“I don’t want this anymore,” she says.
“You can’t mean that,” you tell her.
“But I do,” she insists.
There’s a conviction in her voice, the likes of which you’ve never heard but always sensed dwelled deep within; the kind of light one stifles out of fear of losing someone.
But now the fear is gone.
My, how the tables have turned.
You almost marvel at the transformation, admire it even, before remembering you want her to stay.
“But I love you,” is all you can think to say as you drop to your knees.
“I love you too,” she says. “But it’s not enough anymore.”
You wonder how such a thing is possible as she grabs her bag and walks out the door.
Now you’re alone.
You don’t know what to do with yourself.
Inexplicably, you grab a kitchen knife. You have no idea why, but it somehow brings relief as you pace up and down your shabby hardwood floors.
You pull out your smartphone and glance at your touchscreen. You start to scroll through names from past lives.
“He wouldn’t understand.”
Your breakup suddenly becomes an illumination of who your real friends are.
But you dial a few people anyway and get voicemail after voicemail, wondering out loud if they know what’s just happened.
Maybe they’re ignoring me, you think.
It’s a work night after all and what you have to say will take time, ages in fact.
“Fuck it,” you say. “Who needs em.”
You grab your coat and stomp out of your apartment.
Your first aimless stroll leads to one the next night, then the next, until you’re taking walks every evening, rain, sleet, or snow. On some nights you look like a madman.
You don’t care.
You playback the breakup in your head over and over again, peppering in footage of all your firsts.
The first time your hands met
The first time you kissed
The first, “I love yous.”
The first time you made love
The first time you talked about the possibility of being each other’s last
It’s all too much.
Now, you start to agonize over all the things you could have done differently.
How you could have learned her friends’ names.
How you shouldn’t have dragged her to all those crappy sports bars.
How you should have called instead of texted.
How you should have taken Valentine’s Day more seriously.
How you could have lied in bed longer when she begged you not to leave.
How you could have told her more often how pretty she looked, talented she was, and how much you admired her.
You regret not admitting how much your love for her actually scared you and realize that very vulnerability might have saved your relationship.
Girls love that stuff, you think.
But it’s too late.
Then something shifts.
You feel a tempest brewing within.
You start to curse her name.
You try and convince yourself you’re better off without her, or anyone, or love at all.
You regret the day you met her.
You stop using the bag she bought you for your birthday.
You delete her number from your phone even though you know good and well you’ll know it until the day you die. This offers you a fleeting moment of solace. What if? you think before stopping yourself.
Back to work.
You bury photos of her, but for some reason won’t ruin them.
Something, even in your unsound state, tells you that would be irrational.
You start to binge on late 90s sitcoms.
You dread how every corny love song suddenly seems as profound as some sacred ancient scroll.
You can’t even look at another girl.
You fall deeper and deeper into some abyss, certain you’re the only person in the world whose ever experienced such heartache.
Things are bad.
You can’t remember the last time you felt such despair.
Then one morning, after what feels like thousands, your heart aches just a little bit less.
At first, the contrast is almost undetectable. But it’s there. You’re sure of it.
It has to be.
You continue to take your long strolls but for the first time in ages you lift your gaze from the pavement.
You start to eat better.
You decide to quit drinking completely.
You get a gym membership.
And gradually, you begin to show some semblance of who you once were.
Then, something you didn’t think was possible happens.
You start to connect with people again. Real ones.
You even push yourself to date again.
You hang out with mutual friends of your ex and hear her name in passing. But it’s okay. It stings, but no longer destroys you.
You feel your temperament gradually shift to one of enlightenment, spirituality, of wanting to know more about the world and the role you may play in it.
You send her well wishes.
You even pray for her. What?! You’re praying again?!
Then one day it ALL hits you.
Letting her go is the only thing that will make you whole again.
You silently thank her for ushering in that consciousness.
You realize how falling in love once is still once more than most of the world.
You feel lucky.
You ARE lucky.
You’re suddenly grateful this remarkable woman came into your life, however briefly.
You hope that she’s happy. It’s a sentiment you once found hokey but for the first time feel it in your bones.
You truly, genuinely, sincerely, unequivocally, absolutely want her to be happy.
You want it more for her than you do for yourself.
Maybe that’s what love really is, you think.
You love her. Always will.
And your togetherness, or lack thereof, has no bearing on that truth.
Finally, you discover there’s no such thing as the right girl at the wrong time. It’s all nonsense, you think. It all happened the way it needed to.
Because, this woman, this exceptional Being, helped you evolve into the man you couldn’t be for her.
That’s something, you think.
This is what you do when she leaves you.