Everyone’s eyes were on you. The way you held an audience with such ease was admirable. You were funny. Not that juvenile-one-liner funny either. You revealed a sincere sense of humor that even cracked up the old men at the next table over. Your personality was much too large for this foreign tavern; it barely contained your laughter directed at your own foolishness. It was to the point where it took everything in me to not stare and giggle aloud at your animated gestures from across the bar. I was drawn in immediately. The way you carried on a conversation with a stranger you had just met, the way you leaned in close to make sure every ounce of your attention was focused on each person you spoke to.
I waited patiently for the split second when you were alone to move closer. The whiskey and smoked cola was supporting me in this audacious move, something very unlike my usual character. But I was far away from home…and, more evidently, far away from the person I was when I was there. I spent the rest of that night listening to your adventures. The very adventures which had somehow brought us together in this shady pub. You made every effort to make the ordinary appear as the utmost excitement. A habit I would later recognize as a defense tactic, to ensure you would always keep me guessing. Your enthusiasm for life was undeniable. I nodded my head along, unable to turn away from your captivating story telling. I had no chance. I was a believer. Of you. This place. That I’d see you again.
Our meeting was anything but forgettable. We were both in the midst of our own journeys abroad when we stumbled upon each other. We had unknowingly been deserting the same city back in the states. We laughed at the irony of planning our escapes from home…only to end up talking to the one person from the exact place we were running from. Perhaps it was this pure act of coincidence alone that made me respond to your persistence. The way you expected more from me even after we boarded a plane that would take us far away from our tryst overseas. As if our meeting was only a beginning of sorts. I didn’t believe in fate, but my skepticism alone didn’t mean it ceased to exist. Maybe I just hadn’t experienced it yet.
Your good intentions were obvious. The way you adjusted so seamlessly from our time away to our time in the real world. You invited yourself into my life, blurring the lines between summer fling and lasting relations. My guard quickly dissipated as you made yourself a stable fixture in my little apartment. You dropped by after work and called me at night to check in. You acted interested in my daily musings and made a point to recognize how I was feeling at any given point in time. I met your parents two weeks in, barbecuing in the back yard as if we’d been together for ages. My hesitance faded quickly, this was only further reinforcing what felt like a preface in the book of us. We would spend our Friday nights trying new recipes and splitting local beers we found in the back corners of obscure stores. We even woke up early to meander farmer’s markets before grabbing our usually bagel sandwiches. Coffee for you, tea for me. A routine was established, a sign of permanence in each others’ lives. It seemed.
I didn’t realize it at first, for this I will take the blame. I couldn’t pinpoint the moment in time when I felt off. When we felt off. But it was persistent, like a constant jab in the rib reminding me that out interactions were off kilter. A subtle, yet lingering, notion that something wasn’t fitting together as it should. You would make sly comments regarding your forever bachelorhood, and craft a quiet effort to look at other women when they passed us on the street. We had never held hands; there was no sign of affection when others were around. Yet you hung on to me so tightly when we were alone, a gesture that could so very easily be mistaken as love. But this could be excused, even overlooked, had I not been consciously aware of you purposely positioning yourself away from me in the outside world. I began to resent your fictitious story-tellings and the lengths you would go to in order to make others laugh. I soon realized you had been using them as an excuse for your actual shortcomings. Your instability. Your lack of commitment. Your need for attention from not one person, but all.
There were days you would mysteriously disappear and forget to mention any detail but you’d call the next morning to see where I was. I ignored my suspicion. I was working at all costs to avoid being labeled as that girl, the untrusting one, the one who questions and seeks answers, clarification. You’d comment offhandedly to make sure I felt it, too. Don’t you trust me? We don’t need a label to know we care for each other. You’d recall the great plans you had for us, all the things we would do. The road trips we would take, the next foreign city we would visit, the adventures we would plan. You used my desire for spontaneity and pinned it against me. After all, you were only being spontaneous, I reassured myself, as you disappeared for another week. Again.
I had done this before. Yet, still, it was such a tedious balance between trying to clarify what you had intentionally made so vague, and pretending I could withstand your lack of commitment. We were together, yes, but not in the way I wanted. There was no promise, no pledge of us as a pair. We were being held together by our makeshift routine, not any real desire to remain in each other’s company. You made me feel weak for wanting to tie you down, as if it was a flaw on my behalf.
The constant jab became unbearable. I broke it down to you, piece by piece. We either abandoned this current skeleton of a relationship and made a meaningful decision to be together, or, I moved on, completely, and alone. Your silence told me everything I needed to hear. I left quickly enough for you to catch nothing but my shadow as I walked out.
You pursued me, determined to change my mind. You’d send silly articles I’d like or details of trips I wanted to take. Something, anything, for me to give you a second glance. In years prior I would have fallen for this ploy a billion times over. But, you sorely mistook my need for clear boundaries as a sign of desperate vulnerability. I had unapologetically grown to be confident of my worth. I refused to be an afterthought. Your persistence only pushed me further and further away. It would have been so easy to fall back into your wooing ways. Even if I had turned around, it would have only been a matter of time before you sank back into your fraud of a man. It’s what you knew. Fleeting, short-lived impermanence. Your temporary lifestyle conflicted so greatly with my desire for stability. I could never truly be with someone who viewed me as an option and only pleaded with me after I pulled away. I could never be with the one who saw my standards for a relationship as insignificant, misguided…irrelevant.
I did not want to be one you reconsidered. Nor did I want to be the one you consciously let go of. I wouldn’t want the chance to love someone so flippant, even if you begged me to try. I’d rather be the one you regretted losing, anyways.