In this story, we are barefoot and dancing, cloaked in love and a sun-kissed glow, sleep still in our eyes. We sway back and forth in the middle of our kitchen, the sound of our own hearts beating drowning out the buzz of the Keurig. In this story, you never take your eyes off me. You never take your eyes off me as you dance your way towards the coffee counter, your hand latched onto my pointer finger. The smell of French press fills my favorite room in the house – the house that we carved together from scratch. In this story, you knock me into the granite island and I laugh it off and kiss the smug grin off your face. You move to make my coffee, but never once let me go. The spoon clinks loudly as you stir. In this story, you know me. You know that I take my coffee with only a splash of almond milk. Dark and bold. Like our love. You know that I love waking up early, but not as much as I love complaining about it. You know that I don’t sleep well unless you are next to me. You know that the only things I love more than my mornings with you are quiet mornings on the front porch with a cup of coffee and an old book. You know that my heart aches for people that hurt, but not as much as it does for you. In this story, you are the keeper of my secrets and the protagonist in my stories. In this story, you know that your eyes are the only ones who have ever known me.
In this story, we are walking in the sun.
In this story, we are the lucky ones.
But in that story, you threw me the keys but begged me to stay. You said goodbye on a cold March night, but you told me to keep in touch. You told me that we could still be friends. In that story, you always come running back. Maybe we can’t just be friends. In that story, you convince me every single time that we missed something. Between tangled sheets, words left lingering in the air, far too many vodka sodas, and the incessant slamming of doors, that maybe we missed a sign. That maybe that March night wasn’t the finish line. Maybe we could give it another try. And maybe this time will be better.
In that story, hope was the breadcrumbs you tossed my way every time you knew I was hungry. Hello was hope. How are you was hope. I need to see you was hope. But I love you was enough. But we’re good for each other made my insides come undone. In that story, I am merely a chess piece. In that story, I am a pawn. You tell me no more, and then you come back and lick the salty tears off my face and tell me I’ll never have to worry. In that story, you only call me when it’s convenient. You only call me after 10. You only call me when she’s away. I follow you to the ends of the earth, but you never follow me back. In that story, our heartbeats aren’t in sync, yet my heart only beats for you. In that story, everyone tells me you’re wrong for me. Everyone tells me I can do better. Everyone tells me to be better. In that story, I believe that you’d choose me. I believe that you’d chosen me.
But in that story, you don’t choose me.
In that story, you’ve never chosen me.
But in my story, I will leave quietly because that is the best thing for us. I will tip toe out of the room and close the door gently behind me. I will set fire to all of the things that we were and all of the things that we’ll never become. In my story, I won’t come back. I won’t come back even when smoke fills the house and the air gets thick and my lungs can’t breathe without you. I won’t come back when I stretch out my arms and your side of the bed is screaming your name, begging you for just one more shot at this. I won’t come back when I am out on a Saturday night and want nothing more but to curl into you. I won’t come back because being with you is like walking barefoot in the middle of winter and I just don’t want to be cold anymore.
In my story, mediocrity can no longer be an option. In my story, I fight the echoes of the world that tells women to be small. Small bodies, small voices, small hearts to give away to boys who look at the word ‘fragile,’ scribbled across your chest and toss it away.
In my story, I learn to say no. I say no when you feed me pretty lies carved from gold. I say no when I get lonely – when the only sound you can hear in the stillness is the rise and fall of my chest. Empty and hollow. I say no when I crave you. I say no to walking on eggshells, terrified of awakening the beast. I say no to pouring myself into the wrong person. I say no when I desperately want to say yes.
In my story, I piece myself back together. I am unlearning the things that your love taught me. In my story, I realize that maybe that never was love.
In my story, that kitchen never existed. You never made a blueprint of the house I dreamt up with the wraparound porch and white picket fence. We aren’t drenched in the dewy glow of love. In my story, our eyes don’t see each other anymore. In my story, you don’t get to say you know me.
In my story, I pour my own coffee and I sit outside with a book. I learn to be still. I learn to grow into the space that you used to occupy.
I will learn to fill that space with self-compassion. I will learn to stop apologizing for the things that I am not sorry for – like ruining a good thing or breaking your heart. I learn to start apologizing to my heart for all the times I treated it like an animal in a cage. For all the times I didn’t give it what it deserved. For all of the times, I gave it away so freely.
In my story, I choose myself.
Over and over again, I will choose myself.