I had my earbuds in as I walked the few blocks to meet him at the wine bar we agreed on just a few hours earlier. I thought about bailing on the date – again – but finally made my way into the dimly lit establishment in the West Village. It was cool outside – April in Manhattan is still chilly – but the warmth of Turks and Frogs engulfed me and I began to thaw out.
I had only been there for a couple of minutes when a tanned face and a dark head literally popped its head into the door before its body. He had on a goofy smile and we exchanged our first laughs together. I don’t know exactly when it was during this interaction that made me realize it, but I knew he was my person.
Our first date lasted long into the night. Finally, he offered to walk me home. We stood on West 14th, ready to cross the street, when a bus whizzed past and he whispered something in my ear and then kissed me. My knees immediately buckled and my heart felt like it was in my throat, but I didn’t care. As skeptical as I was of this person being like everyone else before him, all preconceived notions vanished and I put my hand to his face and melted into his body.
It wasn’t a whirlwind romance, but he became someone I looked forward to seeing every week. Dinners, coffee dates, walks on the high line, dancing until the wee hours of the morning – I couldn’t get enough of his seemingly genuine interest in getting to know me. Every time I looked at him I thought for a second I could see someone so vulnerable, a little insecure, and truly excited to be with me. He introduced me to a few of his friends one super humid summer evening, and I thought I was in. They weren’t his best friends, I could tell, but close enough that this wasn’t nothing for him.
He had warned me previously he wasn’t looking for an “exclusive relationship”, and it took us awhile to understand this was something different for each other. Nonetheless, he warned me. I thought I could be cool about it – I knew people had relationships for all different types of reasons and no two relationships were the same. As rational as he was, I could be that too, I told myself.
And then feelings got in the way.
I felt myself falling in love with him, wanting to spend time with him, and I felt him pulling away. We still talked often, but I started questioning if I was a priority. I convinced myself that if he didn’t want to see me, he would tell me, and if he did, then he cared and that was enough.
Except it wasn’t.
I met him at his apartment one Sunday. It was the first time I had seen him in about a month. We had an emotional conversation weeks before about what we each wanted, and then I went on vacation, and then life got in the way. Now, I was so excited to see him, souvenirs in hand from London and I couldn’t wait to hear about his brother’s wedding, his biggest race this year, and just how he was. I just wanted to be with him.
As I sat on my couch later that night reliving the day in my mind, I was in awe with him, our relationship (or whatever it was), and our journey. I reminded myself that, See? People have fights and things are okay. It doesn’t mean its over – this is how you get through things and build something with someone. He does care about you, you care about him, and you can rebound from things when things don’t go exactly as you wanted them.
And then I was blindsided a week later.
Well, not completely, but the conversation came out of nowhere. He told me, as he did many times before, he thought he couldn’t give me what I need. Confused because I never asked for anything in particular from him, I felt my heart sink, my stomach drop, and my eyes start to sting. When I walked to meet him it was like a bad romcom: it was pouring, he was late, and I thought I had been stood up. I hadn’t been, but that was the night I knew it was over. He told me he couldn’t have me waiting for him and I could not give any more than I already had.
It was the last time he walked me home. We couldn’t have kissed more than we did, said goodbye more times than we did, hugged more tightly than we did, or done more than we did before that evening. We had tried everything. We were both at fault. Me, for thinking he could give me what I needed when he was honest with what he could not give. For believing him that I was “different” and “exactly what he needed”. Him, for not ending things when he knew they weren’t working sooner.
I’ll take the brunt of it though. I will take the blame, I will take responsibility. Because I wouldn’t have walked away, he needed to force me away. He warned me dozens of times, and I kept coming back. The desire to be with him in any capacity was enough until I realized where his limits were, and then he made sure I couldn’t push them any more. He pushed, and I pushed, and we pushed each other away until there wasn’t anything left.
As life seemed to come crashing down on me reality set in: I was in love with someone who couldn’t give me everything I need. But in that, he taught me more than I could ever teach myself: I could love someone unconditionally, for all that they have. And sometimes, even when it seems like enough, it isn’t.
And that’s okay.