This time last week, I was staring at the calendar, eagerly waiting for the familiar, “Hey sweetie, I’m back” text.
Today, I’ve deleted all traces of his existence from my life.
I’m coping astonishingly well.
Yes, I got too drunk off wine and beer and whiskey two nights in a row, and spent hours making spreadsheets of our relationship and had an entire conversation with myself via Excel.
Maybe I woke up one day and promptly burst into tears.
But today, I’m perfectly fine.
It almost feels as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I used to look at the empty chair in my room and fantasize him sitting there, smiling at me, finally a physical part of my life again. Today, when I lift my head, I see a chair that is mine. We haven’t seen each other in three months. He has never actually sat in that chair. He never belonged there.
He has never been in my bed, tangled up in the snow white sheets.
He has never seen me with my sun bleach hair, tanned skin, and tighter figure from an active summer.
He was never there as I struggled to put together my IKEA book shelf.
When was the last time that we saw each other in a normal context? When was the last time he saw me in a sweatshirt, messy hair, chewing on the end of my pen trying to finish homework? When was the last time I saw him shit-faced, acting like an amazing idiot? When did I last feel my hair blow in the wind with my arm wrapped around his waist in the middle of the night?
I lived life half-present, constantly carrying with me a shadow in the form of a six-foot-tall promise.
Now, finally, I can break free. I can enjoy my life for what it is instead of maintaining a fantasy of what it should be.
It is suddenly startlingly clear to me how disconnected we have been this whole time.
Our relationship was real. The way it ended was bullshit.
Regardless, it taught me how to love. These two years taught me the meaning of commitment: of faith, selflessness, and dedication. He never tried hard enough for me, and that fucking sucks, but it doesn’t de-legitimize the relationship. It was an exciting adventure that I once feared would be irreplaceable… and it is, to a certain extent. I’m a different person now. Whatever future relationships that come won’t be the same, and there’s no point at all in looking for a replay. He was my first love, nothing will change that.
Some people think falling in love repeatedly is like falling down. You scrape your knees, leave pieces of your skin and blood and enthusiasm behind with each unsteady crawl back to your feet. I think it’s more like riding a bike: absolutely fucking miserable the first few crashes, but eventually… you get better. You ride down the biggest hill on campus at 25mph easily. It feels nothing like the overwhelming exhilaration you got when you first rode down that hill years ago, but it’s a different thrill. Neither is more or less precious than the other. I look forward to that.
It might be a while before I can throw myself so completely into a relationship again, and I definitely enjoy the breathing room, but I’m excited to do it again, bigger, better, and smarter.
Maybe that’s why it’s so easy for me to move forward. Initially, it was hard to let go. We had been long-distance for so long that there was no physical manifestation of our relationship; I had grown so accustomed to carrying him with me everywhere in my heart that letting go was akin to an amputation. However, it didn’t take long for the freedom to sink in. I don’t have to pull myself out of whatever I’m doing at 8PM daily to answer his good-night call. I don’t have to force a smile and be the bigger person when shit gets rough. I don’t have to pretend it’s okay that we’d spent more of our relationship apart than together, and fight an uphill battle against the military every day to preserve it. For a brief day or so after the breakup, I thought I was broken. I couldn’t focus. I could barely breathe.
Now, I feel okay. I’m not broken. I’m not damaged. I was furious in the beginning; I felt like he owed me some sort of severance package — at least a little compensation for my years of wasted energy and all of his broken promises. Now, I realize that there’s nothing he can possibly give me that I can’t give myself. And that, perhaps, is the best justification for our separation.
It’s painfully clear to me that, although I still love “him”, I don’t love him. I love the bits and pieces of him that I have gathered over these two years. I love this patchwork man and promise of paradise that I have cradled so dearly in my heart. I love the man who’s too afraid to love again. The man whose eyes twinkled when he smiled. The man who chased after his dreams with a childlike determination, who dared to challenge convention. The man who valued integrity over all else.
I don’t love the boy who looked me in the eyes and broke my heart. I don’t love the boy who swears like a sailor and speaks with a tone of voice as flat and dull as sheet metal. The boy who tried to break off a two-year relationship over the phone. The boy whose eyes looked hollow as we said goodbye for the last time.
In the words of a Katy Perry song, “You’re not a man, you’re just a mannequin.”
The man I love is gone. The boy isn’t my problem anymore.