I put my pants on wrong today because of you.
…Do you have any idea how hard that is to do?
No, legitimately. Do you?
I’m not sure you do.
Pants are the easiest thing to put on. They’re so simple. As long as they don’t cut off the circulation in your legs and make you look like an emo teenager, they’re probably the most elementary item of clothing a person could wear. If you googled “how to put on pants,” the NSA analyst collecting your records would probably double over in raucous laughter.
Honestly, probably the first thing I do in the morning is put on pants. In my Maslow hierarchy of needs, I’ve put pants before both “food” and “dental hygiene.” That says something about a person.
It’s always the first thing I do.
…After I check my phone, of course.
I put my pants on wrong because, true to form, I was checking my phone to see if you’d texted me. Called me. Showed me some sign of life. It had been three days now, and nothing.
It was never like that. Not Before.
Before, it was constant. All the time. Hell, I bet I texted you in the bathroom. I’m no saint.
Though, as it turns out, neither are you.
…They write books about girls like you, you know. The good guy meets a girl who excites him, enriches him, turns his whole goddamned world upside down, and then-like a flash- she’s gone. The kinds of books people in failing marriages read.
“Failing Marriage Fiction.” I should trademark that “I’ll Always Love You...Until I Don’t” or something like that. I’d make a fortune.
I always hated those books. I always thought they were pretentious, lazy and shitty, full of pretentious, lazy and shitty protagonists who talked like either Rhodes scholars or Cro-Magnons. No in-between.
Those books. So unrealistic.
My love life wasn’t supposed to be like that.
My love life wasn’t supposed to be some middling YA novel.
And yet, I’m fairly certain that’s what you wanted. You lived for drama. Conflict. Secrets.
That was your lifeblood, wasn’t it? Never giving anyone a full answer. Never letting anyone get close.
…Y’know, the more I write about you, the more you sound like a Soviet spy. Sneaking around the truth of something always seemed to be your modus operandi.
I realize that last sentence doesn’t have anything to do with anything. You can’t tear through it and find pearls of symbolism, or prose that leaves you quaking in your boots in awe and wonder.
It doesn’t add anything of value, considering I’m fairly certain you don’t sympathize with Communism, but it was random, and I know you always loved random things.
You never were a big fan of structure, were you? I could tell. When you grabbed me by the front of the shirt and kissed me in the dead of night behind your car after I’d known you a week. It was in your DNA to upend others’ lives.
It was evident in your plans, too—grand, sweeping affairs that always revolved around some form of adventure. Trips, expeditions, Grand Tours of Europe.
We were going to do it all, weren’t we? We’d see the world until the world couldn’t stand the sight of us anymore.
These plans never happened.
But of course they never happened. My love life’s a mediocre YA novel, remember? The plans are always doomed to fail. The lovers remain unhappy and miserable as they go on to become adults.
It was doomed from the start.
But good God, did it have to have so many twists?
I mean, come on. One reversal of fortune is okay. That’s a standard Twilight Zone twist. That I can take. But when it happens three to four times? Good Lord. Then it’s an M. Night Shyamalan-level twist. It’s too much. It was like you were testing me- seeing how far I’d go for you. But a human being shouldn’t be used as an experiment. As a test to prove worthiness.
I’m sorry. I’m digressing again.
That happens a lot whenever I write about you, it seems.
…I wish I could say I hate you. I wish I could say my friends all get together and I think, “Oh God, you remember her? Man, she was the worst. I hope she gets hit by a bus and dies.”
(Side-note: Your friends may not talk like this, but my friends do. It’s weird. I know. Let’s move on.)
Part of me wishes I would’ve burned the bridge. Used my words to hurt you so badly that there'd be nothing left of you but a puddle on the floor. Rid myself of every last drop of poison you put in me.
But I didn’t.
Blame it on that damned Catholic morality, I guess. I knew how many times you were hurt, so I didn’t want to be add on to the number of people who hurt you.
I knew who hurt you, when they hurt you, and where they did it.
I know who hurt you, yes.
But I also know who you hurt.
I wish I could l say I hate you. That you only filled me with poison and darkness and self-hatred. That you brought out a side of me that I hate. The side that stabs me in the brain with thoughts of doubt and bleakness and ignorance, all sharp as Bowie knives.
