Or so I thought.
This week has been rough. This year has been harder. Tonight is just weird.
I sent some texts to my friend, one of the few people on the earth I call that. He hasn’t texted back, but that’s alright. I’m going to write instead.
I was on the patio tonight thinking about a lot of things. I wanted to distract myself with the book I’m currently reading and some ice cream. It worked, but not the way I expected. I guess I’m just older, used to thoughts creeping in when I wish they wouldn’t. But lately, I’ve been less angered by them. There’s no sting, just this third-person view, like I’m watching home movies from my childhood on a projector; it’s me there, I’m sure of it, but a couple degrees removed.
Tonight I started thinking of the night I broke my own heart. It didn’t shatter like they describe in books, it didn’t send me falling to the ground, gasping for air. There are different kinds of heartbreak, just as there are different kinds of love. I’m not sure which there is more of in the universe.
Anyway. I started thinking about a night in my ex’s apartment. I didn’t want to go, but I knew he wanted me to. I was scared, he probably knew that, but he thought I’d get over it. I tried to. I tried the entire relationship to shake the anxiety that had taken hold of my bones and brain the past several months. He tried to help when it wasn’t a problem, when it didn’t keep him from what he wanted. I think I thought making him happy was what would make me happy, too.
So I went to his apartment even though I’d said many times I wasn’t comfortable spending the night. The first day had been terrible. We started to kiss, he wanted to makeout, I told him I needed time after he pulled me on top of him.
He barely spoke to me the rest of the day.
We walked to and from dinner in (mostly) silence. When we came back, my anxiety had driven me to near exhaustion. I asked him to open a bottle of wine. It was some cheap prosecco knockoff from his last trip to Ukraine or something. I was fleetingly flattered he remembered prosecco is my go-to, even though I rarely drink to begin with.
I put on my favorite Spotify playlist. We sat on his small sleeper sofa and I started talking. I don’t know why I couldn’t stop. I just wanted the alcohol to calm me down. Not to do anything, just to stop feeling like my mind was caving in on itself.
I was so upset, so sad and I knew it, so I kept talking. I sat there in an over-sized t-shirt and my legs folded beneath me, trying to spill my life story to this person.
I watched his face as I went deeper into my thoughts, stopping halfway through the knots to defend myself against some mean comment he’d quip. What I remember most isn’t anything about him. It’s the feeling of sitting there with my playlist blaring through his speakers and the memory of being alone in my room with that same music, and finding greater company in those songs than the person sitting beside me.
I knew that night that things wouldn’t work out between us. I’m not sure they ever had. We both wanted something in someone. Sometimes, I told him, when you look at me or say something, I feel like you’re talking to someone else.
And he was. He doesn’t know her, and neither do I.
But I know myself. And I know that as brief as the relationship was, it changed me. I don’t give him any credit for it. It was the person I realized I was in the midst of my struggle. I desperately wanted to be something other than who I was, and for who?
I broke my heart when, laying alone on his couch because I refused to share his bed, I realized what I’d put myself into. I’d placed someone else’s happiness before my own. And he wasn’t even happy because I wouldn’t give him what he wanted.
Who was giving me what I wanted? What I needed?
I had to do that. I broke up with him a few days later, after some other strange and unpleasant experiences that only solidified the sinking feeling I had to end things. And tonight, as I recalled the experience, I remembered another similar feeling.
I remember walking down a street in Philadelphia, where I used to live. I remember looking up at the trees, whose leaves had just turned bright green after a long, tiresome winter. I’d been struggling with depression for almost two years by then, and spent half of it not even knowing.
I’d spent a long time trying to fight my way out. And I remember looking up at those leaves who had survived that frigid, too-long winter. And I thought, “I’m not sad anymore.”