Goodbye, my almost lover
Goodbye, my hopeless dream
I’m trying not to think about you
Can’t you just let me be?
So long, my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
I should’ve known you’d bring me heartache
Almost lovers always do…
A Fine Frenzy, “Almost Lover”
He comes to my door at five-thirty in the morning; I’m barely awake, and for a moment, I lay in bed as Riley barks a warning, wondering if it had only been part of a dream. But no, there he is, standing on the porch in sweats and a jacket, and I can feel the chill of the morning air as I hold Riley back and unlock the door to let him in.
He wants to talk about the letter.
The letter that I had written a week ago, questioning myself as I sealed it, scrawled his name on the front, and slid it beneath the welcome mat on his porch, before I drove away to spend New Year’s Eve with friends, wondering all the while if I would regret it come morning.
That letter that questioned where we stood, wondering how our innocent summer flirtations had suddenly turned so cold, how casual exchanges felt forced and painful, how days had turned to weeks and weeks had turned to months of silence, without so much as a hello as we passed each other on the sidewalk. Any bond we had forged as we sat on the back porch, watching our dogs play in the backyard and talking as the sun slept and fireflies danced had been broken.
We were two strangers again.
And I didn’t understand it.
So I had written to him, saying what I needed to say as the year came to a close in the language I know best — because I didn’t know how to talk to him — not that I hadn’t tried, not that I hadn’t pretended that everything was fine, that we were fine, that his silence was fine…But if there’s something I’ve learned this past year, it’s that there’s only so long you can go on pretending; feelings run too deep. Eventually, it will only feed the poison that threatens to infect the heart.
I didn’t know what had happened to cause this sudden rift, and I blamed myself. Of course I did. I had to have said something or done something to scare him away, to make him change his mind, right? Only, how could it have happened so fast?
And suddenly, I’m flashing back to being nineteen years old, in the middle of a young love story. I’m home from college for the summer, waiting eagerly for my boyfriend of four years to return from basic training. It had been a summer of love letters and cherished phone calls, of “I love you” and “I miss you” and “I can’t wait to see you again…”
He called from the airport.
I expected him to say he was home, that he was coming by to see me; I was expecting to hug him and kiss him and never let him go. I never expected the tears, I never expected the heartbreak, and I certainly never expected the story to end.
One minute we were in love; in the next, love was lost.
It’s this memory that resided in the back of my mind as I pulled a page out of my journal and began to write. I shouldn’t have cared, but I did. I do. I care too deeply, I want too much, and I wish, more than anything, that I knew how to make that stop.
It’s this that he wants to talk about as he sits on the couch, and I follow his lead and wrap myself in a blanket more for comfort than anything else. I watch him fidget and my stomach sinks, bracing myself to hear the worst and at the same time grateful that I have this chance to talk about it at all.
But he’s glad for the letter, he says. And we talk like we did in that once upon a time of summer, sharing what we’ve been feeling and letting ourselves be vulnerable and trust one another with past pain and present fears.
And we kiss…only kiss. And we hold each other as we fall asleep, and when we wake up, we smile and hold each other tighter.
He comes over again later that evening, and we sit on the couch and take turns playing with Riley. We talk about books, about philosophies, about traveling and our futures. The more we talk and the more I learn about him, the more surprised I am at the feelings that begin to build. I feel myself opening up; and though I’d always felt uncannily comfortable with him, I can feel those defenses I’d so carefully built over the years begin to waver. Here’s a person I want in my life, I think.
Here was the beginning of a friendship, the beginning of something.
We make promises to call and text, and as we hug goodbye, the embrace lingers a moment longer than necessary.
I text him briefly the next day — my heart still smiling, my mind still in disbelief at all that had transpired in less than twenty-four hours — but he doesn’t respond. And when I send a message of hello two days later, only silence greets me back.
I don’t know how to keep from thinking the worst, sensing that he’s pulled back, pulled away. And suddenly those defenses are back as brick by brick, the wall gets rebuilt. Suddenly, that instinct for self-protection kicks in, and I fight the urge to entirely withdraw.
Gathering courage, I ring his doorbell, hoping for some peace of mind or, at the very least, some clarity.
It begins to drizzle as I walk back to my house, glancing back only to see the lights on and the door firmly shut. I don’t want to cry, but suddenly it’s like the past is becoming this present again and I don’t understand any of it. I don’t understand how hello becomes goodbye in the same breath; I don’t understand how kisses can turn to silence and intimate hugs become avoidance.
I don’t understand how none of it seems to matter…
My heart feels a little bit broken, and though I fight the instinct to turn inwards and blame myself, I can’t help but keep the confusion from weaving its way through my mind, can’t keep myself from replaying it all over and over and over again, to try to make sense of it all.
I can’t help but wonder how a person can be so easily forgotten.
I can’t help but wonder how a person can feel as if they’re never enough.
I can’t help but wonder how I can have so much love to offer…
…and how I fear I’ve become so unlovable in return.