Even when I try my hardest not to imagine his face, not to conjure up his smile in the middle of a peaceful dream, there he is again. He seems to wander into the most unsuspecting of places. He knows me too well to believe that I really don’t want to see him. He knows no matter how hard I pretend to fight it, I want him there. I always do.
He knows. Knows the little smirk that will unconsciously stretch across my face, or the quick skip of my heart when I realize it’s him and his messy hair, crooked smile. How does he always know these things?
It’s hard to fall out of love with someone.
This is what I tell myself when I need comforting the most. Sure, the two of us have gone our separate ways, distracted ourselves with different things. After all, half of breaking up is hoping you’ll fall back into each other; the other half is pretending you’ve moved on. Until you actually make it. Until you take a deep breath and realize your heart doesn’t ache the same way anymore.
But it’s never easy.
Letting go of love is not a quick process. Not something you can toss to the side or ignore. It’s kissing someone and seeing his face. It’s trying to remember the words to my favorite song without picturing his hands intertwined with mine across the center console of my car. Nearly impossible.
You can move on, but you can’t really unlove someone.
This is what I learned trying to rewrite poetry into lines and verses that didn’t sound like him and I. When I tried taking pictures down from my walls as if I could somehow erase the memories, make them less painful somehow.
But I didn’t want to.
See, I don’t think I can unlove him. Not yet. Not ever.
There’s something about falling for someone that changes the person you are. You learn the little quirks about yourself, the little things that make you tick, the little wants you have, the little ways you fall in love with yourself and another person. Simultaneously. Wonderfully.
I don’t know if there’s anything wrong with loving a person, even after they’re gone.
Not in unhealthy ways, not in bad ways, not in ways that drag you down and keep you from finding something new, finding yourself again. But when I think about what I’ve loved and lost, who I’ve loved and lost, I don’t regret a thing.
And I can’t pretend I didn’t love him, didn’t love every kiss, every state we traveled to, every laugh we shared, every time our song played on the radio, or every stupid photo that’s still in the frames on my walls.
I don’t think I’ll ever unlove him, ever erase our memories, or find a place where he doesn’t exist, hasn’t existed before.
Yes, I will fall in love again. And yes, there will be a day when the love between him and I doesn’t cross my mind. When another’s arms around my shoulders are all I need, all I think about. When he becomes only the pictures in a photo album, a smile of remembrance that doesn’t make dizzy.
I will still love him, even then. But that will be the love we both lost.
And I’ll be okay with that.
But I know I’m lying to myself if I say I can unlove him, piece by piece. That I can unlearn the curve of his lips, the creases of his eyelids, the way his hands tenderly touched my hips.
You cannot unlove a person. You just let go. You just cease to remember until they become a distant, pixelated image in your mind.
And you make room for more pictures, more photo frames, more scrapbooks on the shelf. Never forgetting who and what you loved, or who you were. But giving yourself room to grow again, room to fall, room to start anew.