“I asked the universe to bring you back to me and it never did. There were times when I asked for you every day. When I shouted your name into the void and no one answered. “Man, she’s pathetic,” the universe must have thought, but I was completely unaware. I was so torn apart by grief, I didn’t think missing you would ever stop. It was like a road with no beginning and no end, and I was driving at breakneck speed, not caring for the roadblocks. I looked for you everywhere - in notes I’d penned down with shaking hands, in photographs I’d taken, in between the lines of your favourite song. I searched for you in conversations, gestures and memories. When there was nothing left for me to do, I went to the places you used to go to. I’d avoided them before, convinced nostalgia would rip me to shreds, and it did. I cried into the cup of cappuccino I bought at your favourite café and came close to having a mental breakdown at the cinema we used to meet at. I didn’t find you there. You went away and left nothing behind. Nothing I could keep, anyway. I never asked for it, but one day I heard your name brought up in a conversation. It felt like something I’d dreamed up, something light and warm, until I convinced myself it was nothing and the feeling faded. But it happened again. And again. And I heard your laughter in someone else’s voice. I felt your touch in someone’s kindness. I felt your caress on the wind and your kiss in the sun. And I think that maybe, just maybe, I’d asked the universe to send me little signs of you - and it listened. Maybe it’d been listening all along, I just never paid attention because I thought if I couldn’t have you back on my terms, I didn’t want you at all. It took me a while to realise it wasn’t like this at all. That maybe missing you did not have to feel like shouting into the void. That it could also feel like slowly bridging a gap. I thank the universe for the little signs it sends to me and I’ll take everything I get as long as it makes me feel close to you.”
The days are slipping by, lazy and warm, and looking back, I can’t find you in them anymore. You used to be in all of them, you know. A shadow. A breeze. A dream. I swayed to the breaths you took and danced to the laughter that spilled past your lips like a gurgling stream of water, incandescent in the sunlight. I can’t hear it anymore. I can’t feel it. Summer is like this, I guess. The heat plays tricks on my senses like bottles of wine I used to empty in the shade of the trees, but you don't even have a part in my hazy memories. In hindsight I can't find you, even if I'm still hurt. The pain should serve as reminder, but it only adds to the distance between us. The days are slipping by, lazy and warm, and you fade a little more with every single one that passes.
On most days the marks from our battles feel less like scars and more like open wounds. These days are the hardest. It's when my skin burns and my sanity slips right through my fingertips that I miss you the most. Don't tell me it's futile. Don't tell me you don't deserve it. I know better than anyone that this is a road that leads to nowhere. Still the memories are etched into my mind, keepsakes I can't seem to let go of. I don't know what would have to happen in order for me to finally recognise you as the villain in our story. You already cut into me with the sharpest knife. You don't allow the wounds you've inflicted to close and if this isn't the most violent crime of them all then I consider this case lost. I consider myself lost. Somewhere on the path to losing you I lost myself and I'm running out of places to search. Where is home when it's no longer with you?
“This is the part no one ever tells you about: even if you have supposedly let go, if you’re convinced that you’ve fully moved on, there can still be incidents that will feel like a blow to your chest. Scenarios you couldn’t have imagined in your wildest dreams that will make you lose faith in the process of healing. Some days will be difficult. Our scars will itch, our skin will stretch over our bones to the point of breaking and it will all seem hopeless. And these difficult days might not even happen at the start of your journey. They can still happen after things have been okay for months. For years. Sometimes a mere inconvenience is enough to tear our skin back open, to make us bleed again. Whatever takes us back to that bad place doesn’t have to be something that feels significant. It can be as small as stumbling over a photo you were sure you’d thrown away while clearing out your closet. Or overhearing a single word in a conversation that reminds you of the time you couldn’t see past the dark thoughts in your head. And this thing that felt so small might be enough to transport you back to that time that was full of hurt, full of grief. Please know that healing isn’t linear. There is no straight line from beginning to end. There will be setbacks. There will be days when you think you can’t do it. When you don’t see the point in fighting anymore. Let’s stop expecting other people to have their shit together after a certain amount of time has passed. Stop expecting it of yourself. Because truth is none of us really have their shit together, or have been at this point in life often enough that we understand. For some reason we just don’t want to admit it. We might all have different triggers, have all been through different situations, but in the end we all know one thing: healing is not easy. It takes time, no matter how much. It takes space. So forgive others for needing more time. And forgive yourself, if right now you are not exactly who you want to be and where you want to be. Please remember: there will be setbacks. And that’s okay.”
