He didn’t come home last night. I walked in and expected to see him on the couch, his bed for the last year or so. But he wasn’t. His blanket was gone. I peeked into the bedroom thinking maybe he snuck into the bed for comfort. It was empty. He wasn’t coming home tonight. I felt angry at him. Not even a text to say he wouldn’t be home. I try to shrug it off and go to sleep. It takes me a long time to fall asleep and I don’t sleep well through the night. When I wake up in the morning he is home. I give him an appallingly dirty look and don’t say a word.
Clearly I’m still mad at him for not telling me he wouldn’t be home. I hide my bare breasts when I come out of the shower, something I’ve never done before around him. I feel like I don’t want him to see me naked, that he doesn’t deserve to see me naked anymore. Is this my way of punishing him? He leaves. I get a text later commenting on the look I gave him. ‘We need to talk’ he writes. We go back and forth throughout the day about what happened over texts, never a good idea. All I want from him is an apology and an admittance that he should have texted me to let me know he wouldn’t be home. I wasn’t mad that he didn’t come home, I was simply mad he didn’t have the decency to tell me. I can’t ask for that though, I can’t voice that explicitly, for some strange reason. It would be giving him too much; he should figure this out on his own. Things feel like they are spiralling out of control. Things feel like they are about to get volatile between us. I don’t want this. I thought we could be civil, could be mature, could be friends… was I wrong? I feel more angry as the day goes on, and I can tell, so does he. This is going to be a bad talk tonight, I can feel it…
I come home after work and immediately notice that he had packed everything. All of it. He had several things packed before, which was understandable- he was moving back to Regina at the end of the month and had to ship his belongings home after all. But this was different. His toothbrush was gone. He had an overnight bag. The closet was empty. His shelf on the medicine cabinet was cleaned out… The weight of my decision to break up was now finally bearing down on me. He didn’t leave town until the end of the month, nearly 3 weeks from now, so I hadn’t really thought about him actually leaving until I saw the void that was left in our apartment that evening after he had gone through and removed himself materially from our life and home.
I spent nearly a year internally debating this decision. I spent a year fighting with myself over whether it was the right decision. I spent a year convincing myself I had to do this, I had to let myself be happy again, I had to let go of this stagnant relationship that had become draining in its absence of romantic love. That is not to say we do not love each other- we do, so very much, so profoundly and deeply. But I love him as my best friend, as my brother, as my family- not as my lover, not as my partner. The passion we once had was gone- the romance was gone, the attraction gone. We were left with a deep respect and fondness, and a terrible sadness of love lost.
I gazed around again as I dropped my bag at my desk. I thought we were going to talk about this tonight, I thought that’s what the talk was to be about, but it looks as though he has made his decision. He couldn’t stay in the same apartment as me these next few weeks. I knew he was having a terribly hard time, but I didn’t expect this so suddenly. He must have used his lunch hour to frantically pack everything in sight. Did he do it so that I would see it when I came home? Did he do it to prove a point? Did he do it to try and hurt me? He came through the door a few moments later. We said hello and made small talk as I put some of my things away. “Let’s get this over with’ he says. It hurts. But I know he is hurting so much more. I’m a little angry all of a sudden. I do that sometimes. Put on my face of anger to hide my pain. I sit down on the far end of the couch, he on the opposite end, with a pile of empty hangers from his packing teetering between us, a hard reminder of the sudden loss of all things ‘him’ from our home. He begins to talk. Most of our talks these last few weeks have been him talking and me listening, for the first time in our relationship. He needs this; he needs so desperately to talk. It’s so beautiful to see a man I love so deeply finally open up after so many years. I wish with a sad nostalgia that he could have opened up like this when we were together, when we were still fighting for us. But I still feel a sort of pride, a happiness for him that he has found his voice at last.
I can tell he is angry, like me. We are suddenly just two angry people, sitting at opposite ends of a couch, seething at each other- broken up, broken down, broken. I let him talk, I know he needs this. He tells me he needs to be selfish, he needs to do this for him, he can’t think about me anymore. He needs me entirely out of his life. He’s taken me and all my friends off facebook. He doesn’t want me to text him, he doesn’t want to see me. He is leaving tonight. Maybe we can say goodbye the day he leaves, but maybe not…my throat begins to close up. My eyes begin to water. My heart is hammering. My mind is crumbling, confused, lost. I have been so strong these last few weeks; I have been a foundation of strength for both of us. I have stood through the broken mess of us like a pillar- holding it all together. But his words were a hammer, collapsing my resolve, crumbling my strength beneath them. This man I loved so deeply, for so long wants nothing to do with me anymore. I still want him in my life so badly, and here he is, telling me that I must vacate his heart and his life entirely.
It broke my heart.
