I’m not the sort of woman to put myself out there. I don’t think I could never be that woman. Something inside of me always holds me back. A voice whispering, “Wait.” I find myself often on stand-by because of that voice. I’m not sure why I listen to it. There is nothing about it that seems truthful, or at least more true than any of the other things I hear echoing in the corners my mind. Maybe I listen merely because it is a whisper. It catches me off guard with its quiet insistence. It intrigues me. “Wait.” Easy enough. And reasonable. No harm ever came from waiting.
So I decided to let him make the first move. I waited. I held my breath. I willed him to type “hello” first. If this experience taught me anything it all, it most certainly awakened me from my delusions of having any sort of superpower. Because no matter how often I stared at the screen. No matter how desperately I begged the image of him in my mind to start a conversation, to rekindle what we had, he didn’t.
Because he didn’t know I existed. Or rather, he didn’t remember. My memory is long, spanning back probably into worlds and time periods you wouldn’t have heard of. But while I remembered every moment of our last encounter, the time we sat next to each other on a plane as I fell asleep on his shoulder, I didn’t expect he would. I didn’t want to hope that he would, because I had often watched my hopes fall to pieces at my feet.
I’m well acquainted with Disappointment. We’re old friends, and I sometimes find myself sharing stories of broken hearts and unrequited love with Disappointment as we sit on my bed, him ignoring the tears that would leave wet traces on my cheek with each sad ending. Sometimes he asks his friend Depression to join the party. I never leave my bed on those days. We make a dark trio, almost reveling in the depths of pathetic pity we find ourselves in. But I always resurface; somehow managing to climb out. There was always a reason to escape.
One day, years ago, he was my reason. One day, he reached in and pulled me out. He didn’t know he had. I never told him. Though looking back he may have suspected. I was always a little too honest with him. They tell you to guard your heart. Caution. Moderation. But I tend towards extremes. I give away everything, or nothing at all. From the that first look, that first sentence, I gave him everything. Whatever I could find was his. Part of me knows that if he had asked for something else, another piece of me, or my heart, soul, or body, I would have surrendered it. From that first day when he finally said hello, he owned me.
I was his. But he was never mine.
And it wasn’t because I didn’t deserve him. It wasn’t because I was worthless. It wasn’t because of some grand cosmic story in which we were star-crossed lovers, destined to never be together. No, he was never mine simply because he wasn’t. He didn’t want to be. And there was nothing I could have done to change that.
Of course, it was several sluggish days and sleepless nights before I realized this. Untold hours spent with my eyes scrunched closed, remembering every detail of his face, as I waited for him to come and pull me out again, to rescue me. It took many hours wasted staring at the empty walls with blank eyes devoid of care before I truly saw that it wasn’t about me. Such a trite line, “It’s not you, it’s me.” I roll my eyes anytime I read it or hear it. Such an empty excuse. It doesn’t resolve. But for some, there may be truth in it. There was for him. It was him. Something within him that polluted the chance of what we could have been.
Or maybe we could never have been anything at all. Maybe he was right all along.
The not knowing was the hardest. The what if’s that plagued me whenever his name drifted into my periphery, not daring to be fully exposed to my critical gaze. They took root and festered. I always came back to the idea that he may have been it. He may have been my one chance, my only chance. Perhaps he was my soul mate, the One of clichéd fairytales. Maybe I would have him if I had fought harder. If I had refused to let him go. Maybe if I had been willing to play along, to let go of my expectations and find a compromise, I would be with him now.
Maybe if I hadn’t waited for him to come back.
Maybe loneliness was my punishment for giving up. Because if he was my only love and I didn’t try, why should I be given the chance of another?
But now, sitting alone with my cup of coffee at a table for two, I see the prudence in waiting, in being cautious, or at least cautious enough. Because if I couldn’t bring myself to tell him how I thought I felt, then I couldn’t have been ready. And perhaps he knew that – knew neither of us would have been able to sustain a relationship. And perhaps, deep down, I knew that, too. I knew I was simply yet dramatically infatuated with him and the possibilities. Infatuated with a chance to end my loneliness. Infatuated, albeit mistakenly, with the idea that he could fix my problems. Really, it couldn’t have been love, especially when I couldn’t say it aloud, despite the risk to my heart. Maybe secretly, I wasn’t ready to truly give myself to another person, so I intentionally waited until it was too late for anything to happen.
I still listen to that voice; the one that whispers caution and restraint in my ear. I believe I will always hear it, and the impulsive, dramatic, excessive part of me needs to listen to it. But one day, the desire to take action, to share my feelings, to go after what my heart truly wants will outweigh that voice. It will drown it out. That’s the day I’ll take a chance.
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