They’re the ones we say affected us in some cosmic, catalytic way. They were the little miracles that proved to us holding out hope was worth it. They unfolded the way we dreamt they would when we were kids. The closer we became and the more we were acquainted with the ways they didn’t quite frame the picture we had in our minds, the more compulsively we learned to live with their flaws. Better than having to live without them at all.
Which, as you eventually find, is usually the first red flag that tells you that you will.
You do eventually have to learn to live without them at all.
You cycle through the stages. You bargain, you wonder what about you has to change. You question timing and criticize the promises divinity doled out to you. You arrive at the final realization that there are a lot of reasons love falls through, and few of them usually have to do with whether or not you love each other.
You see them everywhere, too. They crop back up in the people your friends can’t just seem to quit. The ones you’ve heard about a million times over, the ones you want to shout about, to say that they’ll never love you so stop it for the love of God just get the hell over them already. But that seems cruel and mean and unsympathetic (because, after all, they’re your friends first, no matter how blind they are when it comes to what they think is love) and so you swallow every criticism and remind yourself that you’ve been there, too. Because we all have.
There’s always at least that one person who we like to play the what if game. What if you changed yourself for them, what if they loved you more, what if they stayed. What if all the times you gave into what they wanted — the right now instead of the forever — had actually changed their mind and they realized that what they wanted all along, forever, was you? These are the lovers we cannot get over, the ones whose phone numbers we keep in our contacts even though we know we shouldn’t, the texts we hesitate to return, the conversations we initiate because we miss the sound of their voice, even though we know we only have half their attention. But still, half is enough to hang a hope on, and we can’t help but think, maybe this time, they’ll fall in love back even though we know we shouldn’t. Even though we know deep down that they if they could, they would have by now. So they won’t.
And so we sit there and wonder, what if they had gotten over the lover they couldn’t get over, either? What if they’re playing the same game with someone else, and we’re each strung up on someone who is strung up on someone else? Sometimes life feels that way, like a great big domino game and we’re just waiting to be knocked over. Everything has its equal reaction, and sometimes you meet someone and you can’t help but wonder who got to them first, who mangled their heart up and why do they want to leave it twisted up like that? And no matter how much you want to fix it, sometimes smoothing out all those wounds isn’t your job. And it never will be.
But it hurts to realize that not only are you not needed by someone whom you so desperately need, but that you’re not wanted, either. And all we ever really want is to be wanted.
So you have to lick your wounds and delete their number and distract yourself with other people — people who will wonder who got to you first and how your heart is so wrecked and why you’re only giving half of yourself right now when they’d be so lucky to have all of you. (It would be too cruel to tell them that half of you was given away to someone else a long time ago and you never quite got it back.) But you go through the motions with them and remind yourself that really, the people we never get over are usually little more than ideas of what we think we wanted at the time. And while the heart wants what it wants, sometimes it doesn’t know best.
Sometimes you have to be rational and force the “could-have-been”s out, because giving them one more chance and one more week and refusing to let yourself get over them doesn’t mean they’re ever going to love you back.