I just want him to kiss me, and then kiss me again, and then everything will become very clear to both of us. Aha! he will say. I forgot! I do love you!
— from Until the Real Thing Comes Along, by Elizabeth Berg
Today I did the one thing I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do. I told my Might Have Been boy that I can’t be friends with him right now. Since the talk last week, we’ve IMed at work almost constantly – it’s amazing that we get any work done, actually – and we rode the train together Monday like normal. I was doing ok, mostly. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but there was something in the back of my mind that wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, really, until last night.
He came in early yesterday, which is unusual for him, so we got to ride the train home together again. We were standing on the platform, talking as usual, and then he pulled out his phone and started texting her, joking that for once he’s the one bugging her about when she’s going to be home (yes, they live together now – did I somehow forget to mention that?). I immediately disengaged – I looked away, turned my head, and just generally couldn’t even fake it. He asked if I was ok, and I lied and said yes. We attempted to make more small talk, but by the end of the ride, we were totally silent and I was near tears. He asked if I was ok, and this time I said no. He asked if I needed to talk, and I said, “It’s not going to change anything.” He nodded, rubbed my arm, and just sadly said ok.
I cried all night when I got home yesterday, because what I realized is this: where before I felt like the best version of myself when I was with him, now I feel like the version of myself that is trying to do whatever I can to make him choose me. I’m doubting myself where I never did before – am I smart enough, do I look cute enough today, am I being agreeable enough to make him change his mind. And that kills me. I know his staying with her isn’t about me, but some part of me thinks there’s something in ME that’s lacking, and that if I could just figure out the right thing to say or do, everything would fall into place.
So I wrote him a letter. That’s what I do – I’m so much better in writing than I am in speaking, especially when my emotions are so close to the surface like they have been this past week. There’s no way I could say this stuff to him without completely breaking down. Because the truth is, not talking to him, not spending time with him, is not what I want at all. It’s a thing that doesn’t even make sense in my head – I’ve talked to him nearly every day for 9 months, and the longest we’ve ever gone without talking is two days. I can’t begin to understand how not to be friends with him and the thought of it breaks my heart. But, after talking to two people who know me well and who I trust very much, and who have gone through similar things, I’ve come to understand that this is the way it has to be.
We didn’t talk all day at work today until I IMed to tell him I had the letter just before I left – an hour early because I just can’t keep it together (though I will say that you’d be surprised at the number of tasks you can complete with tears in your eyes, as long as your office door is closed). I went down to his office on my way out – he didn’t look as bad as I did, but he didn’t look great, either. I handed him the envelope and he asked me if he should hold it for a few days in case I change my mind. With my voice breaking, I said, “I’ve already changed my mind 100 times.” And that’s true. All day I kept going back and forth, and right before I told him I had it – the point of no return – I thought to myself, if you feel this bad about it, why not wait? But there are things in the letter that he needs to know, and I know that it’s not going to get better if I wait, it’s just going to get worse.
I knew I was in big trouble last night when I was writing the letter and in my head I accidentally called him J, because I literally spent YEARS trying to say or do just the right thing that would make J realize how much I loved him and that we were perfect for each other. And I knew that I needed to give him the letter sooner rather than later, because at this point in my life, I just don’t have that kind of time to waste.
But I’m miserable. I don’t have any idea what life without him in it as my friend is going to be like. It will probably be less funny and have fewer smiles for a while. And apparently I’m on the heartache diet these days – I can’t really eat, which is unusual for me. My plan is not to actively avoid him (that’s easy enough as it is – the nature of our jobs and the set up of our offices makes it so that I can go days without seeing him), but just to not seek him out. I don’t know how long I’m going to last, honestly. He’s the one I always want to tell everything to – how am I supposed to just let that go?
I rarely do the right thing for myself when it comes to men – I have a long track record of figuring out what they want and trying to mold myself to fit that image. That’s no good, though, because if you win him that way, you’ve lost yourself. If I changed, and he left her to be with me, that wouldn’t be honest, and it would never last. And it’s not fair to ask him not to talk about her – if we’re friends, those are the things friends talk about – but I just can’t pretend it doesn’t hurt me to hear it. So walking away, that’s the only option, right?