“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
That’s how the saying goes, at least. It doesn’t extend past twice, as if twice is enough to learn from your mistakes. Like we all get it right the second time around.
I didn’t get it right the second, or the third. Not the fifth. Not the seventh. Right now I sit (un)comfortably at number eight, which I’m hoping will be the time everything finally sticks.
The space between lovers and friends is where we have always hovered. The in-between of nothing and love. A place of “let me make you pancakes in the morning,” “I want to read your favorite book so I can understand” and “are you cold? Here’s my jacket.” A place also of “I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep,” and “oh look, a new match on Tinder.” A place of waking up beside you on Valentines Day but knowing I am not your girlfriend, the hesitancy to acknowledge the date at all.
For the last year and a half I have functioned as your girl, your mistress, a stranger, and your hook-up buddy. I have been good enough to spend time with and good enough to fuck, but never good enough for you to call me yours. Even when you had a toothbrush at my place and woke up beside me five days a week I was lucky if you introduced me as your “girl” instead of your “friend.”
You cheated on me with her: shame on you.
You cheated on her with me: shame on me (six times over).
Each time you cheated I thought this is the time you’ll realize you love me. Each time I thought I’m so special for you to risk your whole relationship to be with me. Each time I thought having you in some way is better than not having you at all. And each time I was left with you telling me that I had reminded you of just how much you loved and wanted to be with her. Despite this endless cycle, every time you reached out I believed things would be different.
When you two finally broke up and you began to text, I thought I was finally getting my chance. I’d seen all your Instagrams of her—the ones where you were shouting to the world how beautiful she is, how magnificent, how talented and funny and kind. I wanted to be someone you were that proud of, someone you couldn’t wait to show off to your friends and to your sister. Someone that you wanted to tell strangers about on the subway.
A relationship where I am head over heels, and you are interested at best. One where I am begging you to love me and your response is a feeble “I can’t make any promises.”
After eight rounds of hoping I will this time be good enough, I am waving my white flag. I have accepted that you will never love me. This isn’t me giving up; this is me winning. This is me becoming queen again.
I have finally realized that one night of you wanting me doesn’t make up for the fifty in-between that you didn’t. I have realized that I don’t deserve to be a secret. That I am worthy enough to be proud of. That I should never have to beg for someone to love me. That asking for a promise of loyalty and being together isn’t asking for too much.
I refuse to be the girl you’ll kiss in front of your friends but the one you immediately untag photos of with on Facebook. I refuse to wake up in your bed on Valentines Day and know the most affection I’ll receive is an offer for you to buy my four dollar Uber home. I no longer feel that having you in some way is better than not at all.
With you, it never will be.
I want the type of love that is passionate and fiery yet stable. I want to miss them the second they leave and yet know they’ll still be mine if we don’t see each other for a week. A love where they want nothing more in the world than to understand my opinions, my weaknesses, my passions, and my contradictions. A love that is ready to tear each other’s clothes off at 3 a.m but can’t wait to cuddle afterwards. A love where I am never afraid to ask for what I deserve. Most importantly: a love that I don’t have to plead for. One that comes without asking.
Maybe you are capable of giving someone that type of love, and maybe one day you will. But I’m no longer going to sit around wishing for it to be with me.
Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me eight times, I’ve learned.