You know the ones.
They are the boys who catch your eye in hazy dive bars as the clock winds down to close, the girls whose laughter asks a question that your body wants to answer.
They are the ones who drive you accidentally mad. The ones who promise you absolutely nothing but deliver something you were never expecting; something exhilarating and tantalizing and oddly, unexpectedly comforting. Something you didn’t think you’d get to hold onto but you suddenly don’t want to let go.
You know the ones.
They fade in and out as the years go on – a stray text message there, vague plans to meet back up there. They are the people who exist on your periphery – always a city or a plane ride or a time zone or a life stage away. They are the people you keep track of from a distance, scrolling through news feeds and checking in on at 2am when a disappointing night winds to a close.
They are your maybe people, your someday people, your ‘what-if-in-a-different-world’ people, who offer the possibility you’re lacking in this one.
And maybe we all need those lovers.
Maybe there’s a quiet, unspoken part of us that craves that possibility more than its realization. Maybe we thrive on those maybes and those somedays more than we care to admit. Maybe we need to leave some doors open and some chapters unwritten. Maybe it’s those maybes that keep us alive.
Because the truth about the lovers we cannot let go of is that maybe we don’t want to ever realize each other’s potential. Maybe we all like having someone to fantasize absentmindedly about, to send an open-ended text to every now and then, to catch up with over a leisurely bottle of wine every two to three years, when the geography and timing is right. Maybe all these people make up parts of ourselves that we don’t want to ever fully realize, but want to keep alive.
We want to be the person who could still fall in love with the boy from three cities over, with the off-kilter laugh and the mind that spins and whirrs. We want to hold onto those drawn-out conversations with the girl who flips our world upside down with the patience in her spirit and her careful, measured thoughts. We need to keep all of these versions of ourselves and of each other alive, to remember that we’re never at a loss for them.
That no matter how far we run or stray or falter, a different version of ourselves lives on inside of every person we have ever fallen half in love with. And we like having those versions to run back to. We like to keep them alive inside each other, in case we ever need to return to them.
In the strangest, most inexplicable way, we need those lovers that we never fully let go of.
Because each one of them represents a whole entire world within ourselves.
A world we aren’t ready to let die. We aren’t ready to abandon. We aren’t willing to let go of completely.
At least, not yet.