Half a year passes without him. We speak here and there, but never anything too meaningful. We see each other just once, and pretend we didn’t. I do what I always do with him — pretend it doesn’t affect me. Save my tears for when I get home.
Considering the number of times I walked away from him, with every intention of never coming back, it still feels like a knife to the chest to realize he walked away properly the first time he ever tried it. I’ve always known I loved him more than he loved me, but I don’t enjoy being proven right so casually.
He’s always been impossible to rid myself of; I’m heartbroken now that I’ve finally managed it. I think it’s because he managed it for me.
It’s been months, and yet I can’t let go of him. I don’t date and I don’t flirt, because somewhere in my mind I still hope he’ll come back through my front door, say it was all a mistake, a test, something. I’d be furious but I’d take him back. I hate this truth, but I know it’s real: I have never been able to turn him away. Not for long.
He writes me out of nowhere, on a rainy spring day. My heart painfully skips a beat when I see his name. I don’t want to read his words; I have a pit in my stomach. The smart thing would be to ignore it.
Haven’t you been paying attention? I’ve never been smart when it comes to him.
I read it and immediately regret doing so, because my damage has just begun.
My fiance, it says, which makes the rest of the message irrelevant.
Six months ago he was in my bed, so the word fiance clangs around my mind like an unwelcome guest, shaking things loose, rattling my teeth. There are alarm bells going off somewhere, an incessant wail telling me that I’ve always known, that I should have known better.
I don’t ask if it’s the Queen or someone else. Because that isn’t really the question I need answered, is it?
For once in my life, I protect myself from knowing any more about this than I already do. I sit motionless for a long moment, staring at his words.
His word, really. Only one of them matters.
Then I burst into tears.
It’s as if the dam finally breaks, and all those months of holding it together since he walked out the front door are suddenly collapsing. I cry until I make myself sick. I cry until my body is empty. Until everything feels numb. I want to tear my skin to shreds, just so something else will hurt more than this. I need something to distract me.
For days, weeks, there is nothing. No distractions. I am trapped in this perpetual nothingness; all I want is to sleep, and I can’t. I find myself unable to eat, and I can’t even articulate why. I cannot explain why this somehow hurts far more than everything else he’s done. I can’t express my turbulent emotions to anyone in a way that makes any sense. I feel held together by threads, and every tie I tie one off, another ten break. I feel like parts of me have fallen away, all the parts anyone could love, and I am some kind of hollow person.
It takes me months to decide how I should handle this. Eventually I do what I’ve always done: I write.
I gather my emotions, tuck them neatly away, and write him a letter. Notes to my Someday lover.
Ultimately, of course, it contains mostly lies. How I hope he will be happy; that even if I wasn’t who he wanted, I hope that she is. That all I want is for him to make the best choices he can for himself. That I enjoyed our time together, and that I will always care for him.
Yes, I understand that this is me, once again, putting him first. I can’t help it, don’t you see that yet? I’ve never been able to help it, with him.
I make this one final sacrifice, because I need a way to finally amputate the limb that is my love for him. So I lie, as I always have, to make him happy. So that he can feel peace about his decisions. So that he never believes, for an instant, that he has probably ruined most pieces of my heart for everyone who comes after. So he never knows that some parts of me will always be his, whether I want them to or not.
I drive to his house at night, wishing it were raining to match my mood. I sneak onto his front porch and leave the letter by his front door, stand for a long moment in the summer air, say an unintentional but necessary farewell to his house and all the memories it contains.
I drive away from his house, from him, from everything we were. As I drive I think about the end of my letter, the part I hope he remembers forever.
Goodbye, it says at the bottom.
I have decided that in this, at least, I should not say one thing when I mean another.