Today I wake to all the normal things. The headache and the emails that he’s been writing me. The morning, he says, is when he’s most connected to his emotions, when he cries and realizes that I am gone.
This morning he is sitting in the shadows of his room. It is raining, he tells me, and he’s been reading John Muir, a book I’ve given him. You’ve always known so well what my taste is, he writes. You’ve always known what would make me happy. I read this twice and think about men and bravery, that the bravest act is sometimes as simple as the admission of regret, the realization that you are sorry or, if you are not, the capacity to say that, too. Instead, he writes to me about himself. His taste, his happiness. What about my own? I wonder. Will he ever be brave enough to say sorry for pushing me away? No. He could never show up that bravely for me, and he would never indulge me in the selfless act of apology, let alone remorse.
His email makes me think of all I’ve ever done for him, and all I ever wanted to do. It is a reminder that, of course, I knew what his taste was, because I was always paying attention. That, of course, I wanted to give him the world, all those things that were just out of his reach. Like John Muir. I didn’t want him borrowing books from a library. I wanted him to own them. I wanted him to feel the difference: to say, this is mine. I wanted him to have something he could return to, something he could love and not hand back.
And to think that, amongst all this desire of mine to see that he was comfortably looked out for, I somehow taught him to push me away. How can the wonder of love evolve into a habit so smug, so robbed of its original intention?
My sister says that my relationship with him reminds her of the cycle of abuse. You’re in phase three, she tells me: Reconciliation. But you’ve spun this wheel before.
She’s right. I’ve been dancing in circles for awhile. That’s the confusing thing. For so much of our relationship, I haven’t been so much in love as I have been grasping for it.
Why do we do this? Why do we try to pull together something that isn’t there? For too long I reached into emptiness, imagining the grandiosity I’d come to touch would redeem me from this pathetic period of my life where I tried to lead myself blindly back into a love that had gone amiss. But nothing was left for me to reclaim. Nothing could have satisfied the feeling I held within me of all that had gone missing from our relationship.
His emails, of course, are triggering this reflection in me. But what surprises me most is how I can look back right now without grief or even nostalgia. Maybe that’s because I’ve already grieved. I grieved the relationship while I was in it. That’s why I had been crying all the time, sobbing, overwhelmed by the love we no longer inspired in each other.
Didn’t he, on some level, know that?
That I had been crying because I knew these emails would inevitably be sent to me. Because I knew that some of us only understand what we have in the moments that accumulate after it is gone. After it will never be ours again. After it refuses to return to us even as we flatter and beg.
Didn’t he know that our love was the kind you have to disappear from? Didn’t he suspect that I would eventually have to cut myself off completely from him? I always knew.
I knew that eventually I would acknowledge that staying with him had become a type of emotional abuse which I, for so long, had rationalized irresponsibly. I knew that I’d be writing this story and that he would be the man to kill off every pipe dream of mine, every tendency toward romantic adventure, and leave me aching.
I knew this story would be the last of its kind, too. That inevitably I’d outgrow the harm wrapped up in loving a man who is not brave enough to honor what he has when he has it or to say sorry once he has minimized it, taken it for granted, and turned it away.
Sometimes we set ourselves up for lessons because we just don’t believe that everything can be learnt in the shadows of our apartment, from a single book, all alone. John Muir says we never know where we must go, nor the guides we are to get— not people, storms, guardian angels, nor sheep.
Sometimes it’s not that we are even being pushed away, it’s that we are being guided toward a miracle we are yet to realize or understand. Maybe he didn’t push me out of his life. Maybe he slowly then suddenly gave me the space I need if I am to live and triumph.
And triumph, I am. I am no longer grasping. I am no longer spinning my wheels. I am letting him go without a reply.