To be perfectly honest, it’s that goddamn Chainsmokers hit taking over the radio that’s got me thinking about you lately.
You’d probably shoot me dead with a perfectly executed sideways glance if you knew I was missing you to the beats of an EDM song instead of ‘80s Billy Joel ballads. Then again, you’ll never find out because you’ll never read this – something for which I’m eternally grateful and dismayed by. Let me know if you ever do read this. I’ll let you know if either musical genre defines you more. (It will always be Billy, calm down.)
Much like Halsey states, I can’t stop. You may not pull me closer in the backseat of a Rover, but you did so many times in your white F150. You’re not living in Boulder, but in a militarized Southwestern base. You don’t have a tattoo on your shoulder – at least, last I knew in July, you didn’t. God, I hope you don’t.
You are my ghost. Have been, may always be. Hopefully, once this is through, you aren’t anymore. As much as I love you, I’d like to stop being haunted by your memory.
And I do – love you, that is. I don’t think I ever stopped. Hopefully, once this is through, I still do because I’ll have finally put to rest the juxtaposing beauty and bitterness of loving you. Hopefully, once this is through, that love stops hurting so deeply.
You see, this is the last time I will write about you. Put away the eye rolls and skepticism. I’ve said it twice before, that I was done putting pen to paper about the innately beautiful and inherently fucked mosaics of our shattered relationship. I’ve sworn more times than I can count that we were over. But that hasn’t been true. As wise men have said before, the third time’s the charm, and in the past three years of changing seasons, I’ve come to realize that I can’t write about you anymore. I can’t, and I won’t.
I can’t do this anymore, and the small part of me that hopes to be better than the self-indulgent majority of me, is fighting to ensure I won’t let myself do this anymore. I think that’s what they call growing up. Maybe it’s self-preservation. I’ve never been great at distinguishing between the two.
However, much like the rug burns scalded into my back from a set of carpeted stairs, like an ache born of loving roughness, like the bruises fused into my skin from too desperate grasps, you’ve cast a shadow across my life. It’s that lurking shadow that has me reminiscing lately about when we last kissed. I still remember it, standing outside of Pensacola’s airport, composed of unsure thoughts, shaky legs, frantic heartbeats. Our final kiss was shared almost reflexively, as I ran to a flight destined to take me away from you, shackled down with a Vera Bradley duffle and the knowledge that we were on the precipice of change in our relationship.
It fell away, our love. Slowly, softly, something unspoken but understood. To be fair, it was already falling apart. We can admit that now. We loved and we loved and we loved; but we forgot to think. We overlooked the limitations of our daydreams; we ignored the rationale of our realities. What we indulged in with emotion, we lost to practicality. We were always fated to fall in some manner. It seems that this final time, we simply fell apart.
But maybe I didn’t leave on that flight back to Raleigh. Maybe parts of me are still scattered throughout your constantly changing winds, much as parts of you are entangled in me so many days, months, years later. I like to think so. I like to hope I’ve made as significant an impact on your life as you’ve made on mine.
Attempting to delay the inevitable does nothing but speed up events we’re so desperate to avoid. It’s a beautifully painful dichotomy. We wish to avoid the pain, even as a small piece of us encourages the destruction. I think it’s another form of self-preservation – let us be the creators of our own downfall. Darwin’s principles allow us to recognize danger when it threatens, but it is the masochism of human nature that leads us towards those same perils in the face of the things we love. In the end – the purposely-orchestrated end – I came to realize the love you have for someone might not ever be enough to save them, you, or the both of you combined.
Love did not translate to the phrase “Hey kid” – the catchphrase that continuously reeled you back in.
Love wasn’t present during the empty days and weeks when there were only unexplained silences of whose origin you could only guess at.
It couldn’t save you from the nights you delved into self-hatred for the simple act of loving.
Love is not enough sometimes, I realize now; it felt especially inadequate when you sat there, both inches and miles away, claiming you weren’t capable of making commitments after you signed your life away to this government of ours and its pretty planes at eighteen.
Sometimes love isn’t enough. Love cannot always conquer all. Love cannot salvage every destruction. Sometimes love is the destroyer itself.
It is the hardest of lessons to learn.
The day the US men’s soccer team lost the World Cup felt like the lottery ticket moment that I had been waiting for. The jackpot felt like it had been struck when I saw you striding back into my life in your navy-colored coat at FedEx Field as Notre Dame cheers swelled around us. I’d clearly discovered gold a few nights before Christmas Eve as we drank local beer, in a familiar bar, relishing in each other’s constancy. However, fools’ gold can trick even the most expert of eyes.
My struck gold moment has yet to come. It is something I can see now with clearer eyes.
It is the reason I won’t write about you anymore.
In writing about you, I merely reopen old wounds. I convince myself of the fact that I’ve recovered from the devastating impact of you, but in revisiting the memories of our story, I do nothing but hurt myself more; cut a little deeper; leave a more lasting scar each time. It is impossible to grow if one continues to rehash events that won’t ever change. I could wax poetic about the nights we spent on beach cliffs as waves roared beneath us; of the time you dared me to sing the entirety of ‘American Pie’ because you didn’t think I could do it; or of the time you refused to acknowledge me at the smallest airport in the smallest state, creating a moment where I have never felt smaller.
I could do that, but I won’t.
Truth is, I could write about you, and us, forever. Lord knows I have enough material. But the heart of the matter is, I don’t want to anymore. I don’t want to write about those heartaches and that persistent pain anymore. I want to write about my struck gold moments; my moments where love is not tinged with the relentless ache of uncertainty; I want to write about my moments where love is, in fact, enough.
I refuse to write about you anymore because I want to fully grow and truly live and wholeheartedly love. And for those reasons, I am glad to put my pen down – at least on this topic.
The way I see it now, you are nothing more and nothing less than lessons learned, bitterly sweet and painfully poignant. The scars of you that remain only cause me contemplation and nostalgia at this point. They are inconclusive and enigmatic. They are neither here nor there – much as you always were.
They say that fall is the year’s last, loveliest smile. Even through it all – the beautiful, the repugnant, and the unshakeable memories we’ve left ourselves with – through all of those shreds of life that we shared over the years, I can give you one more thought; one more well-wish; one more acknowledgement of what we have been.
I can give you one more smile. It will be my last for you. I hope it is the loveliest.