There are a myriad of reasons why I can’t do this. I don’t really believe that I even know where to begin. But I can’t do this. And I’ll try my very best to tell you why.
I can’t do this because when you tell me that I’m beautiful, I believe you. And I can’t have that. I can’t have someone convincing me that they see beauty in me. If I believe you – and sometimes I do – then what’ll happen when you leave? Because you will leave.
That’s another one. I can’t do this because you’ll leave. You won’t know it yet, but I do. I’ll ignore the fact, however. A sort of emotional masochistic endeavor. But I won’t be entirely ignorant. I’ll convince myself that this time it’ll be different. This time I’ll be loved. This time you will stay and I can feel safe. This time…
What else? Well, for one thing, you have soft pillows. There. I said it. You want to know why I can’t do this, and that’s a perfectly viable reason. The pillows on your bed are so soft it feels as if I’m sleeping on a marshmallow – which actually isn’t as pleasant as it sounds.
I can’t do this because when you look at me, I can’t breathe for a second. And if you were to look at me for longer, with the meaning in your eyes that I hope to find, I’d die. Just keel over. You may not know this, but breathing is necessary for living. Yup. And your taking my breath away is for one thing, decidedly rude, and for another, impeding the efficiency of my living processes.
I can’t do this because you make me laugh – even when I’ve had the worst day. Your eyes captivate me. Your voice enthralls me so that I just want you to tell me stories all day long. I can’t do this because you have made me forget about the other 3,456,782,396 men on the planet. I can’t do this because if I did, I’d never want to not do it. I can’t do this because you hesitate when I tell you how I feel. You hesitate when I ask you to kiss me. And you’ll hesitate when I ask you to love me.
I can’t do this, us, love, because… Well, if I’m honest – completely 100% honest – I can do this.
And I want to. But if I need to find reasons not to, to protect myself, then I will.
Even if the only reason I can find is those damn pillows!
Reconnect with an old friend, or an old flame, a lost chance. Chat one day on Facebook. Comment on how many years it’s been. Accept when he suggests you meet up for a drink. Know it’ll be a once off. Put it out of your mind until the day arrives. Be nervous whilst you fret over what to wear. Don’t understand why. Eventually settle for the outfit you first chose. Go.
Smile when you see him. He hasn’t changed a bit, and yet there’s something different about him. Talk over one another at first, in the rush to catch up. Resolve to let one another take turns. Laugh at the things he remembers about you, and the one and only date you ever had. Smile slightly when he tells you that he’s recently single. Say good night eventually realising that six hours have passed and you didn’t even know it.
Be thrilled when he messages you to say how good it was to see you. Tell him the same. Say yes when he suggests you do it again. Go out drinking together almost every night for a month. Find yourself, on every one of those nights, in a drunken haze of happiness. Wonder why he hasn’t tried to kiss you yet. Try to grin when he tells you time and time again how happy he is to have found a friend like you.
Pluck up the courage one night after another drink-filled night out and ask him to kiss you. Sit with your heart pounding in your chest. Wonder if he can hear it as loudly as you can. Listen out for the beat of his heart, too. Wait for him to do or say something. Practically faint when he finally leans in and your lips touch. Lose yourself in the 3, 4, 5 seconds that you kiss. Hide the disappointment you feel when he pulls away again. Search for a sign of emotion; a sign that it meant to him what it meant to you. Ignore the awkward silence that’s settled in between you. Say good night without seeing a sign of anything at all.
Wait to hear from him all the next day. Jump out of your chair every time your phone goes off. Ignore the pit in your stomach each time you realise it’s not him. Hang around on Facebook on the off chance that he’ll log on. Get butterflies when he does log on. Ignore the sinking feeling in your gut when he doesn’t message you and then logs back off.
Regain hope when he eventually messages you. Ignore that he calls you ‘dude’, ‘bud’ and ‘friend’. Make plans to go out with his group of friends.
Spend the whole night checking his face and body language for a sign. When you say good night, notice that there’s something he wants to say to you, something that’s been on his mind. Hold your breath. Keep a straight face when he tells you how glad he is that the drunken kiss didn’t ruin the friendship. Try smile even. Say goodbye. Cry as you drive home.
Find yourself waiting for him to realise how he feels about you. Go on dates to makes him see. Feel confused at how he seems genuinely disappointed for you when the dates don’t work out. “You’ll find someone,” he says, trying to reassure you. Hate him in that moment because you have found someone.
