This is for you.
You, who I loved more intensely than any man, ever.
You, who fled a scary situation and flew tens of thousands of miles to stay with your family in Canada – the same week I did the same thing – and ended up in a house just a few blocks from mine, on a bus with me, on the phone with me, in a theatre with me, in love with me. Two weeks earlier we were on two different continents. Two weeks later we were each other’s world.
You, who a year later made me wonder, to myself and to others: who is this man? Did he change, did I not know him at all, was he always like this?
Your friend M – not C – answered me: He was always like this.
This did not give me peace.
You, who gave me diamond-and-aquamarine earrings and a ring – a ring I never wore and now hangs around my daughter’s neck – for my birthday months after we parted and months into your new love.
You, who I grieved like a death.
You, who when your friend – and mine – told you he wanted to be with me and asked for your blessing, said “Go ahead. She’s crazy. It won’t last.”
We had eight years and two children together just to spite you, you know.
You, who I hoped heard how pretty my baby was so you could regret she wasn’t yours.
I’m sure you didn’t regret it.
You, who did awful, unethical, exploitative shit after we split. I mourned those acts. I delighted in them. Confirmation was comfort. I worked hard at hating you.
I had to because I loved you.
I loved your ruthless hope, your Machiavellian understanding of love and war and daily life, your ability to save, sacrifice, leverage – no, catapult – yourself from social level to level, your success-at-any-costs striving. I loved your selfishness. I loved your selflessness. I loved how you offered me every single cent you’d saved so I could take a UN internship in Zambia. (I wish I had accepted both offers.) I loved how you told me you loved me – easily, sweetly, without hesitation, often – in three languages. I loved how you ripped my red skirt. I loved how we surrendered a year of weekends to sensuality. Our hours-and-hours of ease, passion, constant connection and touch is engraved in my mind as how it ought to be, how it was only once before you – and, in the ten years since, only once after you. Even now, that is what love looks like, to me.
And so I lovehated you. For a decade.
And then you e-mailed me and asked, Was I one among many or did I stand out as significant?
How could you not know?
You were significant.
You first flooded then drowned my heart. And, battling waves, I always wondered: Did he really love me at all?
And now I know, because as a grown man with nothing to gain (or lose), you told me: I really did love you but I wasn’t ready for you.
Really, ready, relief.
So I’m glad you called, and called, and called again. Now I no longer have to hate you.
But that’s also why I won’t see you, not even for a snack or a sandwich: because, for an old-fashioned girl, lunch is a gateway drug.