It had been years, but she still couldn’t forget it. The awkward feeling she had inside when they said goodbye. They’d only been together a few months, but it felt like forever.
Their meeting at a show both their bands had played was unnervingly comfortable, as if their souls already knew one another, and it was actually only the bodies meeting for the first time. Usually very shy, she was instantly at ease with him. They had a rapport and camaraderie she normally only had with lifelong friends. They slept together the first chance they could, and that was natural too.
They explored the huge city together; shopping in cheap dollar stores for food, drinking beer to pass the hot summer days, and watching bands play in bars. He had an avocado tree that extended over the roof of his house, so they would climb out the kitchen window to pick them. Sometimes they would drink and talk by the avocado tree on the roof, or play acoustic guitars to pass the time.
She was in love with him in minutes, but couldn’t tell him so, because she didn’t have the right. In any other situation, she wouldn’t have let him walk away, she would have held on and never let go, but he was already spoken for. He was taken. And she couldn’t take him away from his girlfriend. His girlfriend was younger, and so obviously naïve for trusting him. She could tell from the way he described her that she was somewhat weak emotionally, and sheltered. Their break-up would break her.
Because his girlfriend lived across the country, she assumed it would be a matter of time before the distance ended the relationship, the way distance almost always does. It was that pesky almost that would come back to bite her in the ass.
She would lie next to him in bed, silently listening to them talk on the phone, and watching him leave the apartment to argue with her, but every time they seemed near the break-up she assumed was inevitable, things would return to normal.
She was soon humiliated to find herself playing the other woman to a faceless girl in another state. She knew she could do better – she knew she deserved better – but she kept hoping that something would change. Until it did, she didn’t have the right to love him. She wouldn’t allow herself to say it. But she felt it.
She knew it was his decision to make, it was his choice, and it hurt more than anything to think that she wouldn’t be chosen. When he verbally acknowledged this choice during a pregnancy scare by saying, “Well if you are, I guess we’ll start thinking up names. And I guess I’ll have to tell her it’s over,” it sickened her that he was so nonchalant. That he was too cowardly to follow his heart, and would allow his destiny to be determined by biology.
As time passed, she became angry about being second choice, about being a substitute stand-in for the real thing, because he wasn’t that to her. He was the real thing. And she was angry because she believed in the goodness of her own heart. She knew she was not second best to anyone. She was the real thing too. She deserved better than second choice status.
Slowly becoming moody and sullen, she grew resentful that the relationship couldn’t progress further than the stunted and deformed bastardization of love it had become. She knew that if it had started the right way, if there were no secrets, no constraints, and no significant others, it could have been beautiful. It never had a chance. She never had a chance.
Pride, or fear, or futility kept her from ever telling him that she loved him. But she did. She wasn’t supposed to love him, and she wasn’t allowed to love him, but she loved him anyway.
She walked away from him forever after they had awkwardly, ridiculously hugged one last time; as if a hug could somehow sum up everything they’d shared.
She felt so confused and conflicted. She wanted to tell him she loved him, and please don’t leave me here alone in this huge city, and please don’t leave me here alone on this empty street, and please don’t leave me here alone, and please don’t leave me.
But instead, she walked away quickly so he wouldn’t see the tears running down her face, making the buildings blurry and the palm trees shimmer.
A month later he emailed her to tell her he’d moved back to where his girlfriend lived. They were engaged to be married, he told her. She didn’t answer.
He was confused when she didn’t email him back, to congratulate him, and emailed her to ask if something was wrong. She told him that it was hard to feel like celebrating his news of engagement when he’d been fucking her behind the oblivious back of his bride-to-be a month ago.
He stopped sending emails.
She was still trying to forget it.