You meet a boy in December, eight months before you both leave your college town for different parts of the world. You don’t intend for it to be anything serious. “It’s just a fun way to pass a semester,” you tell all your friends when they ask whom you’ve been spending all of your time with. You think of it as a modern-day relationship, setting realistic expectations. You know it’ll never work out with both of you going your separate ways shortly. You’re so proud of yourself, avoiding the hurt and messy feelings that come along with dating. To you, it’s a foolproof plan.
After you two decide that this is going to happen, you set rules. No meeting the parents and no going exclusive on social media. “That makes it seems way too serious,” he says. You completely agree. Two weeks later, rule #1 is broken and he’s spending New Year’s Eve at your family’s house in Orlando. “It’s just this guy I’m casually seeing, mom. It’s really no big deal,” you tell her.
When you get back to school, the two of you are inseparable, spending your 21st birthday together, Valentine’s day shortly after that, and camping trips together on the weekend. All of your friends are thrilled for you, asking you to share details of you and your new boyfriend. “Oh, no, no, it’s not like that. We’re breaking up in May,” you say, nonchalantly. They all give each other knowing looks, seeing the brewing disaster before it even happens.
The two of you are growing closer and you steadily realize that this “casual” fling may not be as simple as you intended. As your breakup day draws nearer, your friends ask what’s going to happen. “What do you mean? We’re breaking up. I told you guys this. I’m totally fine, really.” You don’t know who you’re trying to convince more, you or them. You don’t want to seem weak and have everyone realize that they were right all along, that you fell for this guy and you can’t be some robot girlfriend, free of any feelings or attachment.
By March, you start to use the days you two have left as a measurement of time. That concert you’re going to next week: 45 days until you break up. By the time you take your Media Studies midterm: 32 days until you say goodbye. The impending break up starts to haunt you and you feel as though every time you hang out it has to really count because before you know it, you two won’t be making any new memories together.
April rolls around and you’re completely consumed. You accidentally catch yourself opening your mouth to say ‘I love you’ while rolled around in sheets of a bed that he hates to sleep in, but does anyway because he knows you don’t like to sleep alone. You feel disgusted with yourself when you catch your close slipup, reminding yourself that this isn’t a long-term thing. Those feelings are not acceptable. This is supposed to be fun, but it’s not so fun anymore.
The first week of May arrives, and the two of you decide that you’re going to spend your last days together exploring his hometown. You’re so excited for the trip on the drive up, but creeping in the back of your mind you know what the mood with be like on the journey back. You spend the next couple days seeing where he spent afternoons in high school when he didn’t want to go home, the gas station that he held his first job at, and you finally get to meet his mom and brother that you’ve heard so much about.
You’re walking through his old neighborhood, hand in hand, waiting for him to have some sort of magical revelation. You anticipate the moment that he says this idea you two had was dumb, that you guys can last through the long distance. But that plea never comes. You spend the whole drive back to Tallahassee quietly wiping away tears while the two of you listen to the mix CD that you made him as a road trip gift. These songs no longer fill you with happiness.
The morning of D-day is an unmatched feeling. You both know what’s going to happen in a few hours, but neither of you say a word about it. You lay in bed cuddling, no one wanting to get up and ruin the moment. You spend the next few hours watching your favorite show together, but you don’t comprehend the words they’re saying. You don’t know how you are going to go through with saying a final goodbye. You heart physically hurts and you haven’t been able to say a word all day without tears escaping. “One more episode!” you plea when he finally announces that he has to leave. He agrees, and much like the duration of your relationship, you’re watching the time draw closer and closer to an end as the show goes on.
When he finally leaves and you watch him walk away from the apartment that you two spent so many hours at, you break down. You weep harder than ever before. You didn’t know it was possible to be so upset, to feel so many emotions at one given time. Why would you ever willingly put yourself through this? Why would anyone date at all if breakups feel this way?
You thought that it would be so much easier because you two didn’t have a major blowout to end things. There was no giant argument, no fatal personality flaws. It was just a case of the wrong place, wrong time scenario that breaks up so many other couples. You two can remain friends, so you thought it would be fine, easy even. But really, that makes it so much more difficult. Breaking up solely because of location ends up being far worse than any fight could have felt. This was a relationship with an expiration date. A date that when arrives, everything is ruined.