But I understood. I more than understood. I have been in his shoes. I have knelt, broken, before the alter of heartache and poured my soul and my tears as offerings into its enveloping embrace. I understood the need to have his life cleansed of me entirely. That was the only way for me in past relationships to move on, was to remove that person entirely, from every aspect of my life. I’m starkly reminded of one of my favourite fims, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ – A doctor creates a treatment that completely erases a person and all of your memories of them from your mind. It’s a treatment for broken relationships and hearts. I remember being in the violent throes of despair and wishing for nothing more than to have that person completely erased from my life and my mind. How I wanted to remove them from my mind like nothing more than a toxic tumor, because that’s what they felt like- every thought of them sent scorching pain through my entire being.
So while I sat there, feeling the crawling cracks on my heart begin to fissure here and there, I told him I understood. I embraced the pain of those bubbling fractures meandering on my heart, knowing that he was enduing far worse than I was. I had to be strong for him. I had to let him do whatever he needed to in order to ease his pain. For I have been there, I have felt that pain and there is NOTHING in this world that can compare to it.
But I could not stop the tears. My throat was strained to the point that I could no longer get words out. I was holding back the sobs, imprisoning them inside me. The tears were pouring down my face, silently as I won the battle with my clenched throat. I didn’t mean for him to see my let my guard down, to see me cry. I wanted to be strong for him. But I couldn’t hold the pain the finality of his decision to leave that night was inflicting on me in any longer. And yet… I think him seeing me in pain changed something. I felt it in the air; something shifted. The anger was dissipating from both of us, like smoke floating up and away, leaving the air between us clearer than it was before. Now there was sadness, hurt, pain, confusion.
I shifted around on the couch- I was trying to tuck my feet under me, they were freezing. He looked at my, and said ‘your feet are cold’. It wasn’t a question. He put his hands out. I looked up at him and said ‘how did you know?’ he said, very simply ‘I know you’ with an intimacy so deep it clawed its way into my soul. I stretched my feet out into his warm, waiting outstretched palms. He took my frigid feet and warmed them as he did so many times over the years. Something happened in those few moments inside of me. Something began to break. Not my heart, that was already broken, but my resolve. My resolve to be strong, to be okay. My resolve to not feel this heartbreak.
The pain in my throat was becoming unbearable. I felt like I was being strangled, holding back those sobs that demanded to be released. I could tell something changed within him too. His resolve to be strong, to be angry, to be selfish and care only about himself was breaking down too. His face changed. His voice changed. It all became softer. He said he has to leave. But if it’s too hard for me, if I am hurting, if he needs me to come home he will. He said still wants me in his life.
And that was it- those few selfless words broke me down. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. My chin quivered uncontrollably, my eyes pressed hard together, my fists balled tightly. I covered my mouth and sucked in air violently as the sobs finally broke lose. I couldn’t hold it in any more. I cried, I sobbed, I bawled. It hurt so much. But it felt so good.
He threw all of the hangers, standing like a barricade between us, to the floor, grabbed me and pulled me onto his chest. I eagerly came to him, desperately threw my arms around his familiar neck and let it all come out, all the pain, all the sadness I’d been holding in for so long was free at last. He held me and we cried together, shaking, sobbing, clutching fiercely to this moment of shared agony and release, clutching to each other. More was said in those moments of embrace than in all the talking we had done over the last month.
I had been this stone faced solider for so long. I ended things with him, and I cried terribly the night I did it. But I didn’t let him see more than a few tears that night. I felt completely fine the next day. The following day I couldn’t keep it together, I cried on and off all day. And by the 4th day I felt nearly healed. I wasn’t sad; I was embracing the relief and happiness from the break up. This is what I wanted for the last year and now I had it. I surrounded myself with friends and yoga and good food. I was so busy I was hardly ever home other than to sleep.
I felt like a wolf, the most social of creatures, who had been caged for too long, had been locked alone with no companions for years. I do not blame Travis for this in any way. I let myself be pulled away from my friends into the security of an intimate relationship; I crawled into the comfort of our relationship and expected it to fulfill all of my needs. He was my best friend; I enjoyed spending time with him more than anyone else, after all. It was so easy with him, there was no effort.
I was always known as the most social butterfly of my friends, always needing a constant supply of friends and companionship, always seeking out new friends, and nourishing relationships with the existing ones. And with Travis I just dropped out of the world entirely and expected him to replace it for me with just himself. Expected him to be my whole world. And for a while he was and it was wonderful and all I needed and wanted. But as time passed it wasn’t enough anymore. But he tried so hard… he wanted nothing more than to make me happy, to see me happy, even at the expense of his own happiness. Even writing this now is hard, to know I’m leaving a man who always put me first, whose goal in life was to make the woman he loved happy. But how could one person replace an entire network of friends? How could anyone be expected to fill those shoes? While he tried his best, and succeeded for a while, eventually it wasn’t enough for me. I hadn’t realized it, but I had become slightly antisocial after our years together. I had anxiety about being in groups of people I wasn’t very familiar with. I used to thrive in those situations and they had now come to terrify me.
