I just thought to myself, “you don’t love him” and this is the first time it hasn’t felt like a lie. The first time it hasn’t rolled out of my consciousness like a dog anticipating a punishment, hanging its head so that you can’t look it in the eyes. “You don’t love him.” I try it again. And again. And again. No forlorn animals, only an analytical report sliding out of a copy machine with an “Approved!” stamp on it in green ink. This is it. I don’t love you anymore. The eighteen months of accumulated snow piling up around me melted seemingly overnight, leaving my socks wet and ruined.
Earlier today I was listening to an audiobook in my car on the way home from the gym. I was stuck behind a bus, and there was just enough traffic to prevent me from getting around it, that I ended up spending a lot of time thumping my palms on the steering wheel. The main character in the novel, Rose, goes to the wedding of the boy she had feelings for while growing up (her older brother’s best friend). Which got me thinking about what I would do if, in ten years, you invited me to yours. What that would feel like. And I came to the realization that it wouldn’t rip me apart, all that much. Mainly because a wedding invitation implies that we’re talking again, and that in itself is something to be grateful for. But also because I can’t picture you being the only person for me. I know you aren’t. Sure, being at your wedding would be weird. Maybe I’d cry a little bit, but only for the nostalgia of being eighteen and thinking that things could still work out. But I wouldn’t spend the following month wallowing in my depression, forgetting to answer text messages and take regular showers. I’d be okay.
It feels like I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, now. Like my fingertips have finally gotten so tired of holding onto the cliff-face that I’ve let myself fall into the river, treading the water before pulling myself onto the ground and lying on my back to find shapes in the clouds. There’s nothing to hold onto, and I’ve known that for a long time, but now my body is only now responding to my brain. “Let go” was getting fumbled up and received as a message that said “don’t you dare give up on this.” I suppose my hands are embarrassed that they twisted my common sense around into something so incorrect.
Part of me worries that this is only a temporary reprieve. That a month and a half of no contact whatsoever, three months without seeing each other, is what’s making me so certain about this. I’m scared that one day this winter I’ll be pumping gas and see you doing the same at a different nozzle, and that all of the heat will come rushing back through my feet and up to my hands. That I’ll feel like the entire world is frozen, waiting for me to do something. Like this moment is happening in fifteen alternate universes at once and the future of all fifteen depends on this choice to move or to not. I went to a Vampire Weekend concert, when I was a junior in high school. I was alone in a general admission crowd, as I like it, near the middle of the stage. At one point some strobe lights began blinking, dark and light and dark and light. I looked to my left, feeling like I was watching snapshots of existence flashing around me. A couple looked at each other and began to kiss. I remember that, so vividly. Those three seconds where they were kissing in the frames of real-time photographs, and I was intruding on their moment. That was before we’d ever talked, back when I thought you were a pretentious asshole. I still kind of think that, but not in the same way. I know this story seems to be out of place here, but it makes sense to me.
For a long time, I’ve been projecting my innate desire to care for people onto you. The girl who doesn’t believe in marriage and thinks love is a social construct is constantly craving the feeling of being able to put all of herself into somebody else. My greatest flaw, or best quality, depending on how you examine it. I picture myself folding up into a square, like a blanket; delivering myself to the feet of the nearest homeless heart and wrapping around it until it stops shivering. Because, to be frank, I think I’d be good at that. I think I’d be good at recognizing what somebody else needs from me. But, then again, I never did figure that out with you. Maybe you were my test run.
I know that you probably won’t read this, but I’m writing this as if you will because I need to give myself the closure that you didn’t allow me to have. You left the door wide open on your way out, footprints absent in the withering grass. I’ve grown tired of watching the seasons change, watching summer slip inevitably into fall, the pace of the people surrounding me speeding up with fresh responsibilities. It’s time that I stop leaving it open, just in case you decide to come back into my life. This is what it sounds like when I start locking the door again.