When she walked up to me at the train station, I finally understood what people mean when they say ‘she took my breath away’.
The station had a cold breeze so I wrapped my scarf around tighter. Deep breaths, okay. I was waiting to meet my third roommate and determined to introduce myself as the cool, smart, fun new ‘roomie’ (never mind that I was sixteen). To keep up that charade, I reviewed my mental checklist.
- Smile, eye contact, handshake like I’m a mature person
- Make a joke
- Be cool, be confident
- Don’t let everyone find out I’m a socially inept weirdo
How silly to think I could prepare for what was coming. When a red-haired, long-legged, Amazon walked up to me I was blindsided.
I couldn’t talk. Seriously.
For the first time, I would open my mouth and…. nada. She literally took my breath away. When sound eventually came back, my voice squeaked two octaves higher than usual.
Now that I knew this person existed, I couldn’t forget. I didn’t want to spend any more time living without her by my side.
Lucky for me, we were moving in together in two days (looking back, that wasn’t so lucky).
Within a week, we were best friends. Within three weeks, we were inseparable. We’d eat, sleep, study, and do just about anything else together. Even our beds were pushed side-by-side.
I used to be aggressively independent. Now, I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to be where she was. Her presence was intoxicating, and I was addicted. For what seemed like hours, we’d sit on the kitchen floor, I’d rest my head on her lap, and she’d sing.
Cut to our extremely confused other roommate who was just trying to make dinner in peace. Oops.
Euphoria was the glue that held our relationship together. Things were delicate. And they went sour fast.
She’d start a new fight every week. At first, I found it exciting. She reminded me of fire; red-hot, passionate, warm, but very capable of burning you. No one was safe from her explosions. Not friends, parents, teachers, or, to my distress, even me.
Shocked that something that felt so perfect could fall apart, I called my mother. She explained how the first few weeks of getting to know someone fill a void. It seems to fix everything wrong with yourself. But the effect is temporary, no other person can ever fix you. My ability to fix my lover had expired and her resentment for that was boiling over.
Her opinion of me changed daily. One day, I’d be the best person she ever met. She loved me. I was the only person she could trust. I was the only one who understands. Everyone else was an idiot. Then another day, I would become the idiot. I was the worst person she ever met. It hurt so much when all I wanted to do was worship her.
I learned to walk on eggshells. Being in the same room as her felt like walking into a battlefield. Anything could lead to an explosion. If I didn’t clean a pan right or did the laundry wrong, she started yelling. It was scary.
In the midst of messy emotions, I misinterpreted intensity for passion.
We were sixteen. How could I know better? How could I have any idea how relationships were supposed to look and feel when I’d never experienced anything as exciting?
Sure, we fought all the time, but I thought it was a sign of our commitment to honesty. I admired her spirited and fiery nature. If someone is real — no matter how ugly or uncomfortable their realness is — I will always respect it.
In a weird way, I enjoyed how hot and cold we were. Every emotion was strong and changed fast. It tore me up and turned me inside out, but oh well. I was too enamored with her to care about how healthy it was.
I can’t sit here and type as if she’s the only one who is wrong. I messed up too.
When she unleashed her anger, I thought fighting with her would make it worse. I didn’t want the fighting to continue. So I shut up. I let her win.
That was a mistake. Resentment built up in me until the pressure couldn’t take it anymore. I thought I was going to explode. I was in a constant, 24/7 state of anger.
Do you know how people fantasize about arguments in the shower? Well, I did that during every waking moment. Constant arguments played out in my mind. Even while I drifted off to sleep I thought about how badly I wanted to argue with her (I also discovered the feeling of being horny and angry are weirdly similar).
Every little thing I used to like about her became annoying. Her breathing was infuriating. The voice I used to obsess over made me want to roll my eyes and stab forks in my ears. I was suffocating.
Resentment makes me cruel. She brought the ugliest parts of me to the surface, and I hated that. I hated that I could be so cruel. I still hate that I have the potential to be that person — bitter and toxic.
For all of my youth, I’d convinced myself that I was, despite my awkwardness, a nice person. I’m not petty, like those mean girls I’d think to myself. I’m kind. Even when I get insecure and hurt. I’ll stay level-headed.
Yet I found myself ashamed of my behavior. I’d complain about her behind her back and secretly rejoice in her failures. Worst of all, when we went clubbing together, we both made a point of flirting with others. I wanted to make her jealous, but that’s a game with no winner.
I knew it was wrong, but it didn’t matter. We were still fighting all the time, and I couldn’t help myself.
I hated that resentment brought out the worst in me.
At the same time, I felt overwhelmed with guilt. I still cared deeply for her. In the dark, I wanted to hold her after a nightmare. When she cried, I melted. There was nothing I wanted more than to make her feel okay.
How could I treat the person I cared for the most, so terribly? It didn’t make sense. How could we be capable of being so cruel?
We will never be good for each other.
I don’t believe someone can be the ‘right person, wrong time’. If it’s the right person, we will make it the right time. It’s impossible to predict how someone will change in the future.
As much as we cared for each other, we brought out the worst in each other. That’s okay. I learned a lot. It wasn’t all bad- she also changed me in good ways.
I’m more confident now. I forgive people easier. I stand up for myself more. She taught me to dance to the music of street musicians, and how to make best friends with anyone on the street.
It was so painful to realize that as much as we changed each other, we’ll never be able to change enough to make it work.
Reminders for letting go of a love that isn’t right for you
- You were probably toxic for them too
- You’re better off without each other
- You have a hard time leaving because you’re addicted to them, not because they’re right for you
- You can still love them from a distance
- You can’t change them
- You’ll likely never understand what went wrong
- You will love again
- Be grateful for all that they taught you
- You won’t love someone else exactly the same, but that’s a good thing
As complicated as life is, love is just as complex. It’s not perfect. It can hurt. It can be a painful list of unanswered questions.
I’m different today. I can still love her, but from a distance. No matter how many years pass and how many more people I love, I won’t ever stop loving someone once I start.
I’m trying to learn to be generous and honest. Most of all, I’m trying to learn to be less resentful.
It’s okay to love someone for everything that they are, and still cut them off if they’re toxic. Complicated is allowed. I think complicated might even be normal.