I remember the first time I saw him.
It wasn’t all fire and sparks. It felt sober, until we weren’t.
We had been speaking for two years before he walked into that restaurant one fine evening. I wasn’t expecting much from the evening besides meeting an old friend, or maybe establishing our friendship in the physical world.
The night had other plans for us.
Three cocktails down, he kissed me for the first time. I don’t remember much of it but I remember being kissed, being held and being kissed.
It took me a few seconds to realize what was happening and when I did, I thought, Ah, what the hell, it’s been long anyway!
So I kissed him back, and when I did he drew me closer and kissed me harder. He was on a whole other high of his own.
An insanely drunk night later, I found a text message on my phone from him, thanking me for the wonderful evening. I didn’t think too much of it. At that moment I was just happy to have been kissed after so long, none of it mattered, not the text, not the night, not even him.
Over the month we met every weekend. There was a lot of kissing, and then nights spent in each other’s arms talking about everything under the night sky. He told me I was beautiful and it was one of those few times when I felt it. When he looked at me, I thought he could see me.
The last night we spent together, I could have sworn to myself that whatever souls were made of, his and mine were the same.
Time went on, a little vacant without him, but every now and again he would pop in to say a hello. A hello, an I miss you and sometimes even a little more. It felt like Christmas when I would see his name blink on my screen and he would infallibly bring in those butterflies every single time.
Then he would vanish. Every single time.
He would vanish off the face of the Earth and I wouldn’t hear from him for weeks. Sometimes months, but I always knew he would come back. I told myself that he was an eagle, born to soar the great skies, and that I had no business tying him down.
One fine summer evening I received a text from him saying that he broke his leg. Never did I think that a broken bone would be the corner stone of our romance, but it was.
For a month after that, we spoke and we spoke and we spoke.
He never promised to stay, but he did say that he was in love with me. I thought it meant he’d stay this time.
Two months, two countries, and one very broken heart later, I sat to try to understand how any of it happened.
How could I have fallen in love with him when I so clearly knew he would never stay? How could he have been cheating on me but have tears in his eyes when I said we should not be together anymore? Didn’t tears mean actual pain? How could I have been the other woman? How could I have been so God damned stupid?
But most importantly, how could I still not find it in me to detest him, to despise him, to loathe him?
It’s funny, I always thought that I would be cheated on someday. To me it seemed like an inevitable life experience, like finally sprouting that impossible wisdom tooth everyone always talks about. It was my wisdom tooth. It hurt me and made me wince in agony for days on end and when it was finally out, I felt none the wiser.
I couldn’t make any sense of it. I didn’t love him, but I couldn’t hate him either. I thought that being cheated on would extort all the love from me and pour venom into the spot, but it turns out that isn’t how it happened.
The love was extorted, but what was poured into its place was just another kind of love.
When you see through someone, when you see through their charm and their sexy, when you see into their blemishes and their imperfections, when you see their human, you can never hate them. You can only understand them.
Sometimes you understand some people you wish you rather wouldn’t.
I met him again for what I hoped would be the last time. I remember when he looked at me and said “You are beautiful, don’t let anyone tell you anything else. If they do, tell them that I said you were beautiful.”
“I don’t need you to say it,” I replied. “I know I am beautiful.”
I wondered right then, why was it that he thought he was validating me when he gave me a compliment? I didn’t need validation. I didn’t even need his compliment. When he looked into my eyes that day I knew that that was as far as his torch would shine into me. I was an ocean silly enough to imagine a little raft could dance to my glory.
The last time I held him to say goodbye, I could have sworn to myself that whatever souls were made of, his and mine were not the same.