When I was 22, I foolishly loved someone who couldn’t (who wouldn’t) love me back. And it took me years to get over that heartbreak. Years of crying myself to sleep at night. Years of fighting the urge to reach out and ask how she was. Years of talking (to anyone who would listen) about all the ways I wanted her. Years of questioning what I could’ve done differently to make her stay. Years of pushing other people away because I was too wrapped up in the possibility that, at any moment, she might change her mind and come back to me.
And when I finally came out the other side of that agonizingly long tunnel, I told myself that I would never again allow myself to be a part of a wanting in unequal measure.
Well, here I am almost a decade later, and I’ve learned that saying “never again” is easy in hindsight. But when you want so badly to love and be loved (like I do), you will tell yourself it’s worth the risk. So, again, at 31, I gave my heart to someone who I hoped would know how to hold it. I told myself, “This time, I’ll be cautious. This time, I’ll be wiser. The time, I won’t dive in heartfirst.”
I thought I was careful. Really. I took all the necessary precautions and made all the necessary disclaimers. “I’m not a casual person,” I told her, “I don’t fall in love often, but when I do, I fall hard and fast.” What I meant by that is: I don’t know how to just like someone. I don’t know how to live in middle grounds and gray areas. I either want you or I don’t. And if I do want you, then I am consumed by that wanting.” I am not a casual person. Maybe I should’ve tried to be more clear about that.
I thought I was careful. That’s what I told myself, anyway. But when she told me there was someone else, I should’ve believed her. I should’ve walked away. I should’ve said, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not here to be used as a distraction until you can get what — and who — you really want.” But I didn’t say that. Of course I didn’t. Instead, I told myself that it is better to try and fail than to not try at all. I told myself that I stood a chance at loving her because I was the better choice. The better choice because I am here versus thousands of miles away. The better choice because I am unattached versus involved with someone else. The better choice because I am ready and willing and able to be someone’s future.
She told me there was someone else and I let myself fall into her arms anyway. I let her into my heart and into my bed and into the deepest, darkest corners of who I am. And for a while, it felt good and safe and like something that might actually last. For a while, I knew what it was like to hold her hand in mine. For a while, I knew what it was like to hold her and feel her heart beating against my chest. For a while, I knew what it was like to spend an entire day doing nothing but being together. For a while, we shared a bit of happiness, and it was so, so nice.
She told me there was someone else, and still, I let myself believe that she might choose me. And for a while, she did. For a while, she chose me because it was easy and because it was convenient. But as soon as she was faced with the actual choice between me and that elusive “someone else”, she couldn’t bring herself to choose. And not choosing is a choice, isn’t it? So suddenly, what she and I might have been became just a distant memory. And I should’ve known better. Isn’t that what we always say? “I should’ve known better.” “I knew how this was going to end.” “Never again.”
When I was 22, I loved someone who didn’t love me back. And now, 10 years later, I am no more the wiser for it. I am that shattered girl all over again. The girl whose eyes refuse to stay dry. The girl whose last thought before I fall asleep each night is of her. The girl who dreams about waking up next to her while she is waking up next to someone else. The girl who doesn’t know how to let go. The girl who doesn’t know how to walk away. The girl who can’t stop myself from reaching for her.
If she reads this, I want her to know: I could have loved you if you let me. I could have loved you with everything I am and everything I have. I tell myself you’re gone, but I secretly hope you will make your way back to me. And if you ever do come back, despite my best efforts and my better judgments, I will let you in. I will try to love you all over again. I will hope (more than anything) that this time you stay.