I remember you saying, “you wouldn’t recognise love if it punched you right in the face.” Because that was what I did: I saw and I heard things, remembered them and couldn’t ever let them go. Here’s what happened - love did punch me right in the face and I did recognise it, but not in the way you thought. Later, I saw it in the way you looked at her. In the way you pushed back your chair to get up when she entered the room, how you tracked her movements with your eyes, how you hung onto every syllable that slipped out of her mouth. I noticed, but I kept quiet. It wasn’t my place to say anything, not when she turned you down, not when she didn’t reply to your texts and not when she eventually did. You became a we and then came that one night in late summer when you walked up to me with a too-warm beer, on your own for the first time in ages, and asked me if I was happy. I said yes, and you believed me, because it was what you wanted to hear. Because you didn't remember our conversation from months before you'd met her and I did - I could see it clearly then. Love was punching you right in the face and you were too blind to recognise it.
“It was normal for people to change over time, I thought, normal for them to pick up new habits and become unrecognisable to a person that hadn‘t seen them for years. But you were different. I’d hoped that eventually you’d turn into a stranger. Into someone I could no longer read like an open book. It‘d been a little more than five years and you hadn’t changed at all. Your smile was the same. The way you talked and walked was the same. How your eyes crinkled when you laughed, how you pushed your hair behind your ears, how you raised your eyebrows in that stupid fashion that made me wish I could do that, too. Some people lost that glint in their eyes over the years, but yours flashed the moment they met mine across a crowded room. And it was so clear to me - I knew you then. I saw you. And I would‘ve known you anywhere, no matter how much time passed.”
I would never blame you. I would never ever blame you and that is all there is to it. You’re not a saint. You’re far from perfect. You hurt me and I hurt you, but the blame will forever lie with me. I am the one who said no that night, who threw back the covers and ran out on bare feet, who did not answer the phone. I did not open up the door when I knew you were there and I did not call on your birthday. I was scared out of my mind, so afraid of laying myself bare that anything but fleeing seemed irrational. And now I'm here, alone, no longer scared, and it still won't bring you back. It's like my fear has expired, like I've overcome it, but you will never find out who I am today. You will always remember the young girl who was too much of a flight risk to have around.
We were as different as two people could be, you and I, but it never stopped us from being inevitably drawn to each other. You once said we were like the sun and the moon, but I disagreed. Sun and moon are two sides of the same coin and we were as distinct from each other as possible. "The sky and the mountains, then," you said, and I found peace within that comparison, though it didn't help me understand what it was about you that made me lose sleep at night.
I knew what I wanted but never what I needed, so it came as the worst kind of surprise when I couldn't bear seeing you walk out through that door. But it happened, and I let you go, and now it's too late to take back what we never said. Sometimes I find myself wishing I would've had the courage to be honest with myself. Sometimes I wish you would have lied to me.
“My heart warms at the thought of you getting better. At the thought of you being happy, of finally feeling at peace. I can’t see your smile, but I can feel your relief because I remember what it’s like to share your burdens. Even though we’re not talking anymore, your happiness will always be as important to me as my own.”
I don't think of you at all, except for the times my nose remembers that you always smelled like coffee and mint, when my hands remember what the small of your back felt like, or when my ears remember your booming laughter.
I don't think of you at all, except for the times that I do, and once I begin, I find it hard to ignore all the ways my body has made a memory out of you.
“The biggest mistake I’ve ever made was thinking time didn’t exist for me. I was young and stupid and convinced it would bend to my will like reeds bend to the wind. I kept the words that could change everything lodged under my tongue, too scared, too shy, too embarrassed to say them out loud. I thought I could put it off another week, at least. Or a month. It didn’t really matter, did it, because maybe it would come naturally, without me having to make myself appear vulnerable and turning myself inside out for you. But time placed its noose around my neck and pulled taut and in the blink of an eye you were gone. You were gone before I could utter a single word. Gone before I could curse time for not being enough. You would never read the words I wrote to you. Not in a week, not in a month. I’m done waiting now. And I’m so devastated you had to pass for me to understand that some things cannot wait. If you love someone, let them know.”
