When we were together I used to write you love letters on the 23rd of every month, in honor of our anniversary. Then, beautiful amorous words poured onto paper like sweet nectar. Every month, every Christmas, every Valentine’s, and every birthday when we were together you knew there would be a handwritten letter tenderly, lovingly folded into a heart hidden somewhere for you to find, with the scent of my cologne sprayed onto the paper to help guide you. No matter where I was, or where you were, my words found you and on these most important of days in the timeline of our love, you knew I was thinking of you.
Happy birthday, to the one I used to call my dear, sweet, beautiful girl.
I find the irresistible urge to write to you still, though these words taste bitter and are more like poison than nectar. They are tinged with the stain of heartbreak, deception, but not loss. I cannot feel I lost you now, like I lost you so many years ago, because I know the truth, and the truth is you were never really mine these past six months. I find that my mind is still overrun with thoughts of you, though I can no longer relish in the memories. You run through my mind with spiked shoes, and your steps are clumsy and heavy.
I want you to know that I do not hate you. I know you must think I do, and I know you would wish it to be so, for hate is so much easier to deal with. If I hated you, you would never have to worry about me. You would move on, think me a lost cause, and never concern yourself with the chaos and havoc you wreaked on my mind and heart. Hate is simple, because I know what hate is like. I have written off so many people in my life because of hate. I throw away their memory, I write off their names, I forget their face. And you, you would be excused for it all if I forgot everything. You think it would hurt you for me to hate you but the truth is hate is a poison you drink yourself while hoping it kills the other. The truth is you left me in the wake of your destructive departure and ran off to Australia. You left me here surrounded by memories of you while you pushed me out of your mind and pretended I was better off without you. That may have been true, and maybe perhaps my life will be better without you, but it does not change the manner in which you left, and the nature of your departure. The truth is you have not concerned yourself with me since you returned because you have been so focused on loving a man you convinced me was no good for you. You will have convinced yourself by now that I want nothing to do with you, that I do not want to see you or hear from you, so you will not reach out to me, let me know you are home. You will think that because I hate you I want nothing from you and this will free you to move on, forget the pain you caused and focus on the pain you feel of having lost someone you chose to walk away from. I never asked you to leave him. I never needed you to. What I wanted was to be convinced of your happiness, regardless of its source. Yet you made me a fool; you convinced me that I was still someone you wanted, that after all those years apart and all the changes my heart would still fit perfectly in yours.
I will tell you what I will do with all this hurt you’ve given me. I will tell you what plans I have for every fear, every insecurity, every feeling of doubt and insignificance. I will keep every thorny memory you have given me and I will hold it in my hand, tightly, clutching it to my heart, and I will squeeze it in my hand so hard until it burns. Until I bleed. Until my hands are pierced and feel like they are on fire. You cling and you fight and you yell and you cry and you burn with such fire from the pain that you fear you are losing your mind to it all. I will hold firmly onto every wrong you’ve done until the thorns that pierce my palm are dulled. Until the rough edges that callous my palm are smoothed out. Until the dark ashy soot of your hurt is polished and smooth and clean and pure like a pearl. I will hold onto every memory of pain until it burns into the back of my eyes and I will remember. I will remember what you did, what you meant to me, what I wanted to mean to you. I will take all that hurt to remember what love is supposed to be. I will remember so that when the time comes I can save someone else from hurt. I will bear this burden because you have taught me what hurt is and I will know it more than you will ever know and I will use that to save someone I will love entirely and completely from ever having to hurt again. I will take the rough coal you’ve left for me and turn it into a pearl for someone else.
I do not hate you. I love you. I love you like a tortured man loves the knife. I love you like
poison. And if you knew how much I loved you, how much I cared, you would be ashamed. I will not hate you. I will not be like you. I will not run away. I will love you no matter what you say, no matter how you protest, no matter what you do or who you turn to. I will love you and you will never know why or how I could love someone like you so much. I have always, and will always, love you more than you have ever loved me or anyone. It was true in the past and it was true now. Because people who love people do not do what you did to me. But people who love people do love and forgive. And I will forgive you. I will hold my benevolence and my forgiveness over you. I will love you as you pierce further and further into my heart.
You never knew me. You never got close to the heart of me. You think I am a man of hate and of spite. And I was, one time. But you were the one who taught me to soften. You showed me that the best way to get back at those who have hurt me is to forgive. Because you never expect that. You don’t know what to do with that. You don’t know how to ask or earn the forgiveness I already give you.
I am content. I am sad, lonely, lost, and in despair. But I am content. I know the purpose of this was to show me again how great love can be when it is real. I know I am a better man capable of better and higher things than what you so desperately wish me to be. I know I am capable of such tremendous and immense love as you have never known nor deserved. I know I can give of myself completely to one who would want me and would do the same.
I don’t look to the past with want. I am eager, though nervous and anxious, to go out in search of new and better and different. I never wanted the past. I wanted to protect it. To savor and appreciate its memory. To have a story for my children, and their children’s children. You tainted our story. You destroyed the garden I built for us over the years. You’ve cut too close to the stem that I fear no flowers will ever bloom where we once stood. You could have at least left me with my own little memories.
Yes, I am weak. At this point in my life I have no more strength to face you. I have barely the energy left to write these empty words to your spirit. Words you will never see. This is the story you have left me with. One of pain and confusion and loss. I have never felt so low. I have never had to throw out everything I once knew and believed in to scrape from the remainder a brand new beginning.
There are still so many questions left unanswered, but your responses would be lies and unsatisfying. Did you ever want me for me? Or was I a pleasant distraction when he could not fulfill your needs? Was I just your anchor while you battled your first year of grad school? I supported you, stayed up with you, reviewed with you, I went to your classes with you so that you would not be alone. Did you just need me when times were tough and he was too busy to take care of you? I was there with you those nights you could not sleep, when worries of unemployment and a career that just would not start kept you up. I was there for you in the broken dusk of your life but when the dawn came you realized you no longer needed me. When you were too busy with work and school and you needed someone to make you feel prioritized and to help you carry your load you loved me. But as soon as the summer came and you had freedom, you were free to leave me and choose another. Was I ever just me to you? Or was I always just a distraction, a better version of him, a supplemental? Did you not ever think of the painful subtle stab of the knife when you would recreate your dates with him through me? You took me to his places. You wanted me to do his things. Have you ever known me, how to love me? Did he wish you happy birthday. Did he remember. Were you disappointed when you realized it was a gift from me.
I bought these candies in Philly, our city, from Reading Terminal Market. You told me you loved these. And when we went together they were closed and you could not buy them and I felt like I had let you down. I don’t even remember the process of purchasing them. But I know I remembered how much you told me you loved them and how much you wanted them. Do not look too deeply into this. I don’t need your pity. I don’t want you. Don’t think I did this out of some desperate attempt to reach out to you because I wanted you back. I am not one to be pitied. My back is strong. I will carry this and soldier on. I am meant for a bigger and better love and you have given me the best that I can offer her. I know the happiness of love and the bitterness of loss. I know one to give her and one to protect her from.
And I promise you, this is the last gift I will ever give to someone who does not love me.
Happy birthday, Beautiful.
Man: 25 Loneliness: 15