I see us in the faces of young lovers. And a cynical smirk might brush past my lips whenever I see these post-adolescent paramours. The way they exchange glances at bookstores while browsing Kafka. Or the way the world melts away as they hold hands in the library. I still see us in them like photo albums taken down from the shelf. These days I look back on to the better ones, daydreaming about where we’d be now if I had made more than just a half-ass attempt.
There isn’t a beautiful breath of indifference exhaled when I think of you. I spent a third of my life loving you. I’ll spend thirty more doing the same. There are times I forget you’re not there. Mornings I wake up from a dream, and I swear I can still feel your presence next to me. Your warmth. I wondered if you ever did the same. Sometimes it’s a song that transports me back in time. A montages play. A personal soundtrack or music video. Most of them aren’t songs we heard together. Some are new or new to me. Remembering what I lost is no different than a missing pet flyer. Sometimes aren’t recovered because they aren’t lost. We gave up. We let go. We moved on.
I fell into a pattern, taking everything for granted. Press me and I couldn’t tell you the last time I complimented your beauty. Several attempts to remind you each day went the way of every broken promise I made you. You brought out the best in me and repaid you with my worse. I’ve done good things, Jeanna, but I’m not a good person. While I never showed you any violence, there’s no ignoring the emotional detachment. My anger. My manipulation. I made it about me. I felt suffocated. Claustrophobic. Never took into account your turmoil. The way your mind betrayed your wellbeing. Not once did I extend that hand of gratitude. You’ve pulled me out of the dark so many times in our relationship, and I turned my back on you. It’s a sad summation of our nine years.
I never told you this, but a part of you must have known. In a moment of depressing clarity, I wanted to leave you. To push you so far from my toxicity. We lay in my bed, watching a movie or TV show. You asked me if anything was wrong, and I answered with my usual “I’m ok.” I wasn’t that I woke up with the intention of ending things with you. And the realization that you were better off without me scraped my mind. I broke down. Tears welled and broke forth. And you took care of me as you always did. Maybe you knew what I was building towards, and you talked me out of it. That’s just the way you were.
You once called yourself the absent lover. We were mending our broken relationship. We were both lost, then. But even now I think about the way you’d kiss me whenever I read or watched TV or didn’t pay you any attention. You weren’t going through the motions. Neither of us were just the chased and the chaser.
The first few nights were heavy with a sense of weightlessness. It’s far too easy for someone to lose track of time. A year becomes two becomes five becomes nine. And it doesn’t feel long enough. As children, time seems like this ever expanding thing that spreads farther than we can see. From 10 to 20 seems like a Tolkien-sized journey. As an adult, the time burns too fast. Only 12 years ago, we were trying to make this relationship work. Maybe we were building a future. Maybe we were just fooling ourselves. It just wasn’t enough time, though. Or we spent too much time on something that wasn’t doomed from the start. It didn’t come without it’s happiest moments. My best memories are the ones I spent with you. And the best gift is our beautiful son. 20-year-old me can’t fathom what I know now.
The night you broke up with me, I recalled the innocence early in our relationship. The I-love-yous and the I-love-you-mores. Late conversations and random games of truth or dare. And I cried. Now there’s this odd feeling. Innocence mixed with sadness. Nostalgia. There are so many shards of memories I want to share with you. Maybe to put together. Maybe to bury. I don’t know what I want you to do with them. The only thing I am certain is these pieces aren’t meant to hollow a path to return to us. They aren’t bread crumbs from a crumbling romance grown stale and moldy. They’re just shards of memories. A declaration. A proclamation. That we loved each other once. That we existed. That I’m sorry for all the things I put you through and the promises I never kept. They’re just reminders that I never intended on letting you down.