Wide-eyed, she will discover him hiding within some nook, completely unexpected and, at first, unwanted. If she’s anything like me, she’ll be hard and bitter, convincing herself that seeing those same traits in him somehow makes him special. That everything about him makes him special. Her father and I will exchange knowing glances, upset that this has finally happened.
Sweetie, I’ll say. You’ll eventually sit in the shower with your clothes on in the scouring heat until it smells like your hair is burning when really it’s just the smell of never being good enough. He won’t catch you because nobody taught him how, no matter how much you run. Stop looking back; he’s not coming after you. All he wants is a place to sleep for a few nights, not a home. So don’t ever think otherwise. Don’t ever turn him into your home. He will be a word you can’t quite get out of your mouth because it never stayed long enough to work its way into your permanent vocabulary. You’ll wrap yourself around the worst parts of him. The drunken 2 AM slurry scraps yanked from the fire by hands that inevitably will forget how to feel or handle meaning in any way that makes sense properly.
He will break you and you will let him; sometimes it will be too much and sometimes it will be not enough. You won’t recognize your world until you’re in too deep because your breath creates the same shape as his and you’ve never seen that before now. Your bodies will become entanglements of tattoos as you grow older and you’ll run your memories over the worst parts of him, forgetting the pieces you don’t want to see.
You’ve always wanted so desperately to be loved. Nobody was ever good enough for you. I’ve watched you turn away perfectly acceptable boys for silly reasons. They never loved me enough, she’ll say, not like he will. But I was just like you, I’ll tell her. Did you know that, sweetie? And if anyone loved you as hard as you want to be loved, I guarantee that you would break.
Yes, there will be good times. There will be “sleep with the ceiling fan on because he’s hot even though you’re freezing” nights and “no, it’s your turn to take out the trash” evenings. But things will go bad. The only castles he understands how to build are made of sand and bullshit. You will both crumble and someone will have to find a way to clean up the broken pieces so you don’t step on them when you’re trying to escape barefoot because you rushed into each other too quickly to think about putting on shoes first.
Watching him forget you will be the wall you’ll continually build around yourself. You’ll use him as an example for years, for decades. Guys in your future will know him only as the suckerpunch that hits them in the gut when they find out that you’re not capable of loving them the way they want to be loved. He will be infamous, immortal. And yes – his name will always sound like home in your mouth and sweet under your tongue. You’ll never want the dirt of him out from underneath your fingernails but you’ll still try to scrape him out. He will be dried molasses – impossible and caked, caramelized forever as a reminder of your failings and of what you can never have.
You will build castles to forget and to fail. He will slip away from you and never look back. Are you ready to watch that happen? Are you ready to handle that kind of pain? Because it’s a depth of agony that time won’t heal. It’s something that I can’t fix, honey. Even I can’t protect you from that level of brokenness.
Eventually you’ll want to point at your chest and say, “You don’t live here anymore. I changed the locks. You can’t get in. Someone else lives here now.” And if somehow he does make it past the front door again – and he will – I hope you figure out how to make it look like it’s been vacant for a while – the tv flickering static, the sheets ripped off the bed, the clock blinking zeros. I hope he sits in the middle of the floor with his head in his hands, wondering if you were ever there at all. There will be no trace of you, no signs you existed. He’ll ask himself if you were ever real. “This love was never real,” he’ll think. “She is no longer my home.”
I’ll hold her as she starts to cry. Because at some point, there will be tears. They will seem endless and the boy himself will seem endless. Everything about the situation will seem endless. She won’t be wrong. He will be perpetual and life will never be the same.
How do I tell her that it doesn’t get better? That it’s two decades after you and I’m still on medication to try and calm me down enough to pull the shrapnel of you from my throat? That I have to forgive the man I married every single day for the fact that he isn’t you? But she loves her father and I can’t break her heart; I can’t let her know that sometimes you have to settle for the concept of peace. Sometimes adulthood means giving up. The place in my heart her dad is supposed to occupy – the one with the diamond rings and wedding dresses and late night giggling sessions accompanied by cheap bottles of wine – will never be filled by him. It’s filled with you and it always will be, but he found a way to be okay with it because he searched for any slice of me that was available and held on as hard as he knew how. He understands that he’s not you and he can’t win; he just tries to talk louder than your voice inside my head. And I don’t want her notions of love to fall anywhere near that disaster. I don’t want her thinking that that’s what love is supposed to be, because it’s not.
So she and I will sit and mourn our losses together. I will tell her not to fall for a younger version of you as I quietly convince myself not to fall for you daily like I undoubtedly will still be doing. You will never leave and I don’t know how to make you. I can’t stop her from making my mistakes. I can’t stop her from being me.
Photo By: Kai C. Schwarzer