In my memories, he is almost perfect.
He was the one who spoke first, sitting next to me on the couch at my friend’s house. Though he was far and away the cutest guy at the party, what I remember most was his manner. Warm and engaging, talking to me all night long as though we were the only two left in the world. The way his eyes lit up when I mentioned Poe. The way he seemed almost as shy and hesitant as I was when he kissed me goodnight.
The next few months were almost like the proverbial fairytale. Messages that made me laugh and smile. Cheerful, tipsy texts from a night out with the boys that were somehow frank and endearing and made me like him all the more. The way he quoted his favorite poets to me, knowing my shared love of Milton, Keats, and Tennyson. Trips to the city to visit me, sitting and talking in the Botanic Gardens, savoring the anticipation of the goodbye kiss at the carriage door as I saw him onto the train home. And above all, the feeling of happiness, warmth and appreciation that permeates all my memories of our time together.
It didn’t work out, of course. I guess it’s up to the universe to decide whether I messed it up or if somehow life just decreed it wasn’t to be. I still think about him, from time to time, and wonder what things have been like if it was to be. Would we still be together, would I have been happy? If we’d said those words that we never said and gave ourselves a chance, where would we be now? I really don’t know.
Sometimes, when those thoughts creep up on me, I console myself with the old adage that maybe it’s ‘all for the best’, but deep down I don’t really believe that. Somehow I don’t think that a lifetime of wondering, “What if?” and asking if I missed a real chance at love and happiness is in anyone’s best interests.
But even if I have to live with the eternal wondering and a hint of regret, at least I can appreciate what I have without him as well. After all, on my own I’ll never have to find out if he could live up to what I remember he was and what I imagine we could have been. Instead I get all the sweetness of the memory without the sting of the reality. Fond reminiscences of a hesitant first kiss by moonlight; delicate compliments paid with all the eloquence of Robert Browning; that feeling of being important to someone’s happiness – and of someone else giving me happiness in return; and, of course, him. The one I remember as my first tender ‘love’. The one who was incredibly good-looking at 18, but still thought the best Friday night was one spent whispering his favourite poets to me. The one who might have been the best thing that ever happened to me. The one whose heart I broke.
In truth he’s a lot of things, but to me, he will always be the one that got away.