I do think of you sometimes, not as much as I thought I would though. When I do, my emotions vary.
There are cold nights in Pennsylvania where I am reminded of dancing with you in a Philly Cheese Steak restaurant somewhere miles west, too wrapped up in each other to see the judgmental eyes of others. You almost dropped me on my head, but you caught me just in time. Your eyes lite up when you realized you had saved me, such an impossible thing to do. I see you chasing me through the warm waters of a vast lake after I splashed you, laughing endlessly. The sunset holds young love so tenderly and forever. I see out of the corner of my eye, after a fight, you still getting up to lay the warmer blanket over my pretending-to-be-asleep body. You cared for me when I wasn't looking. I see us forgiving each other over and over because we were not just fighting each other, but also the inevitable ending we kept accidentally typing out.
They are brought in like the tide and I am forced to endure their images over and over again, letting them overtake me then gently or roughly let me go. Though they come and go, just as you always did, I decided, eventually, to let it go. I put my mourning soul to rest with a love that will never be, because just as truthfully as I see our happy moments, I finally see the sour ones that came with them. The ones that make me squeeze my eyes shut and shake my head, as if maybe I can unsee it all. I could not longer pretend when the words became knives, separately breaking each heart string, a dull but aching pain I feel more than I like to admit. We too often see what we want to see, lovers too often see the memories that convince them to stay, even if they are only half-spoken truths.
It always felt like a contest, who would fall in love with someone else first. Who could smile the hardest in the photographs?
Six months after you left, I saw a picture of you and your new person in a field somewhere, kissing. I feel sorry for snooping but, surprisingly, I smiled and laughed. You two look beautiful, you really do. You look nothing like mistakes made at three am, you look nothing like betrayal, or repressing what you really want. You look free but united, and I want it to work out for you this time. One of us deserves to have it work out with someone we want. I just accepted that I am not made for your journey, and where I’m going, you can never follow.
I just want to tell you I’m really happy you found a love that makes you love yourself more. I never thought I’d be able to find that part of myself, the selfless part of me, and give it to you. I guess that’s how I know I did not truly love you. I don’t think that’s a bad thing anymore either, the fact that our love was never a love makes me hopeful because I don’t want to believe that it hurts like that. Love doesn’t make you hate yourself, love doesn’t make you feel unlovable. I think you needed the wanting of someone else more than anything right now, and I think I needed the wanting for myself. Finally.
I accidentally stumbled upon “All I Ask of You” on Spotify, the song we once sang together, and was surprised to find that before I thought of you, I thought of someone I don’t know yet. Like a faraway dream, someone else to start over with, one day when it’s right. Someone to sing a new song with. I never let myself imagine what love could look like without being forced to forget all the hurt they once put you through. I never let myself imagine being with someone who had never hurt me before. I’m excited for that day, but I’m not waiting on it either. I love the feeling of waking up with myself, of making plans for the future and never having to ask someone else if it’s what they want too .I have this time now to explore every part of myself and my beliefs abundantly, to live life in whatever way I choose. I love my freedom. There is something beautiful in that, just as beautiful as dancing in a Philly Cheese Steak Restaurant.
I once told you that this was goodbye until I could love you the right way, feel completely happy for you. No matter what that meant. Maybe if I do that, it will mean I love you now, just not in the gripping, jealous way I'm known to be so good at. I don’t know if I’m there yet, I think I’m on the right track, but truthfully, I don’t think it matters anymore. I’m happy. You’re happy (I hope.) That’s all the matters, right? I don’t want to mess up a good thing.