.
You shut that thought out immediately.
You’ve put in too much work and time for this to fail. He’s the one. That’s what you said and you still sort of believe it. But you don’t dream of falling asleep in his arms anymore. You dream about empty beds and walking down the street by yourself. You’re starting to collect a list of experiences you won’t have if this is it. You keep trying to sand down the wings popping up beneath your shoulder blades.
This is just what happens, you tell yourself again. Relationships have ups and downs, and I can’t just walk away. It’s fine, you keep saying.
So you keep trying. For months, you keep avoiding and ignoring and deflecting. You notice your reflection is getting hard to look at in the mirror. Because she doesn’t really look happy anymore. She looks a bit empty. You see a shell of your former self.
But his love is good and pure. Your friends love him and he hangs out at your apartment with them. He rubs your stomach when you hurt. He likes the same books, movies, music. He is good. He is a good person. Someone you once imagined marrying. The two of you running off during summer break and eloping in some forested area. You were good.
Were. Was. Back then.
You can’t keep pretending. You can’t keep using past tense about your love.
You love him, but like a best friend. Like someone you never want to hurt. You want to put his heart with yours and lock them up in a safe house. But you can’t. You can’t keep doing this.
It’s unfair to everyone. Because the truth is, you fell out of love.
And no movie prepared you for the heartbreaking reality of it.