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Romance

Meet him one night, at a bar, at a friend’s house, through your sister. Hit it off. Find the stories of the adventures he’s been on riveting, and find yourself excited at the prospect of a new-found friendship. Think nothing more of it than an opportunity to go on a new adventure or two yourself, and resolve to say “yes” to every opportunity this new-found friend brings.
Go surfing. Climb mountains. Drink too much too often. And always, always have excellent war stories from the night before, as the two of you reminisce amidst fits of laughter over what he said/she said, he did/she did scenarios. Call each other nicknames that have no real meaning, and playfully wrestle when a disagreement over whose ordering the take out arises. Bake weed cookies, and stay up all night watching horror films. Share a bed, but never think that anything might happen because you’re “just friends”.
Go out drinking, another night out, to any one of the usual places. Order the usual first round before the night dissolves into the usual myriad of shooters and bad decisions. Notice there’s something different, but don’t figure out what it is. Until…
Share a kiss on the dance floor. Let the sound of the music fade away in the background. Don’t think any romantic thoughts, it won’t click straight away that he was someone you could fall for. Instead, find yourself trying to gage his kissing skills, and wondering if your breath smells. Pull out, just to make sure you’re kissing who you think you’re kissing, and then just throw caution to the wind, and continue. He’s not that bad a kisser anyway…
Uh. Oh.
Find yourself driving two days later, running errands which don’t really require the command of your full attention. As you drive, find your thoughts drifting to that night you first kissed. Smile. Stop smiling. Find it odd that you smiled in the first place. Shake your head and write it off to nothing more than the appreciation of a good friend, but find yourself wondering if it’ll happen again…
Let it happen again. And again. Now when he sleeps over, find your bodies pulled together so that you lie side-by-side spooning, a magnetic force between you that means you’re never more than 10 centimetres apart. Kiss for hours, slowly building up the anticipation each time, until neither of you can take it anymore. Have sex. Briefly hear a tiny voice in your head asking you what the hell you think you’re doing, before the touch of his tongue to your neck pulls you back into the moment and over the edge of reason. Lie together afterwards, awkward yet comfortable. Hold hands as you do so. Fall asleep spooning.
Wake up and replay the night before in your mind. Crack open your eyelids to find him sleeping still beside you. Let your hands wonder over his body, bringing him to consciousness and arousal simultaneously. Have sex again. Lazily this time. With as much passion as the night before, without the will or need to rush. Grab a shower afterwards and come out to a cup of coffee and a kiss awaiting you. Say goodbye, and part ways.
Chat to him now and again over the next week. Find yourself blinking twice whenever he uses the word “dude” in a message to you. Think nothing of it. Wait to see him again. Do so, at a bar with friends. Try not to feel confused when nothing is different. Note the lack of something… Something special when he talks to, or looks at, you. Be just another face in the crowd around the table. Push your feelings deep down inside.
Bide your time. Every now and then, find him back at your place after a night out and one too many drinks. Have sex again. Ignore the voice in your head begging to know what’s going on. Resolve not to be that girl. Swear you’ll just go with the flow. Don’t acknowledge the silent horror of your skipped heart beat when he jokes about being “friends with benefits”. Fail to see any benefits, beyond the half-an-hour to an hour you share in your bed, during which you can fool yourself that he sees you as someone beautiful; as someone worth loving; as someone full stop.
Never get the answers to the questions that race through your heart and mind. Let go of the exciting potential promised by the first kiss. Resign yourself to the notion that you are “just friends”. But never let the flame go out; that flame that dares to unhinge the cool, calm and collected image you’ve worked so hard to construct… That flame that urges you to wonder if he’ll ever like you, ever love you, never leave you. That flame that burns you every single time you dare to let it glow a little brighter.
That burning, fiery flame.

On Monday, I’m going away. I don’t know how long for. I mean, I do actually have to come back – I’m unfortunately tied to various commitments that begin again in July, so disappearing into the wide world isn’t an option, just yet. But on Monday, I’ll go and I may come back after a week. Or I may not. Perhaps I’ll come back in a month. Who knows. And whilst I don’t know how long I’m going away for, or even where I may end up on my journey, I can tell you why I’m going…

I’m going away because if you asked me to stay, I would. I’d cancel my flight, get into your car, drive to your house, snuggle up on the couch with you, and stay. I would give up my adventure for you. And that’s the best reason I can think of not to. Whilst this may not make much sense, there is a point. Somewhere.. In all of my past relationships, I’ve given. I’ve given up things; I’ve given up myself; and my time and my dreams. I’ve given and given and given. And when it ended, I discovered, to my horror, I’d given so much that I had nothing left. I had given up pieces of my heart, my ‘ness’. So, I had to rebuild everything from scratch. And when I began this process of rebuilding, eight months ago, I decided never to deny myself something I wanted, for someone else who can’t give you a good enough reason to do. So, what I want right now, is to go on my adventure. But I can’t pretend that I don’t want you to want me to stay, either.