Try not to let him hear your heart break when he tells you he’s met someone. Feign excitement at the chance to meet her. Hate her before you’ve done so. Hate that you like her from the moment you meet her. Hate how beautiful, intelligent and funny she is – love that she’s the exact type of woman he deserves. Hate the way he looks at her; the way he places his hand on the small of her back; the way he leans in and whispers in her ear. Hate that they have eyes for no one but each other. Hate that you have eyes only for him. Hate yourself. Love him even more.
This can’t continue. The time has come. It’s now your civil duty to no longer be nice to me. It is the least you can do, after all. Don’t be thoughtful, or ask me how I’m holding up. Because I manage to hold it together, right up until that moment when you ask. You destroy my resolve not to let you destroy my resolve.
So, stop looking at me with those eyes of yours – those eyes that seem to make promises that your heart can’t keep. Don’t wink at me. If you do, I’ll tell myself there’s an eyelash or a speck of dirt that made you do it. That way, you won’t be able to get me to wonder just what that wink might mean.
If you need to speak to me, it’d be most kind of you to not actually do so. Send a text, or an e-mail, hell – why don’t you send me a smoke signal? The more distant the form of communication, the more I’m for it! Ever wondered how pigeon messaging works? Figure it out, we’ll give it a bash. So long as I don’t have to hear your voice, it’ll be good. And if you could not refer to me with any term of endearment, that’d be good, too.
No more hugs. My body is officially a hug-free zone, all for you. I love hugging. But you’ve taken a hug, the simplest means of affection, and made it bloody torture! So, no. You and I are no longer on hugging terms. From now on, if you see me, you can blink in my general direction. Then leave. I know you hope that we’ll be back to how we were before all this happened one day, the closest of friends, but I’m afraid the most I can let you hope for is the ability to one day be able to shake my hand, for an instant, and that’ll only be many years from now. Maybe.
Bit rude of you to have given me so much ‘stuff’ whilst we were together. I know not all of it was technically given to me, but I mean, who doesn’t save the movie ticket stub from our first film together, or the receipt you wrote how much you loved me on, before leaving it on the bonnet of my car? Well, I do. I did. And now all of this ‘stuff’ is suffocating me. So, if you can remove me so easily from your heart, it’d seem fully within your capabilities for you to remove all of this ‘stuff’ from my immediate existence! It’s really not a lot to ask. Oh and if you could take all of the memories and feelings I still have with you, I’d greatly appreciate it.
You’re now an ex. My ex. And that means ex-everything. No more inside stories, special secrets, or jokes that only we get. I don’t want you to look at me knowingly when my favourite song comes on. Don’t even try to let me down easily. I know we had good times, and I know you think I’ll be the one, for someone that isn’t you. Really, if you’d dissolve into thin air, that would actually be the best you could do for me as my ex. I know you would like us to be friends, one day, but I’m afraid the most you really can hope for is that I won’t run in the opposite direction when we’re walking on opposite sides of the road from one another. And not anytime soon. Maybe one day. Maybe.
It’s safe to say that I’ve had some pretty terrible relationships in the past, with men who probably weren’t the best fit for me. However, it’s nothing to regret or wish away. Every relationship we have will end until the one that doesn’t anymore. And every interaction with another person, be it for a month or five years, allows us to learn more about ourselves, as well as what we need from a relationship and a partner. However, this process of learning is made useless if we can’t articulate it. And so, bear with me as I try to define to you how I will know when I’ve found him, the man of my dreams.
He’ll buy me books. And not because I can’t afford to. Oh no. It’s usually a safe bet to assume that I’d rather live off cereal for a month than go a couple of weeks without the purchase of a new book. He will buy me books because he’ll know how very happy it makes me. He’ll know how in love I am with the weight of an entire world in my hands, and the smell and feel of the pages as I follow the author’s words on a journey unlike any other. And because he loves me, he will buy me books.
He’ll be nice to me. My parents have been married for 42 years, and when asked what the secret was to their success, the answer was simple. It was a reference to the film Venus, wherein a senior citizen explores a love affair with a much younger woman. When asked what it is he can provide her that no other man has given her before, he merely replies: “I’m nice to her.” This moment dictates my parents’ relationship in that they realised that it was the very least you could do for the person with which you intended to spend the majority of your life. So, the man of my dreams will be nice to me. And not because I ask him to be, or because he’ll feel he has to be. He’ll be nice to me, because being any other way towards me never even crossed his mind.
There will be no need to imagine the potential in him, or us, because it will be all I ever dreamt it would be – and more. This may sound like a tall order, but when it comes to forever and finding the one person next to whom you want to wake up for everyday of the rest of your life, we should never, ever drop our standards. He will be the kind of man with whom I can be whether things are going well or not. I don’t care if we make millions in our first year together and live comfortably for the rest of our days, or if we’re bankrupt and sleeping under bridges every night. He will want to be with me regardless, and I with him. It won’t be about putting off our happiness until things are better, because no matter how things are in that moment, happiness will be he and I. Together.
