The Internet does not allow for the luxury of ignorance. Today every social network I grudgingly and habitually check is plastered with photos of you, the man I dated for nearly seven years, smiling at her in a field somewhere surrounded by lots of our friends who were careful not to mention the event to me. As if there was some chance I might be spared from ever knowing that it happened. Just let her sleep, they think. When she wakes up, we'll have to tell her.
You haven't spoken to me in three years.
Each drop of my blood separated into two distinct parts as I scrolled through the pictures, in bed and chain-smoking. You look so much older. Congratulations on your wedding, stranger.
The list of what has changed in those three years is too long. The biggest change, though, is that I no longer feel happy for you because I think you deserve more than what I could give you. These days I feel happy for you because you deserve something different than I would ever want to be. Your girl is lovely, Hubbell, and she's nothing like me.
When I introduced myself to her at our friends' wedding, at which you ignored me, her eyes were calm and kind like yours. I bet she likes video games and comic books. I bet she doesn't need to constantly be on the move somewhere either: a destination or a new step. I bet she can just be.
I can, too, but only now.
The day I left you in the house we owned with our dogs, way too many belongings and not enough memories, I lost every part of me, but I didn't want any of it anyway. It wasn't really me; it was the “me” I had created to stay with you, because I needed you to love me in order to feel like I was worth something. That “me” died that day, though I didn't know it for over two years.
Back then, I felt like I was coming alive by running away from you, but then the path grew darker. Narrower. The thick briars and pitch black of that first year made it hard for a long time to see which ways were passable. I bushwhacked my way through 2010 -- sometimes cowering, grabbing onto the wrong branches, trying to stand in thick mud. Sinking.
I didn't realize how much you carried me until I stopped asking you to. Not only did I not know how to handle my money without your mathematical good sense, I also didn't know how to value myself. Who was I, if not a part of what I had created for us? For those first few years, I searched for myself in all the wrong places.
I didn't do anything wrong, I know that now. Sloppy, yes. I was anything but eloquent in my exit, but I was kind. I only ended what needed ending. We weren't in love anymore, you must see that now.
That first summer we met, 15 years old and full of wonder at each other's existence? That was love. I don't know when it stopped being love, but I know that we both built walls around ourselves to protect what remained, because we were scared. Eventually, we built physical walls and bought a house together; a last-ditch attempt to anchor what had begun to drift. "At least it wasn't a baby," is what I always think, when the lump in my throat grows too big to swallow.
I deserve more closure than you gave me, and it is cruel that you withheld it, but today I give it to myself. It took me this long to realize that I was ripping out every root that tried to grow in my life to punish myself, because you wouldn't do it. I forgive you today, for years of ignored calls and email attempts at receiving an ending that honored each other.
I feel a big, awful sadness for your new wife, because she has no idea that the man smiling at her in those photos is capable of being so unforgiving. I pray she never hurts you, because you are so scared of hurt that you are capable of burying things to depths I did not even know you possessed.
My exit was the first thing in your life that ever burned you, I know that. My exit, though, was also the first time I was ever brave enough to choose being alone, and our very different reactions to those sloppy firsts was always one of our biggest differences. It was also maybe the one thing I was better than you at: forgiveness. I used to lament my painful childhood for the gouges it left in me; now I'm grateful that I know how to identify love, when I see it.
I love you, I always will.
I do not know how far down you have buried me inside of your heart, but I am sure that you could not see even see me at that wedding we attended together. I stood in front of a crowd of 150 people that day and gave a speech about love as I married our friends, and you never even lifted your eyes. Did you hear my voice shake when I said that finding a best friend in this world is rare and precious? You were mine once, but I am a stranger to you now, and for the first time I know exactly who I am. I wish you rare, precious things, for all of your days.