I have this fantasy where I greet you on your doorstep for your birthday, and much to my surprise you hurry me inside to join you and your family and friends to celebrate the occasion. Years have passed since I’ve seen your face, years since I allowed things to end so poorly between us, yet you somehow dash away all those lost days and unspoken miseries by eagerly – gleefully! – taking my hand and leading me down the hall to where the rest of the party awaits your return.
To be honest, I don’t know exactly what happens next in this scenario, but there are enough snippets of imagination in my mind to form a vivid moving reel: Your eyes and smile alit by the glow of birthday candles; your cry of “Duuuder!” in mock protest over some quip I make; that sweet and gentle smirk of yours that always makes my heart swell with pure, unadulterated joy; feeling your hand slip into mine underneath the table; standing outside with you as I’m about to leave, your arms wrapped around me through the inside of my coat, your face pressed against my chest like you used to; you wordlessly climbing into the passenger seat of my car so I can steal you away for the weekend, take you home.
And so I do.
It’s been nearly four years since I’ve seen you. That’s such a long time – a high school diploma, a presidential term, a leap year come and gone – yet not. ‘Cause while there have been many struggles, more than a fair share of defeats and far too few victories since then, the love I feel for you still remains as strong and vital as the last time I saw you. And while the hurts inflicted by you and, worse, by myself, to us, have healed as best they could, there’s an ache that lingers just under the figurative scars that bear your likeness on the bruised and battered heart that stubbornly, defiantly beats away in my chest. So while a lot has changed, it seems that I have kept true to my word that my feelings would not. It’s both funny and fitting how what hurts the most – and goddamn if love lost is not the most relentless of all heartaches – also holds you most accountable. Years later, I have plenty of new wounds to lick and injustices to howl about (or outright wallow over) – not to mention a few more worry and laugh lines in my face – yet I still find myself turning back to thoughts of you and how I could have done better. And for that, Meli, I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. I know now that a lot of my anger was a protracted response to my frustrations with my previous relationship, which unduly ended in a lot of manipulative behavior from my ex and the loss of several close friends who chose her over me. More importantly, I’ve come to understand that I was also suffering from post-traumatic stress brought on by my terrible experiences in
West Africa. I had
just barely gotten a handle on myself and my emotions when I first met you, and
then I went and made things even more complicated by trying to pursue an open
relationship – a radically different lifestyle than any I had previously experienced
– without having the understanding or patience required to make it fully
work. And never mind the fact that,
monogamous or not, you simply were not ready for a serious commitment in the
first place! Still, I treated these
things as little more than minor obstacles and pursued you with all the zeal,
passion and persistence I can possibly generate for that someone who captures
my heart. In time I wore you down, and
then finally won you over – but by then we had put each other as well as
ourselves through the wringer. And I’m
sorry for that, too.
Not surprisingly, you continue to weigh heavy in my heart and mind, and I feel that I have still yet to find the words that might convince you to forgive me. And that’s likely because I’ve yet to figure out how to wholly forgive myself – for my lack of patience; for not making you feel like you were more important than my impulses and desires; for my unnecessary (and frightening) flashes of anger; for demanding definitive answers when I could have just as easily been more diligent about helping you find them; for not knowing when to hold you closer (or let you go once and for all); for giving you any and every reason to cut off contact with me. I feel particularly awful about that last one; it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why you changed your phone number or blocked my e-mails. Whether or not I felt my anger was “justified” – the fact that I even have to put that word in quotes makes me wince – due to your (perceived) lack of compassion in the aftermath of our break-up, no matter who had the longer tally of grievances to hide behind, no one should have to endure such harassment. Honestly, even if you have found – or one day will find – a way to forgive me for such despicable actions, I doubt that I ever will. As it stands, much of my behavior toward the end still haunts me to this day.
However, sorrow and regret are not the reason why you remain a constant in my thoughts, why not a day goes by where I don’t reflect on you – on us – even if it’s little more than a passing reverie or a tiny snowflake of memory melting your name on my tongue. Simply, I am still in love with you, Melissa. Maybe not as madly or desperately as I used to be, but it is very much a love that has remained honest and true these last four years and counting. (And, really, I’m all but certain that the intensity of such love smolders just below the surface, awaiting a grand and miraculous – and, yes, utterly ridiculous – rebirth.) It is a love that has for better or worse set the bar for all future relationships. It is because I lost such a love that I know better what I need from a relationship and how to pursue it with more caution, consideration and care. It is because I lost you that I became determined to be even more vigilant about communication and commitment. Anything less is a slap in the face to what we shared (and, alas, suffered) during our brief time together, and I simply cannot have it all be for naught. You mean(t) far too much to me to do such a terrible thing to our legacy. ‘Cause aside from a treasured collection of photographs and memories, that legacy is currently all that remains of us – and it’s very important for me to remember both the good and the bad.
If you asked me why I’m reaching out to you after so many years, I guess I would tell you that it was simply time. I have been working up the nerve to do this for quite a while now, but something repeatedly told me to wait, then wait a bit longer . . . and then wait just a little bit more. I once read that time doesn’t necessarily heal wounds but rather gives us perspective. What could we have done differently? What could have I done with the knowledge and experience I possess now? Would we have had a better chance if we both weren’t so weighed down by our previous heartbreaks? Can we move beyond our own past – our own heartbreak – and start anew? That last question touches upon a notion that might be too ambitious (and/or terrifying) to even consider. Maybe you have no interest whatsoever in even entertaining such a thought. I can only hope that time and perspective might be on my side – at least enough to warrant some kind of response.
(How I would love the opportunity to tell you in person just how much I’ve missed you, Meli. Madly. Desperately. I realize that now as I commit these words to the page.)
We had something good once. Hell, judging by our rate of breaking up and getting back together, we had something good several times. And I would like to think that if we could find such harmony despite the continuous upsets brought forth by the mountains of baggage we both brought to the table (as well as the inherent risks of navigating a relationship dynamic that was always going to be a tall order), I believe that we could still have more good times together. I believe in reconciliation. I believe in us. Maybe not in any predestined way – we’d first have to take a leap of faith getting to know each other all over again – but I do believe that we’re not finished just yet, that something splendid and meaningful can still come from the ashes of what was. And maybe such an idea belongs in the realm of fantasy, that strange and wonderful place where I’m heartily welcomed back into your life by simply ringing your doorbell . . . but I’m a man of possibility, Meli. I excel at turning fantasy into reality. And when it comes to you, I still have the will if you dare to show me the way.
And if not – if you just can’t bring yourself to bother, to try – I truly do understand. And I begrudge you nothing. Maybe you need more time. Or maybe all the time in the world will never be enough. This thought saddens me deeply, but I understand that, too. I understand all too well the consequences of my actions; I live with them every day.
(It seems I’m burdened with far more regrets than I ever thought possible to accrue in my thirty-one years.)
Overall, what I want to say most is something that I cannot convey enough:
I am sorry.
Please forgive me. Someday.
I miss you. Madly. Desperately.
I still love you. Something fierce. And true.
And it’s about time I told you so. With all the heart I can muster.
And so I do.