He will go on adventures with me – even if it entails nothing more than trying to find a different route home in the dead of night. Impulsivity is, I believe, the key to staying young. That doesn’t mean never making plans or sticking to the plans you’ve made. But there are few things more riveting than coming home one day to find both of your bags packed because he’s decided you’re getting out of the city for the weekend. Or perhaps, you want to try something new such as surfing or kloofing. If I suggest it, the best answer he could ever give me would be “why not?” It may sound a cliche, but I want to live a big and beautiful life – and he’ll want to live one with me.
As bad as any fight gets, I won’t be afraid that he’ll leave me. It may stem from the many experiences I’ve had with men over the years, or the fact that I never saw my parents fight and make up when I was growing up. But when I fight with him, I won’t be gripped by the fear that it will end us. It’s taken me a while, but I’m slowly learning that couples can – and ought to – fight, without it being the be all and end all of the entire relationship. And whilst I know I’ll still get scared, he’ll understand this. And he’ll remember to remind me, even in the middle of the screaming match in which plates and pillows are flying at one another’s heads, that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
He’ll be real, flaws and all. I don’t want perfect. I want flawed. Because I’m flawed. Oh man, am I flawed. These flaws will never mean we treat one another badly, however. And whilst we may take one another for granted sometimes, it won’t be too hard to remember how wildly, crazily and incomprehensibly we love one another. I want to know him, warts and all. And I want to be known. I want that connection wherein words need not be used, but everything is understood and clear. Even if we aren’t near one another the whole night we’re out with friends, a single look need be all that lets me know I’m the one he came with, and I’ll be the one he leaves with. And if that look has a smile beneath it that makes me blush, well, that’s alright too.
He will make me understand why cliches are cliches, and what all of those love songs were trying to say. The words of love penned by poets and authors will take on a new meaning, and every sense of mine will tingle with a renewed awareness. He will listen to me, he will hear me, and he’ll know when there’s nothing to be heard. There are so many things we can look for in our significant other. And maybe we spend too long waiting for a partner who ticks all the boxes. But I’m lucky, perhaps, in that I have a heart that let’s me know exactly what it wants. And so I trust that it will invariably shout and kick and scream with delight when it finds the man of my dreams. And maybe he won’t be at all as I imagined. Whoever he is, here’s hoping I have the courage to go and get him…
I am extremely dedicated when it comes to liking someone. I am picky, that’s for sure. I don’t just romantically like anyone. A whole bunch of things need to be ‘just right’ to inspire the butterflies in my tummy, and the sparkle in my eye. But once it actually happens, and I end up liking you, my dedication is quite spectacular. However, I am decidedly useless when it comes to romantic interactions with members of the opposite sex. I will probably end up screwing it all up in one way or another, leaving you decidedly certain that you’d never like to see me again and/or filing for a restraining order. That’s a joke. That’s never really happened… I don’t think. So, really, if there’s one piece of advice I can give you for when my heart quickens its pace in your direction, it’s to run. As far and as fast as you can. Or else face the threat of a hopelessly romantic and idealistic writer developing feelings for you.
And we don’t want that, do we?
Now, you may wonder how to tell if I like you; and what warning signs there might be? Well – and let’s all release an audibly loud sigh of relief – I will tell you. I have no illusions when it comes to just how tactful I am. And this means that I can tell you without a single doubt, that I’m not. Yes, I love words. I’m obsessed with them. But I don’t know how to not put my very heart into them. I may have an Honours degree in Performance, but pretending not to like you just seems futile. So, chances are, I will tell you that I like you. And it won’t be done in a simple SMS or in a blunt proclamation in person. Oh no. The romantic in me will come up with some plan that’ll see me jumping through hoops in an effort to perform a feat of emotional confession worthy of any RomCom. And as an added warning, it may include a mix tape/CD of some kind and/or photographs of the things I like about you written out on paper all around the room. When this happens, run.
Once you know I like you, because in all honesty, it will be impossible to ignore (I have been known to be as subtle as a falling tree), you may have a varied array of reactions. But be warned – the slightest bit of hope will see me resolve not to give up. I may have my own reasons, imagined or real. I’ll believe in facts as simple as the fact that I like who I am when I’m around you, or that we can talk about anything and everything for hours. Hey, perhaps our shared obsession with the chocolate flavoured Steri Stumpie will even be good enough for me. Whatever it is, if you have no intention of seeing what there is between us, it’s best you tell me as soon as possible and in as blunt a means as possible. And don’t even think about asking if we can just be friends, because I’ll need time to get to that point. Otherwise, I will daydream about you finally seeing just what we could be, and I’ll probably end up liking you more. And that’s no good for anyone.