It’d be so much easier to hate you, I think.
Hatred, by and large, is a much easier emotion to experience than love. Love means acknowledging complexity, and if there’s one thing many of us don’t like being, it’s complex.
Yes, I wish I could say I hate you.
But you filled me with light, too. Things so good I’ve been thumbing through the dictionary trying to find the words to explain them.
You made me feel like I was the luckiest guy in the history of the world. You made me feel lucky because I thought a girl like you only came around once in a lifetime, and by some miracle, some great stroke of luck, you chose me. You talked about art, literature, and music with the greatest of ease. You walked like you were sophisticated- like you were born royal, but you swore like a Marine, too, and I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t love that.
The first time I met you, I felt like I’d known you my entire life.
You felt like The One. You felt like a missing piece of myself- a part I never realized I wanted or needed.
…Basically, what I’m trying to get at here is that you turned me into the protagonist of a Hallmark movie. Stereotypically speaking, I’d be the bland, unassuming white guy who falls for a free-spirited girl and, after a few “zany mishaps,” and through the help of sassy best friends, we’d end up together as the music swells and the camera fades out.
(Authors’ Note: In case I’m ever financially destitute and have to sell the rights of such a film to Hallmark, I recommend playing this particular movie as a respite from the godforsaken, nightmarish hellscape that is “Christmas in July.”)
It sounds unappealing on almost every human level, yes.
…But you know what the worst part of it was?
I was okay with being boring. I was okay with being that bland, unassuming protagonist. I was okay with being unfunny, unintelligent, mediocre.
Because I was with you.
Because I wanted to be anything for you. I wanted to be anything you wanted me to be.
But, as it turns out, you wanted me to be something else. And when I wouldn’t be that, you filled me with poison.
Maybe you didn’t even know what you were doing. But the toxicity of you spread through me faster than anything I’ve ever experienced.
And I still can’t get it out.
I know how we fought. I know how we made up, too. I remember the whole span of our time together as one collective, blurred moment- a kaleidoscope of images, a carousel of fractured memories that spins around at a maddening speed.
And now that I’ve forced myself off of the carousel- off of the constant, ever-changing cycle of inner hatred and seemingly idyllic bliss - I’m not sure what to do.
I could do what I do best and blame myself. I’m a champ at that.
I could also take the low road and blame you for everything to make myself feel better, even if it’s not true.
(Fun Fact: The aforementioned “low road” of blaming others for your mistakes is also known as the “Donald Trump Method”)
But, as it turns out, I can’t blame you. Nor can I blame only myself.
It’s both our faults.
I blame you for not being upfront with me. For not telling me full truths. For leading me on.
But I also blame myself for being arrogant enough to believe that I could “fix” you. That somehow I’d be the one to help you get past all the people who’d hurt you.
So, now. What to say?
Maybe just this:
You should know that I loved you. Or, at least, I thought I did.
I don’t when I first told myself that I did.
Maybe it’s when you told me that my writing made you feel something. That I was better than F. Scott Fitzgerald, my favorite author, and Ernest Hemingway (yours).
In her previous blog post, Vanessa said that all she has are her words.
But that’s not true for me.
All I’ve got are jokes.
Well… Jokes, and an exhaustive knowledge of random facts that would impress even Alex Trebek.
(If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a huge hit at parties)
But yes. I loved you.
And while I’ll never know if you loved me or not, I’m glad I never found out.
In an odd way, I’m glad that things ended the way they did between us.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not “over it.” I don’t think you ever get completely over anyone you ever have feelings for.
But my entire relationship with you-romantic and otherwise- taught me one fact. Something that is one of the most obvious and simplest facts of life, yet is so incredibly difficult accept sometimes.
And that is this:
Some things end with violence and explosions. With vehemence and vitriol. With flame and rage.
Some things just die. They dry up like “raisins in the sun”. They wither away slowly like leaves in fall.
Some things end with a puff of smoke. The snuffing out of a candle. Not with a bang, but with a whimper, as T.S. Eliot once said.
But no matter how they end, everything ends.
And that, I think, is the most basic part of life that I’ve now finally understood.
…Besides how to put on pants, that is.
Bell is a contributor for The Millennial Times.