How are you?
Actually, forget that. Let’s not waste our time with meaningless pleasantries. Our acquaintanceship was as much out of necessity and courtesy as any could ever be. I loved her, and you moved yourself into her life practically overnight and settled your belongings, like a neighbor the co-op board barely approved of. I respected your place in her life as much as was required of me, but we shouldn’t pretend we were ever friends. No, from the moment I met you, from the moment I saw the detached, bored look in your eyes next to the admiring sparkle in hers, I knew. I knew that you were no good. Perhaps as a friend, or even as a lover for someone else, you are a fine person. But with her, you were everything she should have stayed away from.
And don’t get me wrong, I know that no one is perfect. We have all hurt each other, sometimes intentionally, sometimes carelessly–and I may never quite know which case was yours–but we rarely have to watch the knife as we stick it in. We rarely feel the squish as we turn it through soft tissue, wedging the hot blade between vital organs. Her pain was a gunshot wound from a sniper rifle; you were able to pull the trigger and walk away, only sure that you hit the target, not concerned about the exit wound it would leave.
But I, I who rushed to her side to pick up the pieces when she was left dangling a cellphone from the tips of her fingers, tears in her eyes–I saw it all. I saw the waves of disbelief and crushing pain wash, back and forth, over her shaking body. I watched her pupils widen with every heave of her chest. I watched her unfold into the kind of understanding that brings with it a mountain of retroactive embarrassment–How long have I been the fool?
My words of encouragement and my casual dismissal of every flaw of yours she was only so happy to ignore settled over her like a fine dust. She nodded in solemn, distracted agreement as she choked at every swallow and wiped the errant tears from the corner of her eyes. There were a lot of, “You’re right”s and “I know”s, but my words couldn’t have meant less if I had been speaking them in tongues. She only knew that this was the part of the end that she would have to endure, that I was obligated to say these things to her and she was obligated to pretend to listen. A daytime talk show set on mute–lots of hugging, lots of compassionate nods, no substance.
I rifled through my own experiences with heartache to offer a grain of advice or perspective, desperately searching for that right combination of realistic and hopeful that never really exists. I turned out the white fabric of my pockets, realizing that no two separations are ever the same. My pain cannot, no matter how much Girl Power we try to muster, translate itself into hers. No, like all of us, she had to go it alone.
But you, you remained on the detached cloud of complacent ambivalence that you floated upon throughout your year with her. The relationship had been a matter of convenience for you, and you fluttered in and out of it emotionally as it suited your needs. Do you know how many times she would read your romantic texts aloud? You know, the bare-minimum “miss u sweetie” messages you would sparingly dole out like crusts of bread to a hungry child? Do you know how she agonized when you wouldn’t call her for a week at a time, when you would lie about where you were, when you would break your promises and then deny having ever made them?
And she, that rare kind of soul that longs to give and asks almost never to receive, was all too happy to forgive the transgressions that were so clearly egregious to everyone else. She would defend you, make excuses for you, describe the way your brow furrowed in laughter and expect us all to fall in love with you the way she did. The open, hopeful way in which she’d look at me when she’d talk about the afterthought of a date you took her on after a week of alternating lies and silence, was torturous in a way you cannot understand. Searching for a nice thing to say about you was a task I resented but knew, on some level, I needed to perform. She was a big girl, she loved you, it wasn’t my place to tell her not to.
Sure, I had gently explained to her once or twice that I thought you were a bad idea. But one needed only to see once the doe-eyed admiration with which she regarded you to know that any discussion of your faults was an exercise in futility. She had made up her mind; we all were waiting for the inevitable.
And you didn’t disappoint. True to form, the way you left her was at once thoughtlessly flippant and cruelly poignant. You left her in an email, ensuring the least amount of contact possible, but you waited all of thirty minutes to begin openly dating the girl she had long suspected you were more interested in. A true 10 out of 10 on all counts.
It would be easy to say that she was a fool who let herself be taken advantage of–I’m sure her difficulty in standing up for herself aligns itself nicely with your complete lack of respect for her as a person. But the truth is that, in life, there are nice people with giving, naive, loving souls who put themselves last and want to see the best in those they love–even if it is nearly impossible in practice. These people, the “Nice Guys” of the world who are, as the saying goes, so destined to finish last, are rare. They are fragile and beautiful and represent a greater innocence that we could all do well to appreciate. The childlike openness with which they see the world and the unintentional willingness to be walked all over are two qualities that are crushed between the cold, often uncaring cogs of human interaction. We break their spirit, we tell them they are wrong, we make them cry.
She may not be able to tell you how it hurt, she may still be blaming herself for a million things that aren’t her fault, but know that it’s true. Know that you took someone who was willing to put their faith in others and taught them to be wary and cold. Know that one day, she will find someone who loves her the way she deserves to be loved, and she will have the kind of happiness she deserves. But please know, most of all, that when she has those wonderful things–it will be in spite of you.