At some point, it will all get too much. I may go on a rampage and drink too much, turning me into a sniffling and sobbing wreck. Ignore this. In fact, it’s best if you just leave. Because I have no filter, and will talk to pretty much anyone about how I feel about you. The next day I’ll realise what an idiot move this is, and I’ll also know I probably exaggerated a bit when I told the hobo on the side of the road that we were “made for one another”. But in those moments, I will believe it. So, I suggest you leave and pretend it never happened. Hey, if you’re up for a drunken screaming match at 4 in the morning, whilst I make proclamations about my feelings for you that I probably will never remember, stick around. That truly is some people’s ideas of fun. Just do me a favour. Note the following disclaimer, you have been warned. If you choose to stick around during my far-from-sober moments, you have no right to make me feel worse the next day by reiterating what an idiot I am when I call to apologise. I’m already beating myself up about it enough as it is. Don’t kick me when I’m down. That’s just mean, yo.
In the end, I will make many mistakes. I’ll like you too much. I’ll fluctuate between putting it all out there and telling you exactly how I feel, and playing hard to get. I don’t do this on purpose, you must understand. I do it because when it comes to relationships, I’m probably the biggest idiot on Earth. And not because I want to be. I blame my idealistic and hopelessly romantic nature, coupled with my moments of braveness which then result in me back-peddling as quickly as possible in an effort to not scare you completely away. So, let’s save ourselves some time.
Unless you like me too, let’s swear to conduct ourselves as follows:
When we both respectively realise that I like you, run.
Run far, and run fast.
Because I like you.
Left to my own devices when you’re gone, I will reread old text messages from you. I mean, I didn’t save them for this purpose… But if they’re automatically saved to my phone, well, best I make use of them. And chances are, I’ll smile just as widely as I did when you first sent them. And I’ll hear your voice in my head as I read them. And I’ll end up missing you more.
When I can’t stand to miss you any longer, I’ll go for a run. Once a day, I’ll run. At least 6 kilometres and at most 10 – because we both know my legs are quite short, and to run any further would make me pass out (read: die). So, I’ll run. And whilst I run, I’ll listen to music. There’ll be an assortment of songs playing in my ears, with words that may or may not remind me of you. And I may put our song on repeat, firstly because I like the song, and secondly because every time I listen to it, I hope somehow the words will pop into your mind and make the distance between us that little bit less.
I will say ‘yes’. The key to forgetting how much I miss you, will be to keep busy. So every invite extended my way by a friend or family member will be accepted. Perhaps a long lost friend whose face I haven’t seen in six years will want to catch up over coffee, or perhaps I just won’t be able to say ‘no’ to the 7th night out in a row with friends. Either way, I will say ‘yes’. And wherever these invites end up leading me, I’ll get there and for a second, wish you were with me. But only for a second because I’ll lose myself in the moments shared with the people I find. Until I get home. And crawl into bed. And find myself suspended in the moments between midnight and sunrise, lost beneath the hilly landscape of my duvet… And it is then that I will forget to forget how much I miss you. And I’ll fall asleep fooling myself into believing that the pillow around which my arms rest, will magically restore itself into you. Even if only for a second.
I’ll completely change my life around. I’ll resolve to be more organised, more prepared for things, and more dedicated to work. I’ll launch myself into a new fitness regime and give half my clothes to charity. I’ll move the furniture in my bedroom around, and repaint the walls. I’ll hang new pictures, and immerse myself into creating an entirely new world. And after all of this, I’ll still miss you. Because the letters you wrote me will remain at the bottom of my jewelry box. As much sense as it makes to throw them out, I won’t. And the photographs we took of ourselves that day will still live in the drawer of my bedside table, readily available should I wish to lose myself in them and the memories they represent. And as much as my life and surroundings may have changed, I’ll still be the same. And that means that I’ll still miss you when you’re gone.
I’ll tell everyone in my life how well I’m doing. I’ll be better off, and I’ll ensure everyone knows it, or at least, hears me say it. And there’ll be times when I believe it. Wonderful, flash-in-the-pan kind of moments where I can finally breathe without a memory of you haunting me. But these moments will fade as quickly as they arrived. And I’ll be back to square one. And if you ever decide that you miss me, too, that’s where you’ll find me… Right where you left me.