Girl Meets Boy
‘The heart dies a slow death, shedding each hope like leaves until one day there are none. No hope. Nothing remains.’
-Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha
Unlike the dark rainy night Beautiful showed up at my doorstep, it was a bright and sunny day when she left me. Work had taken me all across the country, and I was spending less time at home and less time with her. I could hear the strain in her voice when we spoke at night over the phone. I felt terrible for being so distant, so I wanted to spend that weekend doing something she loved. I had hoped that going for a hike together would brighten her mood and give us some nice alone time enjoying the woods. There was something different about her that day. There was no happiness in seeing me. She was in a rush to leave, a rush to get started, a rush to be away, that she hadn’t even found the time to say hello or for us to kiss. We had been apart for two weeks.
I have to admit, hiking was not something I ever saw myself doing, and I had no personal interest or passion in it. I had no hopes or ambitions of hiking the Appalachian Trail or backpacking in desserts or canyons or state parks. I was a five-star hotel in a major city man. But I did know that more than anything else, I was her man, and I loved her with all my heart, and what passion I lacked for these activities, I had more than enough of simply for being with her.
Or so I thought.
The trail was rough and unexpected. I was so focused on catching my breath and finding my footing that I very soon lagged behind. I couldn’t find joy or pleasure in the journey or the destination. My struggle was very evident on my face. And her disappointment was very evident on hers. When we finally reached the end and could rest before the trek back, we had a small lunch overlooking the water and the trees. It was too beautiful a setting for what was happening to us.
I knew where we were headed when she started talking about how important this was for her. How she would go backpacking and camping with her ex and her best friends every year and often multiple times within the year. I could see it hurt her to say it or even hint it, and that there was pain and fear and sadness catching the words in her throat. I knew what she was going to say, I had been on both sides of that conversation so many times since we last saw each other. I saved her the pain and the shame and the indignity. I said what she felt but was too afraid to share with me, the person who loved her.
She saw her world set out in front of her, and she saw the paths that she wanted to take. In our time apart she hsad to change and grow as well, and she had new goals and ambitions and pleasures. She saw camping trips and backpacking and summers spent in hostels and tents exploring woods and out in the wilderness. And she didn’t see me. I could no longer follow her where her heart wanted to go. I was no longer the journey or the destination. Like a good sport and a good boyfriend I would go with her on local hikes, maybe I could even enjoy myself on three or four day excursions. But I would never be able to handle weeks on trails. She could either go, and spend her precious time with other people, and maybe worse yet meet someone in that manner and risk us, or she would play the role of dutiful girlfriend and stay behind, but foregoing her passion long enough would eventually turn her bitter and resentful of me anyways. She had dreams of hiking impossible trails and exploring rare and exclusive locations. Sleeping on top of canyons and applying for limited acceptance trails that would take her away from here for months at a time. I had had enough of my wild and single life and wanted to build a home and a family. No matter what, she had gone as far as she could. As far as she would.
Beautiful was, to me, the love of my life. I had made too many mistakes to think I could ever deserve such immense happiness. I never stopped thinking of her, I never stopped looking for her. By the end of it all, I knew her so well that I could anticipate when and how and why she would break my heart into a million pieces. My last, greatest act of love, was to spare her the pain and indignity of having to hurt me in order to pursue her happiness. I let her lie there, resting on the rocks, quietly sobbing as I killed myself, my chances of happiness, for her.
We drove home in silence. We didn’t hold hands getting to the hiking location but on the ride back we held each other. I realized, as we cuddled on her living room sofa, that this really would be the last time I would ever hold her like this. The last time I would ever enter this home. The last time she would ever be mine. We were tired and dirty and sweaty and hurting. Despite the pain and the tears and the sinking feeling of inevitability, we made one love one last plaintive, empty, desperate time. I really wanted it to be her. I had placed every hope and every belief in us. We cried onto each other’s shoulder in one last embrace as I left her. That night I emptied myself of love and hope and brightness, and the tears stung my face like a thousand needles.
I wish I could say her story ended there, but it doesn’t. For as much as she taught me of the greatest heights of love, it seems she was determined to also show me far I could fall.
First, a confession.
I am not a good person.
I am likely to succumb to all the same base moral flaws and shortcomings of any man.
One of them being vanity.
Beautiful always kept a diary. In fact for her birthday in college I gave her the same diary that she uses right now. I never asked her, nor did I pressure her or even insinuate I was interested, but she willingly and enthusiastically gave me the special privilege and honor to read her diary once a week. It was like being given the keys to her inner world, one that I was interested in as one who loved her and wanted to take care of her but doubly so because it was also a world I found out I inhabited. I reveled in reading about my adventures in her mind. I saw how she saw me, I counted my victories and my losses. I knew exactly how she was remembering our relationship. I was the hero in her story. No one had ever written about me before, and I loved the version of me she had created for herself. As much as I wanted to make this not about me and more about learning how best to be there for her, I found myself spending most of my time reading and re-reading every one of our interactions.
