He makes me laugh. The throw-your-head-back-and-let-your-cheeks-blush-red kind of laugh. The laugh I used to have so effortlessly with you.
He makes me smile. It’s that stupid smile you always made fun of. The one I used to hide behind my hand, but would creep into my eyes and always give me away. The kind of smile that I don’t have to think about. The kind of smile a person gets when their mind is focused on nothing else but that moment, where they are, and how damn happy they feel.
He’s a good man. I know you’d say that if you met him. I know you’d like the way he opens doors for me, how he insists on paying, how when he talks to me, he listens with eyes and ears and body turned in my direction.
He treats me well, you’d nod your head at this. You’d probably fake a smile, halfway genuine, because you still care, but more than that, you want me happy.
And you know that’s how he makes me feel.
I can already tell I’m slipping. My heart beats just a little faster at the mention of his name. My palms warm when I watch his name flash across my phone screen, and when he says, “What are you doing Friday?” I have to remind myself to breathe.
But I’m torn.
I’m torn because when I look at him, I’m reminded of all the ways I used to love you.
When I smile in his direction, I remember how you used to smile at me, how you used to be patient with my stubbornness, how you used to tease me, make me feel like the two of us were friends, were siblings, were lovers all in one.
When he talks to me about how he favors quiet nights instead of rowdy ones at the bar, how he loves going to sleep early and waking up to watch the sunrise, how he’s sometimes shy—I think about all the ways you and I were so damn different.
And I wonder why I’m falling for all the parts of you I see in him.
He’s such a good man, but I don’t understand it. Will I always have these attachments to you, these reminders of who we were and used to be? Will I always see bits and pieces of our love in the eyes of someone new? Will I always question myself when I find comfort in someone else’s arms?
Will I always have to step back and ask myself if I’m falling for the right reasons, or maybe, somehow, still falling for you?
I don’t yet love him. Don’t quite know how and I’m not ready for that yet. But it’s not because I still love you, at least not in the same way. I’ll always care for you, but I’m no longer holding on. I’ve let you go a long time ago, so why does your memory still haunt me?
Why must I remember you, us, while I’m looking in the eyes of someone else?
I think it scares me, most of all. Scares me that after so much time I still think about the ways we used to love. And I wonder if I’ll ever stop. I wonder if I’ll ever stop comparing, even though I know that’s not fair.
I’ve been falling for the reminders, falling for the parts that feel familiar in the embrace of someone new. But I don’t want that anymore.
I don’t want to be reminded of your face when I smile at him, be thinking about a past relationship when I’m on the edge of starting something else.
I don’t want to think about all the ways he is like you; I want to discover all the ways he is not. And learn to love him because of, and in spite of them.
I want to fall into his arms and not think of anything else but the way they make me feel—strong and safe and new. I want to imagine his and my life, his and my happiness, his and my future.
A future that doesn’t include the memory of you.
I’m letting you go, again, but first I want to say thank you. Thank you for giving me standards of the kind of man I should fall for. Thank you for showing me what real love could feel like, and for helping me to know it, and believe in it.
And thank you for walking away, so I could find it elsewhere.