I’m going because if I stay, I will break us. I have never been very good at the whole relationships thing. It takes me a long time to love, yet when I do, I do so with a love that transcends gaps in distance, and lifestyle, and even logic. When I love, I am dedicated and hopeful. Every sign you give me – whether it’s intended or not – is one more sign for me to fall even more for you. And I know we said we’d just be friends and see where things went, but you didn’t help me when you kissed me. I mean, I have quite a few friends and you’re the only one that kisses me… So, naturally, I believed it meant more than it did. And when you didn’t make an effort to see me, in the build up to my leaving, well, it didn’t make sense to my head, or my heart. So, instead of ruining us by asking you a thousand questions so I can know exactly where I stand, I’m leaving.

I wish I felt as strong and brave as some people say I’m being. To walk away from someone you care about, and not only to walk away, but to hop on a plane and end up on the other side of the country… Well, apparently that takes some guts. But if I’m honest, and I do try to be, it doesn’t feel like bravery. Because when I get off of the train at the airport, I’ll hope you’re standing there. When I line up to check-in for my flight, I’ll listen out for your voice speaking my name, asking me to turn around and stay with you. And when I go through the gates, a hundred Romantic Comedy airport scenes will inspire my heart to beat faster as I walk slowly to the metal bird that promises to take me away from you, and any hope that I still might have…

Once I’ve gone, I’ll still think of you. I’ll hope that maybe you’ll think of me, too. Maybe, once I’ve gone, you’ll miss me. Maybe you’ll see who I am, and what I mean to you… Or maybe you won’t. And we’ll just grow further apart, until one day we’re nothing but the odd Facebook status update chanced upon on a normal Thursday afternoon. A flicker of recognition will cross your face as my name registers something to your brain; and a skipped heartbeat will jolt my heart as it recalls the feelings I felt for you…

So, I’m going away. But, dammit, I wish you’d ask me to stay.

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.

When it’s good, it’ll be right. And when it’s right, you’ll know. You won’t have known all the time, but there’ll be moments when everything is suddenly so clear that you can’t understand why you’d ever considered doing things any other way. When it’s good, it’ll be so right that to behave, think, speak or feel any other way, will be wrong. And when it’s wrong, it’ll be the worst.

When it’s good, it’ll be the best. And this doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be perfect. No one ever said that perfection was naturally the best. And whilst it may not be perfect, it’ll still be good. In a life where so very many things can go wrong, be wrong, feel wrong, the ability to recognise and hold onto what’s good may get a little lost. We’re so busy concerning ourselves with how the people and “traditions” of the world dictate us to feel, and who we ought to be, and what is or isn’t acceptable, that we lose sight of the most important fact: you get one life. One. And you’re the one who has to live it, everyday. So why would you choose anything other than what’s good, what’s right?

When it’s right, you’ll know. You can have faith in that. And when it’s wrong, you’ll know, too. The only thing that ever gets in the way in the pursuit of what’s right, is ourselves. We sit, and worry, and think, and wait. Instead of wondering who you are to have so much good, ask yourself who you are not to?

When I wonder who the people I have respect for are, my answers are probably somewhat unorthodox. It’s the man or woman who says “I don’t” when standing at the alter – arguably one of the most unacceptable places at which to be completely honest about how you feel. It’s the young rape victim who, pregnant with the rapist’s child, brings the child up to be the very antithesis of all of the evil of the man who caused his conception. It’s the mothers who love their children through the terrible two’s, teenage angst, drug addictions and worse. It’s the man who follows his heart in pursuit of the woman he loves, because even though his friends may tease him for being “whipped,” he’d rather sacrifice a man card or two, than ever risk losing her.

When it’s good, it won’t always be good, but it’ll be right. And you’ll know it. With every part of you. Once you know it, the times it isn’t so good will be okay. Because no one ever promised you that it would be easy, just that it’d be worth it. So, let go of the past. Let go of the fear. Start again. And this time, give more. Trust more. Love more.  Find what’s good. Find what’s right.

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.

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.