I want to tell you about the last time I was in love.
I was in love with you and you were in love with me.
Although we actually first met through a mutual friend, we actually-actually met in a class. It was 2005 and we were both juniors in college. There was some usual make-conversation conversation. We remembered meeting before. We had lived 159 literal steps away from each other for two years. One day I asked you “So what color is your hair, anyway?”
The year was a blur of almost-happens and anticipation. One, officially official date – which was wonderful. Many more pseudo-dates, which were even more wonderful. One manifesto – which you proudly printed out and hung on your wall. Remember laying down in the street? Remember the kid puking during the movie after shot gunning a 2-liter? Remember when I chased you and lassoed you with my scarf? In the end you decided you needed more time. I would wait. And I waited.
I once left you a straw. You cried.
Things seemed to be coming to a climax that summer. You beat me over the head with a pillow a few times. I can still feel your hand not-touching-but-almost touching mine. I was sure, in the Fall, that would be our time – that you would be ready. I was waiting for you.
I admit I had hang-ups. I had some serious fears – which I couldn’t even talk about directly. That was my fault. But I was sure something new was starting and something new was happening. There were changes happening in you, too.
But you met someone else. There were other reasons – some which didn’t make sense, others which came from miscommunication or misunderstanding, and others I cannot even guess about. But the core is you met someone else that summer.
That began a year of disbelief and frustration and devastation.
There were other girls that came into my life, sure. Those are other kinds of what-ifs. But they weren’t you. The parts didn’t fit. The melody didn’t resolve. Maybe I could never really “go for it” with them because I was still stuck in a haze of incredulity? It could be. Maybe my guard was up – walls were built and garrisons manned. Maybe it was instinctual hesitation – like the anticipated electrical shock that stops your hand from touching your car door? Maybe I just didn’t have my shit together and it was, thankfully, palpable that I didn’t. Either way it ended up working out great for a lot of people. I love them dearly, just not like I loved you. Maybe all this is an excuse for why I’m alone.
Through the years you and I kept in contact. Mostly online, sometimes not. You broke up with so-and-so, who I always hated because I thought he took the life out of you. I remember the midnight stream of texts when you told me it was done – I was sitting alone in a booth. Sometimes we talked about life and what we were doing. Sometimes we rehashed the past. I wished I was in a better place in those times, but life was hard for me. Incredibly hard. But you still got me. Chemistry? That’s something. That’s something that can’t be denied. That’s what made all of this so hard.
We both had different versions of what happened – or what didn’t happen – between us back then. But the latest understanding was seemingly simple. We just had different worldviews. An irreconcilable difference of faith. This wasn’t always so, but now it was.
My memorizes of us were memorialized and crystalized and even took form in art – terrible art, which you were always such a gracious critic of – and they were shining examples to me of life, love, happiness, growth, change, tenderness, fun, and faithfulness. If there was something good there, I wanted to distill it down, and carry it forward. And I tried.
Oh, I tried.
One time you texted me an apology for the way things ended with us. I tried to save that text. But it’s now lost. Lost, like so many other things. But thank you for that apology. It was an act of kindness, if not mercy.
One time you and I talked about how we missed each other. We almost made plans to visit. I think you were going to bake for me. But life gets hectic. I was having the latest-worst-year-of-my-life year. Worse than the year before. Worse than the year before that.
I was going to stop by your apartment once. I was up there – in the vagueness of Chicagoland – on other business. I was frustrated. I wanted to see you. What would you do if I were standing across from you? Sharing space with you? Where would it have gone – that night? A flat tire put that irrational plan on ice. I had thought about making that drive hundreds of times before that – sometimes on a nightly basis – ever since college. I never did. I wish I was more irrational.
Then somewhere out of the blue you were dating.
I was surprised. Life goes fast for other people.
It always goes slowly for me.
Then you were engaged. Life goes fast for other people.
It always goes slowly for me.
And then we were disconnected.
You explained that, out of respect, you and your fiancé removed past romantic interests. This seemed fair to me. I simply replied “OK” – actually “KO.” I use “KO” as sort of an ongoing reference joke that nobody seems to understand.
I didn’t get the last word. Didn’t get a defense. I didn’t even get a warning. That was that, no discussion, no negotiation. Maybe you couldn’t have gone through with it had you talked about it with me. Maybe you could have. I must have typed a dozen replies in that message box that I never sent.
I think this hurt the most – out of everything.
Just like that – you were gone.
This disconnection happened at the cusp of some big changes in my life. Changes I couldn’t talk to you about. Things I was excited about that I couldn’t be excited about with you. I think you would have been happy for me. There were things I was scared about, too. It would have been nice to talk about it.
I don’t know if you noticed or saw things from afar. I bet you didn’t. You have more integrity than that – to lurk in the shadows when you said you would not. What I do know is that your wedding happened. I didn’t make that drive, although I could have, I suppose. If I was terrible. Sometimes I wish I was terrible.
I also know that those “irreconcilable differences” were overcome. I admit, I’m resourceful in finding things out when I’m desperate. And low. And drinking too much. I wish I didn’t know.
You’re worshipping at a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church – the denomination that’s practically been a second home to me. The only kind of church I’ve felt comfortable at for the last ten years. We were so different… but not different now. Maybe now you’re more like how I had once been.
It seems ironic, even whimsical. There was a bridge crossed but I didn’t have any part of it. I was angry. I was jealous. And I was ashamed about feeling like that. Life can be funny, sad, strange, and even beautiful all at the same time.
I always thought things would shake out for us in the end.
I always thought there were always possibilities.
But there aren’t.
Where are you?
Are you out there?
I wondered if this is reaching you.
But there’s nobody out there to reach.
You’re gone. I’m still here.
“If I stay true to my intention of being honest with myself and with you, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I miss you and I still love you and I feel like you “got” me. And if our differences were reconcilable, we would still be together. You’re a great person. You have spontaneity and creativity, humor and fun, respect, love and honesty at your core. And whoever doesn’t love that, is crazy.”
– You, October 13, 2011