Last night I dreamed that you turned to me at quiz night and told me you weren’t in love with me. I said I know. No one else was there; it was just us. I don’t dream very often and I’m glad. I don’t like having memories of things that didn’t happen.
I’m not surprised that I dreamed of you—you’ve occupied my thoughts for a while. I wake up in the morning and the shock of your behaviour comes flooding back and thumps me in the chest so that I’m a little breathless. Or I remember something sweet that you said and again, it thumps me. It’s such a heavy feeling. Heavy, dizzy. I didn’t know I was in love with you, but I think I was, because it feels like I’ve lost something I’ll never have again.
I keep telling myself it was only a month before you switched off and pulled away from me. That’s not long, I shouldn’t even be upset—we made no promises. But time isn’t necessarily the most accurate metric when you connect with someone. There’s either a spark or there isn’t. And sparks are powerful. Or if time is to be used, then we could measure not in number of weeks but perhaps in hours spent together and the manner in which those hours were occupied. Longevity is only one indicator of significance. You were important; you made a difference to me.
I don’t like having memories of things that didn’t happen, so I can only tell myself that it was real, all of it. That you did care for me, for as long as it lasted. That I mattered to you. That you could simultaneously want me and want to walk away. It is possible to feel conflicting things at the same time—I know this. I felt the way you held me in the car; that last hug wasn’t just to comfort me. Part of you didn’t want to let me go.
I don’t know why you made the decision you did or how you could flip from one extreme to the other so drastically.
The last three nights I’ve procrastinated going to bed until I crumble with exhaustion. Going to bed makes me think of the snuggles I’m not getting. We’d gone through that restless-sleeping-with-someone-new phase and arrived somewhere peaceful. I’d recall the way you’d wake up and pull me into your arms, and kiss me, and bury your face in my neck, and I didn’t want to go to bed and not wake up to that.
I am sad for all the things that were so good between us, and the things we said we were going to do and won’t. I’m sad for the things we could have done that we hadn’t even thought of yet. I really enjoyed all the time we spent together. Every minute of it.
I saw you. I saw your brokenness, your fragility, your hunger for the safety you need and deserve. I saw your wit, your tenderness, the light in your eyes, the wildness in your heart. How fierce your mind is. I know how your father hurt you, how others have hurt you, and how you protect yourself with rationality, with substances, and by running. I run too. I behave badly to test people, to push them away. But I wanted to hold your hand. I wanted you to keep reaching out for me.
I’m writing this because I don’t know a fucking thing about dating or love or relationships. Words are all I have sometimes. And I don’t know any other way to be except honest to express how I feel and try to understand how others feel and think. I don’t have a clue about how this stuff is supposed to go. No matter how I do it, I get it wrong. I thought that the more experience I had, the more I’d know, but it turns out the opposite is true. I’m lost. I thought it was a good sign when things were so easy and lovely between us. There wasn’t any game playing or pretending or complications. But it turns out I was wrong about that too.
I told you that I’m tough and you scoffed. You saw me when my guard was down. You disarmed my defenses immediately. Too many breakups have left my heart bruised and weary.
I thought that what we had was real and special. But you lied with such sweetness. There were a lot of things you could have done that would have been kinder than what you did.
Then I remember the way you looked at me, like I was brilliant, like you cared, and none of it makes sense.
I know that feelings are scary, and obligations are scary, and that I came with both. I know that you’ve been damaged at the deepest level and that taints everything even when you try to conquer it or ignore it. I know because it’s the same for me. I also understand that you could have been genuinely keen for a time and then just stopped feeling it. That happens. Or maybe it is just a matter of timing—you just aren’t ready for what was happening between us. I’ve been there too.
It would not have occurred to me to be affectionate like you were, or to talk the way we did. It just doesn’t fit into my experience of life or dating. I responded, of course. I hungered for it; I didn’t realize before you that I was even missing that kind of affection or that it was possible. Every time you reached for me made me a tiny bit more relaxed, a smidge more hopeful. You hinted at a future from the beginning. You called me darling. I felt like I might have found someone who could be my plus one. You were there to comfort me so I didn’t have to cry alone. You were someone to go out and have fun with and then go home and snuggle up with. I wasn’t thinking or feeling these things in a vacuum; they were informed by your behavior towards me.
You could have talked to me about how you were feeling, told me what you needed. But you didn’t. I could only act on the information provided to me, and the signals I was getting were that you were serious about something developing between us. And then you fled. You abruptly and brutally told me you were done. You promised cuddles, you kissed me all evening, and then you didn’t turn your car off. And so I saw too that maybe you weren’t kind; maybe you weren’t honest. If it’s true that I brought out the sweetness in you, it baffles me that you would push me away, that you wouldn’t want to be with someone who brings out the good things in you. It’s hard for me to come to terms with the ending, because it didn’t have a chance to go bad. I’m left with happy memories, and therefore confusion. And embarrassment, if I was seeing potential that you weren’t, feeling things you didn’t feel.
I’m sorry you didn’t want to hold my hand or talk with me anymore. I hope you find peace and that someone holds you as closely as you held me and doesn’t let go.