And so when I ended things, that caged wolf that I was, was released back into the wild among her pack, and oh how I thrived! I was so happy to be home, to be back to my old self. I savoured the late nights, the variety of plans, the new people I was meeting. And this is how I coped. I immersed myself entirely with people, friends new and old, and kept busy- so busy I couldn’t think about the break up, or about Travis or about the fact that the last four and half years of my life had just ended. That I would soon say goodbye to the man I thought I would marry. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my way of coping was simply not to think about it. To push it to the back recesses of my mind and ignore it until it’s time to really face it- when he leaves town at the end of the month. Why would I think about it now, and make myself miserable for two months? I didn’t consciously make this decision at the time, to ignore it all, but in retrospect that is exactly what I did.
And so when I came home to seeing his bags completely packed, the closet empty- and when I heard those words from his mouth, about not wanting to talk to me or see me, his need to cut me completely from his life, it finally made it real for me. This was the end. He was leaving, maybe not from the city for a couple of weeks, but he was leaving my life entirely. I could ignore it no longer. I had to face the end of us at last.
I had felt such guilt over the last month… how could I be so okay, and he be so heartbroken? How could I go on with my life, happier than before, run around with friends, like nothing was wrong, when the man I loved for so many years was emotionally dying at my feet? I struggled with this guilt and I justified it to myself that I had dealt with this all a year ago, I had been miserable for a year. I had already dealt with it. But I hadn’t. I hadn’t come to terms with the fact that it was truly over. I spent a few weeks riding the high of the relief of ending it, of finding the courage to do it. But that talk with him forced me to face reality. This was the end. We were over. He was leaving.
Travis is such an amazing person. He is so selfless, so loving, so kind and generous. He has been through hell and back this last month, a hell I’m all too familiar with after 3 heartbreaks in my life. He hasn’t been eating, he hasn’t been sleeping, he has no support system, no family here, he hates his job, hates this city- I am the sole reason he is here. He moved across the country for love, for me. He has anxiety, his heart aches, his chest pains him, he feels like his heart may literally just explode, he gets cold sweats, his mind tortures him every waking and sleeping moment. All the while I am out having a good time with friends, finding my old social self again, as he drags through each day miserable and angry, depressed and broken, wanting nothing more than for us to be okay, for none of this to have happened. Every day is agony for him. And yet as we sat on the couch, him telling me he couldn’t stay in this apartment and be reminded of me at every smell, every sight, every feel of every thing around him, he thinks only of me and my wellbeing. How can a man be so selfless? How can he love a woman so much that even though he is in absolute agony, he puts it aside and reaches out to comfort her? To make sure she’s okay. And I am letting him go. This wonderful, loving, beautiful man that wants only to make me happy… I know that memory will haunt me forever…will make me question my decision forever. He has not begged me back; he has not tried to hurt me in return. He has been so mature, so honest, so strong and so selfless. It reminds me of why I fell so hard and so fast for this man.
That night brought us so much closer together. I can only hope these next few weeks pass without conflict and we came become even closer still. I love this man. He was my world for over four years. I know he is special, I know what we had was special. I normally don’t want my ex’s in my life, it usually ends badly. But I want Travis in my life for years and years to come. I want us to continue to be the best friends we became in the end of our relationship.
But it is so hard to say goodbye. I find myself already, only 2 days later resorting back to trying not to think about him leaving town. About the fact that I may rarely see him again. I’m lucky in that he lives in Regina, where all of my family lives and so when I visit them I can also visit him. But what if he gets a girlfriend who doesn’t want us to be friends? What if he agrees to this? What if he ends up cutting me from his life completely? What if he changes his mind and wants nothing to do with me anymore. What if he tries to hurt me in return? What if he or I move somewhere far away and I never see him again? These are all things I have to come to terms with when I say goodbye to this wonderful man. All of this breaks my heart. But I have made this choice and we both know it is the right choice. We were not happy. We were dragging each other down in our shared misery, pretending it was okay. It was time to end things, but it still hurts.
It brings me back to the words I came to live by, the philosophy that got me through so many dark times, words I found in a terribly boring philosophy class. While struggling with the concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic philosophic values, I read from Plato’s Republic the following words, which Plato quoted from Homer’s Odyssey: “He smote his breast and thus reproached his heart: Endure my heart! far worse hast thou endured”.
Nothing hurts like a broken heart. Nothing hurts like love lost. And nothing heals these ailments other than time. So I will wait, I will let time pass and I will endure. And I will hope that Travis can endure this pain too, so that we can both come out stronger on the other side.