I felt the unvoiced words skate across my skin, and I wondered if he could read them on me. That need, that barely restrained desire to feel his lips on mine, overwhelmed. His face was mere inches from mine, and I couldn’t look away. His eyes, god his eyes. They were warm and brown and beckoned to me. I think I nodded when he gave me that crooked half smile. Nodded to a question he never posed. The one question I longed for him to voice.
I remember looking into his eyes and feeling the world tilt. Just a little, just enough to make me take notice. He looked at me and he saw me and my breath caught. There was something in his eyes that seemed different. They changed a little when they met mine. Darkened. And yet they twinkled as if they had discovered something no one else had. Maybe they did that night, standing in the cold breeze in a place neither of us knew. Maybe he did see something special. I thought I had.
But he wasn’t meant for me. Not that night surrounded by strangers. Not any of the nights after. Not when I sat close while we watched movies in the dark halls. Not when he smiled at me from across the room. Not when I leaned on his shoulder and drifted off to sleep. Not even when he looked at me and mouthed the words “I want you.” Those words still haunt me. I hear them in my dreams, whispered in my ear. I feel his lips brush my skin as he says them. My eyes flutter shut and I wait for him to kiss me. I wait and wait and wait. Then I wake up, my heart racing and for three seconds I look for him. I reach my arm into the emptiness. I reach into the loneliness and find nothing. Always nothing.
Did he want me? Or was it a joke? Perhaps he was lonely in those moments, in the time spent away from what he knew. Maybe he recognized the same loneliness in me. Maybe I was a way to briefly ease the pangs of something missing. A means to an end. A temporary relief until he found something better, something real. Was I not real enough?
Or maybe I wasn’t her. He would always say her name in that special way. There was nothing there, he insisted. Perhaps he insisted too much. I pretended it didn’t matter. I was here and she was not, and that was supposed to count for something. I listened and I cared. I walked with him and laughed with him. I thought that meant something.
I always think it means more than it does.
Because he didn’t really want me. He let whatever might have been, whatever I imagined and wished we could be slip through his fingers. I wonder if he ever intended to hold onto it. Was there a moment of regret? A moment when he sat back, stunned by the realization that there was something floating between us? Some kind of feeling that was waiting for the right word or look so it could become something more. Did that terrify him? Appall him? Was he nervous in the midst of it? Was it a conscious choice to walk away without looking back? Was I so easily forgotten?
I wish I could forget. Years have passed and I still see him. He wanders about in my imagination, loitering at the periphery. He turns corners before I can catch him. Even in my own mind, I can’t hold onto him. He escapes, but the memory lingers. I don’t know why. If he’s not meant for me, why can’t I forget him?
I let time carve away at his imperfections. The passing years took his faults and bad habits and annoying traits and turned them invisible. All the reasons we would never have worked fade away, leaving behind only the good things. The past has blinded me to reality, and my memory has become a land of fantasy. And in that fantasy, he is all I want. Even now, sitting here with the world before me, I look back to him. Time has molded him into a man that never existed, but a man I imagine I could have loved. A cold statue that I look upon with fondness and adoration who can never reciprocate the feelings. Whose hardened eyes no longer see me.
He’s the one who got away. The one who wanted to get away. The one who saw no reason to stay with me. I still cringe at that thought. I’m not sure the passing years will dull that pain, the ache he left when he held me close, whispered goodbye, and walked away with no intention of looking back. I held no interest for him, and that hurt. That wounded and left scars.
Being wanted by him wouldn’t have made me more of a woman. It wouldn’t have made me more beautiful or worthy or lovely or wonderful. Being wanted by him wouldn’t have answered my questions or undone my insecurities. I know that now, deep down with everything I am. But being wanted by him would have filled a space in my soul. It would have given me cause to smile. It would have given me the freedom to care for him without restraint. Being wanted by him would have made my heart happy.
Was it wrong to want that? The happiness and love? The romance? Was I silly to think I could have had that with him, if only for a moment? Am I silly to think I’ll find it at all?
I sometimes wonder if I was the one who got away. Not in the way that tends towards arrogance or boasting, but in the way that bespeaks curiosity. Because I wonder if there was a chance I overlooked, a man I looked past. I wonder if there was a moment where I was wanted, truly and deeply, by a good man who saw me in a way that no one else had.
I’m loathe to think I let that slip away from me. That I couldn’t recognize it, the chance looming before me. I saw through it, longing for something else. Wishing instead for someone else, someone who refused to see me and pursue me.
We rarely consider that side, the one where we left a chance behind. We focus on what we want, what we’ve told ourselves we need to survive, and I wonder what we miss. Or rather, who we miss. I fear that maybe I don’t know what I want or even what I need despite what I’ve told myself. I cling to memories instead of allowing for the possibilities. For a reality where I meet a man who wants me as I want him.
I’m not sure what I would do with that. I don’t know if I could believe in it or trust it. Maybe love and romance are the ones who got away.
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