You take a deep breath. Here you are, at a strange house, in a strange bed, with a new person that is not the one that you want it to be. The one you want is gone, and you knew that eventually you would find yourself here.
Maybe this will help, you think. Maybe this will even be…better.
It’s been quite some time since you’ve done this, but you think to yourself that you’re ready. You got all dressed up, went out to the bars, and actively tried to make this happen. It’s been long enough, and you have to move on sometime, right?
And also, there’s this fear, in the back of your mind, that seeps forward into your brain and heart that you can’t do this with someone new. It just won’t happen. It will never be as good, or as right, or feel the same as it did before with the one who is now gone.
But tonight, you have decided to crush that fear. Your friends rally behind you, and wave you off when you inevitably leave with the one you have chosen to fill the space he made when he left. The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else, right? You think of other clichés to justify your actions. It had to happen eventually, and what harm could one little rebound do? This new person is attractive, has a kind smile, and will have to do for tonight.
And so you lay next to him and make small talk, wondering when it will all start. He’s holding you, but it doesn’t feel like anything. It is as if you have run into a stranger on the street and you’re talking about life, except for that his arms are around you. Kissing him doesn’t come naturally, and you begin to wonder what you’re doing here. But then suddenly it happens and clothes are melting off and conversation has ceased and you’re doing what you came here to do; get over your ex.
It’s awkward, but you knew it would be. You’ve forgotten all of the things that seem so strange when you attempt to sleep with someone you don’t know. You wait for him to grab a condom and then, like actors in a movie, you perform without feeling. You push thoughts of your ex from your mind, how he knew exactly what to do, where to touch, how to make you completely lose yourself in him.
But you knew that that’s not how it would be this time. This isn’t love. Love is what got you here. Love is what made you feel like nothing else in the world mattered, not your dreams, or your job, or your friends, or your self-worth. Love is what made you lose everything about yourself, just to end up losing love in the end. No, this is much safer. This is just sex.
You think of this when it’s over, when you’re lying there, unsure if you can move that extra inch closer so that your legs touch. Is sleeping close too intimate? Should you move as close to the edge of the bed as possible? Should you sleep there at all? You look at him, not knowing the rules.
You lay there uncomfortably until he wakes up in the morning and then you tell him that you have to leave. He smiles awkwardly, says something about having had a nice time and that he hopes to see you again soon. You don’t know if he means it, but you don’t really care.
You did it. You slept with someone else and you didn’t break. You did what you never thought you’d be able to do again. So why doesn’t it feel like a success? Why doesn’t it feel like moving on?
You don’t want to think it, but you know that it’s there, hanging on the back of your eyelids every time they shut, words burning in a flash. You wish it had been him.
Maybe you weren’t ready but maybe you were. Maybe it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it won’t always be like this, awkward and uncomfortable. Someday you will crawl into arms that don’t feel foreign, but feel like home. Someday you will kiss a face that smiles at every dream you have, and laughs and every joke you make. Someday you will sleep with someone who doesn’t make you lose yourself in him, but helps you find the best possible version of yourself.
No, it didn’t happen this time. But it didn’t happen with your ex either. It might not happen with the next person, or the one after, but what matters is that one day it will. And in the meantime, you will heal. You’ll learn to dust off your old dreams, focus on your job, have fun with your friends, and fall in love with yourself again. It might feel awkward and uncomfortable for a long time and you might make a couple mistakes based on ridiculous, heartbroken reasoning. But eventually you’ll do everything you never thought you could do again. And eventually, it will all be better.