We were only ever skin deep - at least that was what you told me. We were casual, easy going, not complicated in the slightest. Not weighed down by attachments or commitments. No strings attached. No hearts involved. You said so over your morning coffee, totally off-hand, like some people ask about the weather out of habit. I didn't know what to make of what I was feeling. I smiled until my cheeks throbbed and then I smiled some more because you'd told me what you wanted. But it takes one to know one, and I knew what I wanted, too.
I wanted you to hurt. To ache for me. And I hated to realise that we would never work. I never wanted to see you happy. I only ever wanted to see you miserable because you couldn't have me. There was never going to be a version of events in which we both existed, side by side, content with who and what we were together.
So the morning you left without drinking your coffee, I let you go without a word. And when you didn't text and didn't call, I deleted your number and allowed myself a moment to think of your eyes, of how I remembered them - and it was the first time I was wishing you well.
There’s a riot in my heart and I‘ve been dying to tell you how I feel, dying a little every day that you’re oblivious to the walls I keep having to rebuild because of you. The thing is you’re not sorry and you will never be because you’re used to me falling over my own to feet in order to impress you. I don’t know how to stop needing you, not yet, but one day I will lay down my weapons and I will stop fighting for you with everything that I have. But that day is not now, nor will it be tomorrow. Until I no longer see your smile when I close my eyes, I will have to wait for the war drums in my chest to quiet.
“I like to think that in another life we might have met under different circumstances. Imagine something like this: a crowded café downtown, where the rich smell of freshly brewed coffee hits you the moment you open the door. People are tripping over one another in their haste to become someone worthwhile and their chatter drowns out your favourite part of your current favourite song. You take out your phone and replay it, and that is when you see me. Doesn’t it always go like this? In movies and books and songs? Eyes meet across the room and the whole world stops. It’s different for us, though, because you told me you didn’t believe in love at first sight. So maybe you wouldn’t fall in love right away. Maybe you wouldn’t even notice me. But perhaps you’d start visiting that busy café more frequently. Not in hopes of seeing me again, but because of that unexplainable pull you feel toward that place. Toward me, even if you aren’t aware of it yet. Because if there is one thing I’m certain of, it’s that we’d find a way to meet even in another life, again and again. Never the same way but always with the same outcome. If there’s one thing I want to believe in, it’s that my soul would reach out and find yours through the years, different lives, across universes and mountains and the sea. And that your response would always be the same: come find me, I’m dying to meet you.”
Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if I hadn't run into you that night and if you hadn't recognised me and if I hadn't plucked up the courage to text you right before I fell asleep. What if you hadn't replied? What if you hadn't wanted to see me again? What if I had given in to my fears? I can't help thinking that it wouldn't have mattered. I'm so sure it would have worked out, no matter if we'd chosen different paths along the way. At some point we would have met again. I'm convinced we would have found each other anyway.
My mother used to tell me time would heal all wounds, but it's been two years and I'm starting to think that maybe she only told me what she wanted me to believe. I mean the pain has dulled to a soft throb at the back of my head and most of the time I'm not really aware of it, but sometimes I jolt awake at night with your name on my lips and the ghost of your hand clasped in mine and at this point I don't know if I'm going insane or if it's become a habit of mine to count all of the ways I've been missing you.
How your laughter filled every room. How you told your stories in a way that always felt like I belonged in them as much as you, only that I never did. How being held by you felt like home.
My mother used to tell me time would heal all wounds, and at some point it might just do that. But I can't erase a connection like ours. Even if so much time passes that I barely remember the exact colour of your eyes or the freckles on your nose, it can't undo everything that happened that made me want to keep a part of your memory alive.
I went to all the places we used to meet, one after the other, and even though you'd sworn you'd always be there if I needed you, I guess at some point we all make promises we know we can't keep - I just wish you'd promised me something else. I didn't ask for much. See, I didn't want your love, or your touch or the warmth of your embrace. I just needed you to be there and you weren't. That's why I don't believe in promises anymore.