I knew it when we were driving before the sun went down. I made us stop on the hill because I wanted to look at the Hollywood sign.
I knew it when I told you to stop driving abruptly and got out. I stared at the view of the sun climbing down behind the hill, the white of the letters turning grey. And I looked back at you and said, “that was one of the first things I saw when I moved here.”
And when you didn’t smile, when you didn’t walk closer, when you didn’t say anything, I knew it. I knew it.
The sensation curled up my spine like water reaching its freezing point all at once and I tried to shake off the feeling, I tried to fight my intuition, I tried to doubt my doubt.
I just looked at you and smiled. But you knew it was over. You knew I was holding onto that moment the way I held onto that memory. I tried so hard to cherish it, like a transcriber doing her best to catch all the words falling out of a revered speaker’s mouth. It unravelled so fast afterwards. Maybe I was naive. Perhaps I will never learn.
I wonder what your sister said when you told her we were over. Had she hoped I could have come to Thanksgiving? Did she ask you if you’d thought it over? Did she ask you how it all went down? Did she ask how I reacted? Did she ask about what I said? All those times she came down to Boston to visit me, all those plans we had made wiped away with a five minute conversation.
I wonder what your best friend said when you told him you weren’t going to see me again. Did he ask if I was still your plus-one to his dinner? Did you tell him you never even thought about it until the night before and you called me to say that you didn’t want me there? Did you ever tell him how it went down in the foyer of your house? Did you ever tell him how I didn’t understand for a long time? But I did. I just fought it. I just defended myself. I didn’t know what to do.
I wonder what you told her when you saw her again. When you went to her for solace, for advice. Did you compare the two us, now that we’re both in the “ex-girlfriend” category? What did you say to her about me? Did you tell her that it was all my fault that it broke down this way? Did you tell her how I came to your house from work in such an agitated state I was shaking? Did you tell her how our conversation went? That I walked in and I already knew what was coming, and you said, “I tried, but it’s not going to work.” And that statement could have been about fixing the TV that I accidentally broke when I whipped the remote out of sheer elation at the Eagles win, or about my computer that you dropped all those months ago. Like we could fix it if we wanted to bother, like if we wanted to invest the time mending something that was so broken that the effort seemed almost trivial. Like wouldn’t it be easier if we just abandoned those efforts, thew away what has already been there, and replace it with something new, something different?
I wonder what you did those moments after I left your house. I wonder if you ran your words through your head. That you had tried, you had tried so hard to get over it. Connor, Jeff, and myself: nope, that was a combination that was not going to fly. That I had friends you didn’t understand, that I was broken and you just weren’t ready to put me back together, that I was too ambitious. That you knew I loved you, but you just didn’t… trust me. I wonder if you ran our memories in your head that made you come to that conclusion. I wonder if you broke a plate, you slammed a cupboard, you hit a wall. Or you just sat there with you hands in your head.
It lasted just over two years. I counted every month, every week. It was something that I had never done in any other relationship, but I guess even I was surprised how long this had lasted. That it seemed almost dishonorable to not count my blessings, like some child slowly turning the gear of a jack-in-the-box with some vague understanding about what was in store.
I think what hurt the most was thinking that somehow I stopped being good enough. That there was a time when you smiled so big that I felt like I didn’t need anything else in the world, that I could spend the rest of my days admiring your smile, and comfortably know that you would always be there for me to lean on, always there for me to rest my head upon. Maybe part of it was the fact that we were getting older, that I started to see the first cohort of my friends proceed into marriage and into engagements, and wondered if I was “on track” to eventually settle down. Maybe it was thinking that I was so lucky to have met you at the time that I did; that how… how could you have been single when I met you? That you were always so considerate, so smart, so talented, so caring with a sharp wit and reckless spontaneity that matched my own… how had I found you?! My father was right all along even when I refused to swallow his words like a bitter pill: “he’s a better person than you will ever be”. Maybe it was the remnants of my heart finally mending from the nasty breakup that had occurred several years ago… so when I found you, I thought that maybe this was my time to begin again, this was my new chapter, that fate had given me a second chance to find love.
For a while I was ardently trying to move on. I really thought I had capped the bottle of fizzing heartbreak. I kept telling myself that things are meant to be, that things don’t work out for a reason. That I can see everything that I did wrong, yes. That I was closed off, that I remained guarded over my most closely-held secrets, that I would never allow the intimacy and trust that a true relationship requires, that I flatly refused to take the plunge or the next step or to let go of myself and just fall. I kept telling myself that this was out of my control; that someone can fall out of love with you and it’s no point in trying to convince someone to change their feelings. And maybe I’m not wrong… but it just doesn’t feel right. Like I quit while I was ahead, but it was already too late to save face and maybe I should have fought for you, embraced the desperation and humility that comes with refusing to accept a breakup for what it is, refusing to let go, posing compromises, and perhaps, reluctantly conceding to the demands of growing a relationship. Maybe it was time that I stopped being so guarded, re-evaluated my priorities, checked out the person I had become instead of the person that I thought I still was, and let you in.
I’ve realized that it is human to care, but I’m still trying to figure out if it’s natural or merely naive to care so much. Why am I still invested in what you think about me, even if you have told me that you don’t hate me? Why do I still wonder about who you’re with, what you’re doing, what makes you happy, and what makes you disappointed? Why do I still care about whether or not you ever think of me? I wonder if I’m a bad person if I can’t hold down a relationship, that I couldn’t make it work when I had wanted it to. That I didn’t put up a bigger fight. I wonder if three months from now, a year from now, five years from now, I will wonder if I gave up too early, if I had let you slip away.
I don’t believe in second chances.
But maybe it’s time that I learned to change.