To fall half in love with someone, be alone.
Be alone for so long that you forget how to properly fall; that you forget anything but sideways glances and chance encounters and whomever you’re standing closest to when the bar lights come on at the end of the night.
To fall half in love, lose faith in people. Decide that everyone leaves and everyone screws up and that you are more than included in that pool. Tell yourself that there was a time and a place for love but it was long, long and not here. Decide that for a long time, half-hearted replications are all that you’re going to get. Decide that nothing’s going to feel like it once did and let that be okay. Let yourself accept that as a cold, inevitable truth.
To fall half in love, make a mistake. Linger one moment too long at a bar or café. Invite the wrong person into your bed. Listen too intently to somebody’s story and fail to realize that we can fall in love entirely accidentally. Fail to realize the moment in which the chain-link barrier around your heart lowers and lets something in, because it has been up for so long that you forgot it was not entirely indestructible. For a long time, fail to realize that you can feel anything at all.
Realize in an offhanded moment that the lilt of their laugh makes you breathless, that the taste of their lips drives you mad. Find yourself transfixed with the movement of their hands as they’re brewing a simple cup of coffee and realize that something has shifted deep inside of you; something it’s too late to put back.
To fall half in love with someone, jump ship. Realize that you’re not ready for full love, for real love, for the kind of love that nurtures and catches and heals. Realize that you’ve been alone for so damn long because you have a world of your own making and you like it there. That the touch of someone’s hand shouldn’t make you weak, that the sound of their voice shouldn’t haunt you. To fall half in love, leave before you have the chance to fall fully, because you aren’t ready to let that overtake you. You aren’t prepared to wander through that wasteland again.
To fall half in love with someone, move on. Go confidently forward in the direction of whatever life you’d had planned, long before they ever came along.
But every now and then, let your mind wander back.
Every now and then, remain transfixed on the memory of their skin against yours, of their hands in your hair, of the quiet, patient moments where laughter unexpectedly escaped your lips lying beside them. Let your mind wander back until you realize that it’s not them you’re missing at all – it’s the unfulfilled possibility they embodied.
Because the truth is, you never really did fall in love with them.
You fell in love with their potential. You fell in love with the maybes and the could-have-beens. You fell in love with all the trips you didn’t take, the plans you didn’t make, the hazy, unintelligible future that stretched out before you without any opportunity to build upon. You fell in love with the potential of what could have happened had you been the kind of person who’d stayed. Had you been the person who could fall in love fully, without pause.
You realize that you didn’t fall in love with them at all, but that you could have. That you might have. That there may always be a small part of yourself that is going to wonder ‘what if’ and that maybe you like it that way.
That maybe you prefer only falling half in love because it allows you to write your own ending to the story.
And theirs is a story that you want to still have and hold onto, years down the line, when you need something to write on and on and on.