When you left, when you finally walked away from what was never going to work, I noticed something happen. Something strange. I started to feel like myself again. It began slowly, cautiously, but then like a torrent of water pouring down a dried-up waterfall; I could feel all the pieces of myself come flooding back. I didn’t even know they had gone missing.
I guess I was too busy twisting myself into whoever I needed to be to make you stay to notice.
I’d been single for almost three years when you emerged from the ocean and unexpectedly caught my eye. The attraction was instant. It was soulful. I hadn’t felt this way in a long time. You turned, not only my head but also my heart. But it was more than your bronzed body and curly black hair that captivated my attention. It was as if, just by looking at you, I could feel you. I smiled. You smiled back. It was on.
I suspect parts of myself began vacating the scene on that first night we hung out together. You were talking to a friend on the phone who you were supposed to be meeting up with later. You wanted to stay with me instead so you came up with some elaborate story which you delivered to your friend as to why you couldn’t make it. When I asked you why you felt the need to lie you mentioned it was easier than telling the truth. Lying is easier than telling the truth? ‘Besides,’ you added. ‘They’re just white lies. I’m not hurting anyone.’
I remember thinking if you can lie so easily to a close friend, you will lie to a girl you just met. I told myself that it didn’t matter, that I was bigger than someone else’s values and choices in life. Plus, I was having so much fun with you I didn’t want to let a little thing like honesty get in the way of what could potentially be a beautiful thing.
I didn’t hear or notice the silent footsteps of that piece of me, the one that values honesty and integrity, quietly slip out the back door.
As the weeks went by, more parts of myself left. The physical chemistry between us was so intoxicating, I desperately wanted to make it work. I began apologising for things that appeared to upset you and avoided talking about topics you weren’t comfortable with, which was mainly anything to do with emotions. I even promised that I would ‘tone myself down’ in my attempt to draw you back after you disappeared for a few days. Yes, I actually uttered those words. And in that promise, another part of myself made another hushed exit.
Of course, it was never going to work. Not as anything serious or long-term. Although I kept pretending, hoping. Finally, a bout of illness brought on by the relationship forced me into admitting what I didn’t want to admit.
This relationship wasn’t right because I wasn’t right. I wasn’t myself.
My emotions were bouncing all over the place like a yo-yo while my thoughts were on spin cycle. You told me that I was giving you mixed messages. You were right. I’d become so confused and unsure about everything. I lost my equilibrium. As a result, I was floundering.
It was unexpected. The insight came out of nowhere and hit me between the eyes. I couldn’t go on like this. I couldn’t stay in a relationship that clearly wasn’t right.
Not because you were wrong, but because you weren’t right for me. I still hadn’t recognised the gaping holes in my being where the parts of myself that had left.
All I knew was this relationship was taking me down a path that wasn’t my own. I needed to look after me instead of caretaking you. So when I was done, I made sure you were too.
At first, I sobbed, feeling a kind of gut-wrenching loss, although I’m not sure whether that was over you or me. After all, I’d lost myself too, and now there were no more distractions to disguise this fact. I drifted off to sleep, and when I woke a few hours later, I felt different. I felt relieved. ‘Thank god that’s over,’ was my first thought. Not because I didn’t enjoy our time together, I did. But because I was exhausted from trying to be someone other than simply who I am.
Slowly those missing parts of myself began to weave their way back into my being, nestling themselves against my chest and settling back into their rightful place.
I welcomed them back, one by one. ‘I didn’t even know you were gone,’ I said to Honesty. ‘I know,’ Honesty replied. ‘But I’m back now. I was always coming back; it was just a question of when.’ Yes, I’d also been lying. To myself.
I thought that after you were gone, I would miss you. And I do. A little. But not as much as I missed myself.
First published on Thought Catalog