I could feel the cracks before you could see them. We kept pouring more love on top, hoping it would fill in the gaps but all it did was draw attention to the imperfections, and before long it became painfully obvious that we were not going to find a happy ending.
I told you I was tired of jumping through hoops just trying to stay sane, but you laid out all the obstacles and pretended they weren’t impossible for someone like me. I’ve learned to be selfish and enjoy the little things now. I’ve learned to say no to boys like you.
It hurt, but I never told you. I was tired of fighting to be heard, fighting for the right to feel when all around me love appeared easy. I say I want a man who will never make me cry but what lunacy! Such a man does not exist, not now, not ever. I say I want loneliness but it feels worse than crowded city seats and I envy the girl shedding tears behind her book in the corner bus stop, how wonderful to still know what sadness feels like. I say I want to be alone but truthfully I wanted you, I wanted us, together, somewhere, somehow, but I had no faith. He took the last piece, and no matter how hard you tried, you could never fill the holes in my heart. I don’t blame you.
I used to whisper I love you because I worried it would feel cheap if you heard me all the time. I wanted our children to be more like you, idealistic, hopeful, but the jaded cynic in me saw that we were never meant for do or die. The hopeless romantic in me knew that if I held your hand, I would never want to let go. The coward in me ran.
I opened another pack of cigarettes and told myself this is the last. I said the same thing last week. Two years ago every cigarette was the last. Maybe two years from now I’ll move onto cartons. I learned to shrug my shoulders when I realised it was easier than saying no, and that day I saw you do the same, I realised survival was our instinct. I knew you would be fine without me, and I will continue to survive, but please don’t assume that it was easy. Saying no to love is not easy.
Though we laugh and pretend the hard part is over, you and I both know we have been hurting for longer than we can remember. It makes no difference that sometimes when I smile I’m thinking of you, and sometimes when you smile I remember to breathe again, because you could never give me what I wanted so I had to stop trying to fit where I didn’t belong. I wanted you to stop making promises you couldn’t deliver, because words have too much power over me. You had too much power over me. But I beg you to remember the good times, because those memories are precious, even if they’re haunted.