My mind keeps going back to him. It circles all of the love that has been in my life and it enjoys lingering on him longer than it should. I never told him I loved him, I’m not sure if I ever did. I think I could have, though, and unfortunately that’s enough to break my heart every time.

We met when we were teenagers. I was living with someone else but I could feel him becoming infatuated with me. I would stall going home so we could spend a few more minutes together. I didn’t tell him I was with someone else. I accepted his flirtations. It felt good to be wanted. I was used to feeling shamed and worthless. I could be a different person when I was around him. He was full of light and smarter than anyone I’d ever known. He was also an immature asshole who was really just trying to get laid- but he liked me. This went on for months. I remember the moment he found out I had a boyfriend. Someone else mentioned it in conversation and he abruptly interrupted her- Hold on, you live with another man?! Yeah, I do.

A few years went by, we lost touch. I signed up for Facebook and he was one of my very first internet creeps. I sent him a private message and he replied. He asked if I would go out with him. I moved out of the crummy boyfriend’s apartment but I had not completely cut the cord. I told him I could meet him for lunch but not dinner. Lunch was less guilty. We met at the Olive Garden and I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest. He ordered soup and it was so weird to me- my boyfriend would never order soup. He awkwardly asked the waitress for one breadstick to go and I remember driving home feeling relief. I could go back to my boyfriend assured- the awkwardness of the lunch date was not conducive to a real relationship. I was comfortable with my boyfriend and his normal eating habits and I didn’t have the energy to learn someone new.

A few more years went by. I traded in the old crummy boyfriend for a new crummy boyfriend. Shortly after we moved in together he abruptly left me. I was devastated and heartbroken and looking for comfort. I texted him. He was living far away now attending graduate school. He was happy to hear from me. He said I should come visit him. I booked a flight the next day. He picked me up from the airport and commented how my hair was shorter, he said he liked it. His infatuation with me had stayed. We went out to dinner and then made our way back to his bed. He told me he had wanted me for so long. He kissed me. I kissed him back. It was not like kissing my crummy boyfriend. It was unfamiliar and strange and I began to cry. He purchased tickets for a show that evening and I told him to go alone, I didn’t feel well. I spent the night crying in his bed without him. I wanted to love him but I couldn’t.

I went through the rest of the weekend as if I were playing a part. I acted like I wanted him- I smiled at him, I held his hand, I made love to him. When he dropped me off at the airport he handed me a card. My stomach dropped and I had to hold back tears. I couldn’t bring myself to open the card. God I was such a monster. I was stringing him along and he was going to confess his love to me in writing and I would never be able to forgive myself. I didn’t open it until I was on the plane in the air. It felt safer up there.

He did not write that he loved me, in fact he did not even tell me that he liked me. He thanked me for coming to visit and said what a wonderful time he had and he wished me well. Wait- what?! Why doesn’t he love me?! Why didn’t he ask me to stay?! Oh my god wait maybe now I actually do want him?! Fuck.

He came home to visit several times over the course of the next few months. We would spend time together and I would tell myself it was lovely and then it would be over and I could be at ease again. But then he wasn’t coming back to visit and I found myself missing him. I couldn’t do the back and forth anymore, I exhausted myself. I decided I had to commit if I was really interested in exploring my feelings. I booked another flight to see him. This time I would be better. I would be kind and I would tell him how I feel and I would be a normal person in a normal relationship with a not crummy boyfriend. He called me a week before I was supposed to leave. He met someone else.

I became angry at him- how could you do this to me?! What are you talking about, he replied, you don’t even like me!

I made some dumb jokes on twitter about being dumped and an abortion and he called me in a panic- was I okay? Did I really abort his unborn child without telling him? Fuck you, I said. You don’t get to know the answer to that question. We can never be together, he said as he hung up the phone. Fuck.

A few more years went by. He moved even further away- this time to pursue a medical degree. He came back home last summer. He texted me and we had drinks. He ran to me when he saw me and hugged me with such genuinity I thought I would fall over. Suddenly, it wasn’t awkward anymore. Suddenly, he was now an old friend. We talked and laughed and danced and he listened when I spoke. I didn’t have to pretend it was lovely anymore. He told me about his new girlfriend- she was beautiful and smart and infatuated with him. I wanted to apologize- to tell him I knew the whole time I was being an asshole but I didn’t know any other way to be back then. Instead I hugged him goodbye, told him it was great to see him and walked to my car. I went home and cried myself to sleep.

I texted him yesterday. He was happy to hear from me and asked how I was doing. I miss him but I didn’t tell him that. He will be starting his new career soon and I am so proud of him. I didn’t tell him that either. I asked if he remembered that time several years ago when I flew out to visit him, he said he didn’t.

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