Beautiful’s voice had always been soft and light. She had yet to learn how to assign weight to her thoughts and desires. Reading her diary helped me to take a temperature reading of our relationship. The deepest, heaviest, most transformative conversations of our relationship were between me and the pages of her book. I would read, absorb, inhabit, her thoughts and then speak to her. In this repeated manner over the years I became able to anticipate her thoughts and needs. No one knew Beautiful better than I did, and my words spoke directly to her heart. I had made her heart second nature to mine, and I could read her heartbeat in her eyes, her voice, her touch, and yes, especially her words.
When we got back together, I was surprised to see how much of her voice she had found and developed. She was clear, eloquent, direct with what she wanted. I didn’t have to try too hard to know how she felt because she had learned to give of that freely and openly. Our relationship blossomed and grew fast.
I was surprised, but excited, to find out that through all these years she had kept her diary and had kept up writing in it regularly. But this time, because she was more able to speak about the relationship, and because we were different people, this was to remain her diary. It would have chronicled everything since our breakup. Every bad decision. Every failed attempt at romance. Every shameful hookup. And the story of her three year-long love with her ex. Things that were vital to her growth. Scars that needed to be felt and growth that needed to be fulfilled. And thoughts and situations and memories that she did not want me to know of.
One weekend while her family was away and we were sleeping together at her place, I took her diary and read it in the middle of the night while she slept.
Yes, there were the nitty gritty of things she did not want me to know about. Yes there were memories and stories of her with others that hurt me to read. But honestly, all I really wanted to do was to hear more about myself.
I went to the dates that corresponded with our reunion. And, I am ashamed to say, I read her diary. I voraciously took it all in like I did back in college. The words were so similar. The emotion so familiar. She told of how over the years the one thing that never changed in her life was how she felt about me. How excited she was for this second opportunity. How different it felt to be with me. Both familiar but also better. She acknowledged how different our passions and hobbies were but she was appreciative of how enthusiastically I was willing to try out her interests and accompany her on some of her excursions. She talked about feeling wanted again, feeling like a priority, being with someone who understood her so deeply and profoundly.
I broke a key part of her trust for my own vain purposes, to hear the words she spoke to herself about how much she loved me and how happy she was to be with me again.
Publicly, she also now maintained her own blog. It was primarily pictures and videos of her pet bunnies and food she made/ate. Nothing ever really about relationships, so it was just a fun read.
Until we broke up.
And then, one day, it just…poured out of her. Some sudden wave of inspiration and want drove her to write publicly and openly.
It was all about her ex.
About how much she loved him.
About how much she missed him.
About how, through everything, he was the man she truly loved, and how everything had been a mistake.
Post after post, day after day, so many beautiful and eloquent and open thoughts about him. Words she had never said about me to herself or to anyone.
And I am a vain man.
So I read them.
I was vain, and thought she would ever still want to write about me, and I hunted down her words, and I opened up the possibility for me to be hurt because I openly and willingly looked up a place where I did not belong to read the words of one who did not love me.
She had never written of me in the way she wrote of him. I never saw her weave together such thoughts and emotions when she thought of me or felt for me. I had to realize that this separation was more than just about the man I couldn’t be for her. It was about someone else who was.
I was a temporary distraction. A sample size for something greater. This hurt more than the breakup. I read all this during the day at work. I took an early lunch and raced to her home. She wasn’t there. I waited on her doorstep until she came back. I think she knew what I was there for based on the look of shame and guilt in her eyes when she came up to me.
I told her I had read everything. Everything she had put up publicly and openly for all to see about how she must have truly felt. I couldn’t tell her I had secretly read only what she could ever write and admit to herself. I couldn’t tell her how much worse it felt because the same words were there again, or how I felt like some shameful secret buried now in the greater narrative of someone else’s love story. But what I still had was enough. I knew there were times when she still missed him. I used to cringe whenever she clearly recreated dates that used to mean so much to them and purposefully avoid going to those places. I would not be a version of someone else’s love.
I just wanted to know why. Why she could say such beautiful things about someone right after being silent and letting me carve my own heart out. Why I no longer felt like myself but just another phase, a demo version of something else she really wanted. I wanted to know, if she truly felt this way the entire time, why she had taken me out of my own life to be dragged into hers again. I was living with my own failures and my own follies but they were mine and I still had hope. I never asked her to leave him. I never asked for our love again. I never asked to reopen every wound and love and trust her completely again. I never asked to be hurt this way.
I would do her no favors this time. I had no words to give her to rely on. It was up to her now to explain it all, to justify this pain. I would have taken anything. I would have accepted the misdirected and misguided anger of reading her blog and being upset at her for it. I would have accepted the tired clichés, even lies. I hoped for the truth but I just wanted to be met somewhere along this downward spiral. She had nothing for me. No words, no explanation, she couldn’t even look me in the eye. I studied every inch of her face and every curve of her body. This was not the Beautiful I had fallen in love with. She had nothing for me. Not an explanation, not an apology, she couldn’t even fully admit or own up to how she felt. This was to be the true very last time I ever saw her or spoke to her. Calling her out on her lies, telling her I never wanted any of this again, demanding an explanation. There were no sweet final parting words. No remnants of hope. Nothing to sustain anything beautiful survived between us. Our love’s still warm corpse hadn’t even had the chance to be properly buried.
Our love couldn’t barely last six months.
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