I used to not be able to breathe when I heard your name. Even if it wasn’t you being referenced, those syllables, in that order, stole my breath away. At first, I couldn’t breathe because of the pain. Then, I couldn’t breathe because of the longing. Then, it was the anger. Then, the denial. Then, the realization that this was done. Over. Gone. You would never be anything more than a fleeting presence in my life.
But then one day, after I realized that you had moved on, I realized that I had too. I realized that I no longer looked to bring you up in conversation. I no longer dreamt of you. I no longer replayed our moments in my mind and questioned what I could have said or done differently. I no longer hated you.
I no longer wanted you. I no longer needed you.
And I no longer suffocated because of you. I was breathing and I was fine. Better than fine.
You moved on swiftly and coldly and implanted the idea that it was all in my head. For so long, I hovered between realities, unsure which was real and which I had conjured in the depths of the shadows at night as I yearned for you. You moved on and looked back only long enough to make yourself known as if you recognized that I was moving on and didn’t want me to yet. As if you enjoyed being the monster under my bed. As if you enjoyed knowing that someone, somewhere, pined for you in ways that no one ever has.
You didn’t want me but you wanted what I had to give and you didn’t want to relinquish that. And so I suffocated. But somewhere along the way I think you stopped needing my oxygen. I think you grew up. I think you found the happiness you sought. I think you realized that I was right all along and you were the villain in my story and at some point, villains needed to make a choice – die on their sword or move on. You’re too proud to die on your sword; too cowardly. So you didn’t. Instead, you moved on and left me behind.
The texts stopped. The calls stopped. Everything stopped. And it was deafening. It was freeing.
The happier you became, the less you needed my oxygen to survive. The more you found yourself and filled the holes that you felt so deeply, the less I heard from you. And the less I heard from you, the more I heard from myself.
I found myself. I reconciled what was real and what wasn’t. I realized I should have stepped in and saved myself earlier. I should have cut off your supply before it got too far. But I didn’t.
It’s okay, though. I needed to suffocate to appreciate breathing. I needed to know what that was like to understand I would never stand for it again. I would never accept that again. I am not someone’s oxygen; they cannot take what is mine.
You stopped needing me to breathe. So, thank you. Thank you for giving me back my oxygen. I can breathe now.