It hurts too much to think about the happy memories, because I know they’re never going to happen again. I try to focus on the struggles, the arguments, with the hope it will make moving on easier. Even when I force myself to consider all of his flaws, I think about how much I loved those, too, and how I wish I’d expressed that to him better while he was around.
I hate that I’m haunted by him, but he cannot be haunted by me. I find myself wondering how this happened, or rather, did it happen at all? How is it that we were together, here, kissing, laughing, talking, only two months ago, and now we’re not? Did I dream it? Was he ever really here? Have I simply woken up?
I made him a mixtape for his birthday. I had no idea what to get him. I made him a card to go along with it that said:
“Happy birthday, Peter -
I made you a mixtape.
I don’t always know what to say to you, but I know how you make me feel, which is so many things. I hope when you listen to it, you’ll feel all the things I feel, too.
He wasn’t a romantic person. His gestures of affection were quiet and simple, yet they were observant of my needs. When he read the card, he didn’t say anything. He had a small smile on his face, and he walked over to me and held me. I loved him so deeply in that moment. I’ve had trouble remembering what he smelled like. I think maybe it was something sweet… with that hint of saltiness that comes from all burly, heavy-lifting men.
A few weeks after his birthday, I took the ferry to ________ _________ to see him. When I walked into his house, the birthday card I’d written him and the mix tape were sitting in the same place they were the last time I’d been there. “Did you get to listen to the mix tape yet?” He said no. That was the last time I went to his house. I rarely ever took the ferry before we started dating. In retrospect, I think the only time I ever rode it was for when I was going to see him. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to ride on one of those again without instinctively feeling like I would eventually be arriving at his house.
When I think about the last time I saw him, at my apartment, I think of all the things I would have said and done differently had I known it would have been the last time I was going to see him. We argued that night, although the reason for the argument has disappeared from my memory. I think it was just tension that had built up over time, finally combusting from something as stupid as not being able to agree on what movie to watch. It’s hard to make peace with the fact that this was our last moment together.
I’ve felt so heavy in my heart since then and have let it weigh me down. I’m tired of my eyes being swollen from crying all the time. I really thought it would be easier for me to move on from this if I convinced myself he was dead, but all it does is romanticize a remarkably unromantic relationship.
As for the “love notes”, it was just one little post-it that said “I LOVE TAMARA” because I asked him to demonstrate his handwriting, and he asked me what he should write. No clothes either, except a shirt he outgrew and had completely forgotten he’d given to me. Such small things that meant everything to me, while the birthday card I wrote him was probably tossed in the trash long ago.
I thought his gestures of affection were quiet and simple, and observant of my needs, but I never understood why he would squirm anytime I touched him. He usually humored me, but always made it a point to tell me how obligated he felt having to simply hold my hand in public. He never listened to the mix tape I made him either. It was a quiet enough gift to feel so incredibly sentimental to me at the time, but simple enough to convince myself now that it was just a piece of shit gift.
In a way it does feel like he died. It doesn’t seem like the person I was in love with exists anymore, but perhaps he never existed at all. The last time he contacted me, he told me he missed me and thought about me, but needed to think things over. Four days later, a seemingly disconnected phone line and a social media profile that has apparently vanished. There was never a goodbye or an explanation; he truly ceased being in my life. I find myself shaking my head during the day, in a way that says “Damn, how did I let this happen?” I’m fascinated by the prospect of caring for someone so little that you can actually make yourselves completely disappear from one another.
It still hurts, obviously, but less because I miss him, and more because I’m disappointed in my judge of character. I willfully opened the gates and welcomed harm. I’m beginning to learn the benefits of bitterness while suffering the repercussions: Skin thickening, heart hardening.
I never liked riding that fucking ferry anyway.
Written by: Rebecca Lee
Photograph by: Marshall Blevins