It’s Saturday and I’m not with you. The exhaustion felt from throwing myself into my hot car after three days, six flights, and hundreds of passengers made me forget today was even part of the weekend. It wasn’t until I unlocked my phone to see one of many pictures you took of me that I realized. You were trying to teach me to ride a bike. Unbeknownst to you, I, at 22, needed to learn to keep my balance… and steer… and not crash. I barely learned to pedal without losing life and limb in the years before I met you: the first human commitment I’d made, and I the first you’d made in nearly half a decade.
I keep checking my phone to make sure it’s still working. I see my notifications; your name is missing. This has got to be a mistake, a dream, a surreal day-terror that has breathed over my neck, hurling blaring screams of regret at me for the last week.
I still remember when I first saw you. After weeks of texts, phone calls, and promises brought together by what used to be the bane of my existence, I found you. Tinder. Really. The shallowest of hookup apps happened to stun me when I saw a body outside of my usual appeal. Your candid smile, calming eyes, and “fluffy” physique brought me to feel differently before my thumb moved right or left. I paused, and for the first time I saw something different. Not a shirtless Adonis, not a group pic at the club, and not another “middle finger up, I don’t give a fuck” glory shot.
I saw you.
This looks like a guy that’d treat me right.
My only thought before I chose you, the messages came, and we went on our first date.
I saw past the fact that I could see over you. Like seriously. I’m only 5’5″ and I could’ve sworn you said you were 5’7″. I used plenty of open forums and articles to help adjust to breaking societal taboos my first time in the adult dating world.
I kept thinking, This looks like a guy that’d treat me right.
And for months, you did. You took me on real dates like we were in a ‘90s sitcom, held open doors, grabbed grocery bags for me before I could lift a finger, and supported me in ways most people only talked about.
“If you wanna write, do it. Buy your blog domain now,” you told me, placing my laptop on the couch next to me in your apartment months ago. I still haven’t done all I can for it, but thank you for the push to get started.
You calmed me in the midst of some of my worst anxiety attacks. My blows to you were met by bear hugs to me. My tears and elevated heart rate were understood, eased, and embraced.
You were the first man to speak of loving me and have my heart hear it.
Eleven days hasn’t been enough time to accept that you’re gone. That as I sit and await my next trip, you’re not going to ask me to text you when I land. You’re not going to be there to massage my back I strain hurdling over passenger bags. You’re not going to run me a bath and ask about my day. You’re not going to open your arms to me the next time the panic comes. Next time I’m whaling in distress, when my mind plagues me again with self-doubt, when I feel my nerves race and terror set in, it won’t be you who tells me, “I got you.” I’ll have to have me.
Eight months of love. Two-hundred-forty-three days of pain, gone. We faced the scarring tragedies of death, alcoholism, financial crises, and abuse recovery in less than the time it takes for a toddler to take their first steps. This is the first time I could bring myself to write after that afternoon; the first time I felt coherent and stable enough to even hold a pen. In that moment, while sobbing in hysteria with my head on my mother’s lap, I was as capable to write as a kid that just got Sparta kicked off their favorite swing on the playground. Eating became a chore and graduated to auxiliary action. The day tears removed themselves from my nightly skin care regimen was the day I began to think and reflect, but still, I bargained with the idea of you coming back.
Yet I can’t simply romanticize everything. Objectivity is how I got the strength to eat again, write again, laugh again. You respected me enough to button up my top on our first date, but I often moved in ways you chose not to see. Yes, I did want you to tell me you liked that dress you’d never seen on me. Yes, I did care if you noticed I spent an extra half hour perfecting my makeup out of the excitement of being with you. Yes, I wanted you to show me off. I will never deny that you were hurt when my past vices and addictions neglected you, but no, I didn’t expect months and months of compromise to lead to a blindsiding reveal of your resentment for my imperfections. I didn’t know that my changed behaviors still would not be enough in the end. I’m sorry about that.
Thank you for handling what you could. Thank you for encouraging me to be as great as I sometimes don’t know that I am. Thank you for concerning yourself with my mind, body, and spirit. One day, I may be able to truly also thank you for letting me go.
I hope the next time I think of you on a Saturday, my layover is filled with so much blissful disorientation from coffee and time zone changes that our weekend routine seems jaded, because waking up next to you for breakfast and midmorning kisses is no longer an option.