“This isn’t working out, is it?”
Those were his first last words to me. They aren’t as poignant, memorable, or as philosophical as the kind you see in movies or romantic novels; they still stung though. He was right. I was just wishing he was wrong, but I knew, we both did, that what we were doing simply wasn’t working.
“We had a good run, but I think you know, just as much as I do, that we can’t carry on like this.”
I needed to say something- something to break away from this uncomfortable clichéd breakup before we got caught up in the whirlwind of emotion that threatened to overwhelm us both.
“Before you say anything else,” I said, “I just want to tell you-“
I stumbled, of course I did, how could I not? Words don’t come easily for me at the best of times, but when they matter, really matter, well then it’s a miracle I don’t choke on my own saliva.
“I want to tell you-“ I croaked, “that this, what we have- had- what we had, may not have been perfect, we may not be destined to be together- not that I believe in that kind of thing- but I’m going to be forever grateful that it did- happen , I mean.”
He brushed the hair from my eyes and kissed me lightly on the forehead. He always did that whenever I stumbled nervously over my words. Then it was his turn to speak.
“I feel the same way, I am so lucky to have found you when I did, I never told you how I was feeling the day we met, did I?”
“It would have been the worst day of my life had you not shown up.”
He sighed and looked down at the cold pavement beneath our feet. I could see his breath in the air as the cold breeze swept it away from me. His ears were red, his cheeks redder, and his lips were starting to become chapped and dry.
“My ex had been in contact with me that morning, the only person I was ever close to before you, she explained in detail how much she hated me, how much she loathed me, she told me that I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to maintain a relationship, how I was vindictive and spiteful, how I pushed her away, all because I was afraid of getting too close to someone, to letting another person be so close to me that they could see who I was inside. When I got home, my mother echoed her every word, as she had done ever since we broke up. It was that day I left home, and it was that day I lost faith in relationships, in companionship.”
He placed his hand on my cheek and looked me in the eye.
“Then you came along and restored it, almost instantly,” he smiled warmly and I wanted to hold him again, even though I knew I couldn’t, “still… I suppose she was right, we are breaking up after all, just the idea of a relationship… it scares me more than you know, but if anyone could make me believe it could work for me, it is you.”
I could see his concern was genuine, and I knew that whatever that girl had said to him had knocked his confidence, not just a little, but enough to shatter it… and I hadn’t even noticed, I had been so preoccupied with my own insecurities that I had failed to acknowledge his. I needed to address his fear, if I could help take some of it away, even a little; I needed to do that, for his sake.
“If there was ever a spiteful or vindictive side to you, it is gone now, I have never seen it, I don’t ever think I will, because you are a kind, generous, giving person, and if that is what she saw in you, then she is either delusional, or she was simply projecting her own insecurities onto you, do not dwell on what she has said anymore, because you can take my word that it is all lies.” His eyes became wet; I could see he was struggling to keep his cool. “You will find someone who will make it work, you may not believe it at first, but when she comes along, you will know, I’m just sorry that person couldn’t be me.”
“I don’t believe anyone could compete with you, if I ever had any chance at a genuine, happy relationship, you were it.”
I struggled to believe that. For two reasons, first, he was beyond extraordinary, he could easily have had any girl he wished, he was good looking, funny, kind, and easily the best person all round I have ever met, and second, I was almost definitely the opposite, introverted, shy, and inherently awkward.
“If you don’t think you can do any better than me, you must have the oddest standards I’ve ever known.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, look at me!”
I took a step back and allowed him to bask in the incomparable lack of glory that was me.
“Am I meant to be seeing a fault?” he asked, genuinely bemused.
“Are you serious? Do you know the reason I’ve never been able to commit to a relationship, a serious one at least?”
“No, tell me.”
“I don’t believe I deserve one. Whenever I find a man who genuinely seems to care for me, who treats me well, and wants to look after me, I begin to wonder where it will all go wrong, where I will slip up and ruin everything, and I run away before that can happen, even though I know I’m going to be miserable and lonely, I do it every time, because the fear is greater than my happiness. The longest relationship I’ve ever had is with you, and it’s given me hope that one day I will actually be able to commit to someone the way I commit- committed to you.”
It dawned on me at that moment just how final that was. It was over, the end of a relationship, the end of an era, the end of my life as I knew it then. I didn’t feel sadness though, I had for a very short period, but then it ended abruptly, and all I felt was a kind of relief, a freedom, not just from the restraints of a commitment, I felt I had grown, I now had a new perspective on people and relationships and life… for the first time I had hope that I could be happy. Then he spoke once more.
“You deserve every happiness life can give you.”
“You deserve more.” I chuckled, a single tear escaping from my eye.
We embraced for the final time, and I held onto him tight, knowing that it would most likely be the last time. I can still recall the warmth of our bodies together; the feel of his arms wrapped around me, and mine around him. It’s a moment I wouldn’t change for anything.
“Thank you for making me happy again, genuinely, thank you so much.”
Then we parted. I suppose you are wondering why I am writing this now, why I’m reflecting on this so many years afterwards. I don’t think I realised at that moment just how significant that point in my life was, or just how pretentious and stupid we were, I felt like it was everything back then, now I know it wasn’t, it wasn’t everything, but it was certainly something. Too little value is placed on ‘somethings’, because that one ‘something’ changed my life for the better, and led me to where I am now: a husband, three children, a house, two cars, a part time job and most importantly… happiness.
And I’m certain that he is happy too, wherever he is, maybe we’ll meet again one day, I sincerely hope we do.