“I just can’t do the distance,” he says.
It’s nearly two in the morning in Barcelona, Spain. We are sitting in a McDonald’s waiting out the pouring rain. Our late-night craving for French fries has been a long time ritual. The last time we had run in the rain and eaten French fries was two years ago. Two years ago, when things were perfect.
I’ve heard this line too many times before. He said it last February over the phone. He said it in May on the boardwalk. He said it in July while in Maine. He said it in August with tears streaming down his face in his kitchen.
“How many times do I have to tell you that I just want you?” I ask him.
The real question is how many times do I need to spill my heart out until we get back together?
So, I began to write him postcards. One postcard for every city that I visit while I’m abroad. That’ll be about 15 postcards by the time May rolls around.
I figured that this is as romantic as I can get while not being officially his girl. I keep thinking that maybe the next postcard will win him over. I envision us together in the future looking back at the postcards, looking back on us.
Modern love is writing postcards to a guy who doesn’t want to be with you. It’s leaving your heart out on a piece of paper and sending it 4,627 miles overseas. It is understanding that no matter how many postcards you write, the one you love does not want to be with you.
“I don’t want to make this harder on you.” He turns to me.
I paused for a moment to think. It has been exactly a year since the breakup. It’s a been a year of chasing. It’s been a year of breaking my heart over and over again.
“I’ve been doing it for a year, I think I can handle it,” I finally spit out.
Modern love is chasing a guy who can’t picture himself staying with you through the distance.
Suddenly, every text and phone call, where we told each other that the distance was worth it, no longer mattered. The idea that we would make it through college together was shattered. I had planned to attend a graduate school close to home, close to him.
I had wanted to make it work, when he just wanted out.
“I haven’t met another girl like you,” he says to me.
I want to scream at him. I want to say, “So stop looking! I’m right in front of you!”
I feel like Julia Roberts standing in front of Hugh Grant. I was just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.
I wanted the fairy tale. I wanted to be the girl who got swept up by the boy.
We’re close enough that we could kiss. His clear blue eyes are sparkling and his lips are the perfect shade of pink. My fingers run through his hair at the nape of his neck as we look into each other’s eyes. His fingers brush my skin as he pulls me closer.
Every single fiber in my body is electrified. No one could deny the chemistry in that moment. He breaks the spell and rests his head on my shoulder.
There is nothing romantic about this. In fact, it’s quite sad. Here are two people who are so in love with each other, yet they can’t be together. We are Romeo and Juliet. We are meant to love each other but never end up together.
Modern love is being afraid of commitment and being afraid of letting go.
Both of which, neither of us are willing to do. We can’t let go, but we can’t commit. It’s a constant push and pull.
He pulls me in close for a few hours and then pushes me away for days on end. Too afraid to let me go, but too afraid to commit to me.
“I miss you all the time. I’ve thought about you every day this week. I tried to be off my phone as much as possible, which I know isn’t a good excuse…” he murmurs in my ear.
I see the fear of commitment in a lot of millennials. It’s most prevalent in colleges across the country. The guy never wants to commit to the girl he’s been hooking up with. He might not even invite her to his formal.
He becomes cold and distant the moment he catches feelings. The fear of missing out on other girls becomes a reality too much to bear. Sometimes it’s that one of them is about to go abroad. No one is willing to do the distance. Who would put themselves through that?
A girl can smell that fear from miles away. Whether it’s unanswered text messages, opened snapchats, or days without a single call. She can sense his distance at every party, which only increases the chase. While he pulls away, she runs closer. The equilibrium is thrown off completely.
“I just need you to let me in,” I whisper back to him.
The majority of our conversations the past few months have been a dance. We dance around the subject of us. He can’t let me in, but he can’t let me go. I let him in too much, yet I manage to push him away even further.
If I send one more postcard maybe, he’ll change his mind. If I tell him how much I miss him maybe, he’ll change his mind. So, I keep on writing the postcards.
Each postcard is carefully written. It’s written from the point of view that I’m fine and abroad is great. There is no mention of missing him or missing home. There’s no mention of “I wish you were here.” I’m writing in the point of view of a friend, but it’s up to him to read in between the lines.
Love has turned into a mind game and everyone is a player.
He still wants me in his life, he says. He cares about me more than anyone, he says. He can still picture himself marrying me one day, he says. He can’t think about the summer yet, he says. He doesn’t know what will happen by then.
If we could do the math and calculate every conversation between us, the math wouldn’t add up. Twenty points is awarded for missing each other. Then subtract fifty points for every time he mentions the distance. Add ten points for every time he says he wants to see you. Then subtract fifteen for when he cuts your time short to see his friends. Once again, it’s the push and pull; another game.
“Last summer tore you apart. That’s why your friends didn’t want you to see me here.” His voice turns serious.
I shake my head in disbelief. I am declaring my love and commitment to him and yet, he keeps coming up with excuses. With each excuse, I feel myself getting smaller.
“I don’t care what others think about me. It’s my life and my decisions,” I fire back at him.
I could feel my heart shrinking. No matter how hard I fought for us, I was always the one burned out. Nothing that I said made a dent in the situation. As I tried to wriggle free, he pulled me closer. He kissed the top of my head and sighed. He couldn’t let me go.
We fall victim to love. We give in to toxic relationships time and time again because the euphoria of being in love clouds our vision. We’re unable to see the greener pasture on the other side. We’re too afraid of the unknown, of not knowing if we’ll ever fall in love again.
I can’t let him go without knowing that someone better is out there for me. I’ll never know it unless I try. Yet, the thought of not loving him anymore frightens me.
I can’t picture myself with anyone else. I’m not sure I’ll be able to open up again and be accepted for who I am. Our inner insecurities rise from the ashes and haunt us.
I can’t picture him eating French fries at two in the morning with another girl.
We sit in the taxi cab on the way home in silence. He rests his head on my shoulder.
“What are you thinking? I’m losing you,” he says quietly.
I am consumed with the all too familiar feeling of leaving him again. The distance gets the best of me. I want to tell him that I know his reasoning goes beyond the distance.
He enjoys all the freedoms that come with being single. He wants to keep his options open for meeting another girl.
I turn and smile at him. It’s a sad smile that knows exactly how this will end. I shake my head and smile again. He knows it too, but if I say any more it’ll ruin the night.
As the taxi pulls up to my apartment, I look at him and tears spring to my eyes. I pull him close to me.
“I miss you so much,” I manage to choke out.
“I miss you too,” he whispers back.
“I’ll see you in May,” I say.
I pull away and get a good look at his face. He no longer looks like the new man he is. He is suddenly a young boy. His eyes are filled with tears and his head hangs low. He looks at me like he’ll never see me again.
I know we will see each other. I’ll write him another postcard tomorrow. He’ll call me in a week.
The game of push and pull will continue to be played. Just as it has been this entire time.