The moment I saw him, I just knew that we would be together. With a simple exchange that lasted under a minute, all of the rules went out of the window, and so did my inhibitions.
It was love at first sight. You see it in movies and hope that when you find the one, it will be that easy and life-altering. Do you know the scene from Big Fish? The one in the circus where Ewan McGregor spots the love of his life across the room and time stops? That feeling.
And then, about nine months into our relationship, he ghosted. Three weeks later, after confronting him, he told me he couldn’t see me anymore because he wasn’t equipped to handle a long-distance relationship. Crushed and foolish, I agreed to the age-old pact to still be “friends.” Not just Facebook friends that talk every once in a while, but actual friends who talk regularly.
We remained friends for four years. Looking back, this was the worst decision. But cutting someone out of your life always seems like a radical inhuman act until we sometimes realize it’s the most healthy act of self-love.
Years after our breakup, we were in the same town (temporarily), and he asked to meet up. My heart did a cartwheel. Why would he want to meet after all these years? What was I hoping to get out of it? But I knew what I wanted.
Embarrassingly, I wanted him to tell me he missed me and was open to giving our relationship another chance. And before I could say anything, my wish came true: He texted me the night before we were supposed to meet for coffee to confess that after all this time, he still wanted me. I longed to profess I still had feelings for him and hadn’t gotten over what happened to us years ago, but I said nothing of the sort. I didn’t respond.
It wasn’t until I was walking to the coffee shop to meet him face to face that I suddenly realized I was lying to myself. I woke up that morning intending to walk in and kiss him passionately, like a scene straight out of a movie, but when I got about 500 yards from the front door, my gut said, “Do not walk in.” After all these years, I realized I had been hanging on to the fantasy of the relationship we once had, holding me back from ultimately moving on. We were very different people who wanted very different things.
I phoned him to tell him that I was right outside but could not bring myself to walk in the door. He didn’t try to convince me otherwise.
I sat down on a bench in the snow and cried dramatically, alone. I cried so hard that I couldn’t breathe. The feeling was the most painful feeling I had ever felt and oddly the most freeing.
The words of Samantha Jones rang through my brain: I love you, but I love me more. I fancied myself enough to want better than someone who would walk away. And then I let go.