Valerie – Words, meaningless words. That’s all I’ll ever give.
After Emily, the loneliness felt safe. I lost all desire to seek comfort in another. I devoted myself to my final years of study and hours of undergraduate research whilst also working as a teaching assistant.
It was my devotion to myself that led me to you.
You were a student in one of the labs I taught, and you were as fatal to me as Taylor. The more I tried to push you out of my mind, the more you took over. When I noticed myself favoring you over the rest of the class I knew I had lost. An inquiry to your lab partner later and we were to meet outside of lab at her place, despite your questionable availability. Once I built up the bravery to initiate, the rest was history.
Baby steps for only a moment, and before we knew it, I had all but moved in with you, a teasing point I made on your behalf that I was more than happy to oblige with. We quickly settled into a place we felt comfortable, and it was hard at times to remember we were just dating. Our relationship was so effortless, I was able to ease your fears and cast away your doubts as far as relationship troubles, and supported healthy communication to air grievances. The few instances of trouble you had with my thoughts or actions felt like they were legitimately taken care of after we’d talk.
You were everything I was hoping for and so much more.
Shortly after I separated from Nhu-Thao, before I stopped all communication, she told me that she could never trust me or hold out hope for me seriously again. I had failed her three-strike policy by an egregious margin. Unlike me, she took great pride in holding herself to her promises, something I constantly failed to do. Despite this she said she would still meet me in person one day, and that her kids would play together with mine. After you and I talked about kids, there were a few moments I looked towards the future and thought it would be our kids that played with hers.
Until you found the flaws in my character.
The night of our first big fight, if you could call it that, is when you first exposed me for who I was. We hadn’t yet thought of a concrete plan after college that involved each other. When I received a job offer in my field months before I graduated I jumped at the chance. I ecstatically shared the news with everyone and through many congratulations I came home to you and shared how palpable the future I had planned was becoming. Your joy turned to sadness and fear when you pointed out my plans didn’t involve you. So you asked me a question.
What happens to us?
Your question took me by surprise as you had hidden your face in my chest so I couldn’t see your sudden mood change. It was obvious that it weighed heavily upon you, and felt weightless on me. I hastily told you that nothing had to change, the distance didn’t matter as long as I had you, I would remain faithful until you could join me. This offered you comfort, I suspected you thought you were going to be single before I left. But I’ve never lied to you, I’d started taking pride in my words and sticking to them again. You were no exception, I never lied to you. But what is said can hide what isn’t, for a time.
We were together 6 months before I moved to the other side of the country. After only 2 months you told me you loved me. I didn’t reciprocate. You were hurt so I told you that I couldn’t just toss such heavy words around anymore, I’d done so carelessly in the past and hurt many people I had held dear doing so. I reassured you that if you heard those words from me there would be no doubt I meant them. You appreciated my sincerity and willingness to stick to my beliefs. Thank you for that praise, I hadn’t felt I’ve deserved such words for a long time. You told me you loved me again before I moved. I reiterated what I told you before.
After I moved I told you that the greatest strain between us would be my horrible long-distance communication skills. That my narrow, one-track mind had a hard time keeping up with people and events that don’t make up my immediate surroundings and routines. I did my best to keep up with your texts and to call you once a week. We also resorted to letters as they felt more genuine. You were never hard on me for my downfalls, instead you used your disappointments in me to both rally yourself to do better, and to embrace that I wasn’t perfect. I never told you how much of an angel you were for that, perhaps if we both had been harder on me it wouldn’t have been so one-sided.
I finally felt freedom with that job, I lived with a very active roommate and worked with very like-minded people. I had finally escaped from our home, the place I had longed to leave behind for so long, and I was caught up in the ecstasy of living. Hiking, camping, bar crawling, parties, you name it me and my new friends did it. I was so busy enjoying my new life there I forgot all about my old one. Our communication was frequent for me, yet not nearly frequent enough for you. I can’t blame you, as everyone would agree that was my fault. But that would be forgiven when you visited me and eventually the distance was no more. It was roughly 6 months after my move when you flew out to out to visit me. As far as visits go I think we both learned more about each other in that week than all our time in college.
I was an hour late picking you up from the airport. I had completely forgotten about the time change I had to drive through. As anyone can imagine you weren’t pleased with such a poor start to your vacation. You said if I really cared about you I wouldn’t have made such an error, but later chalked it up to me just being the forgetful person I am. Your forgiveness made it sting more. I tried my best the next day to make it up to you, I took you out sightseeing, hiking, to lunch, and then dinner. I finished the night by entertaining you to my newest and most favorite past-time, karaoke. I invited everyone I worked with there to meet you, they were thrilled that they would finally get to meet you, and see me perform. I could tell you felt out of place and we spent most of our time secluded in the bar. Forgive me for introducing you to everyone I work with in such a manner, I didn’t want you to feel left out but didn’t intend to overwhelm you.
When we laid down in bed that night you accused me of having feelings for one of my coworkers. I’d known you were somewhat of a jealous type, you told me so when we first got together. So when I accepted a job that had me working intimately with 10 other women and only 2 other guys you were worried. But I swore to you I would remain faithful, as you did me. Never did I make myself available to anyone there nor did I ever entertain the idea of cheating on you. I told you living in doubt wasn’t living at all and I never once thought about you being unfaithful to me, and took pride in knowing that you came to me for help when people at school pressed you for more than friendship. So the idea that you thought I was becoming unfaithful hurt me deeply. That was the maddest I’d ever been at you and you quickly owned up to your mistake. The rest of the week I spent with just you, I didn’t participate or invite ourselves to be around any of my friends, and trust me they noticed.
You were finally seeing me as I could be, how I wanted to be. I was becoming a budding socialite, constantly the life of the party when I got friends together. The polar opposite of the secluded homebody I was back home. I saw you as you were, and you met a stranger. So during your last night you revisited that conversation again. What happens to us? I gave you the same answer as before, but this time it wasn’t enough. You wanted more confirmation that if you moved to be with me, you would actually be moving to something, to me, not someone you used to know. I tried my best to convince you that I still wanted to be with you, I wonder how much of it you believed at the time, your words didn’t match your face.
Less than a month later you had finished the book-work and could finally move to finish your degree. So you brought up that question again, that nagging question I couldn’t get to leave me alone. What happens to us? There was no running this time, my previous answer had left you unsatisfied. But how could I convince you that I wanted to be with you? That if you were to move in with me, sacrifice your potential, it would be worth it? I knew the answer before you even broached the question.
Do you love me?
There are few questions that I hate having to deal with; this question is one I absolutely loathe. Worse yet you asked it as an ultimatum, only two answers would suffice; yes, or no. I saw this coming, anyone would have. It’s the logical step forward for long-term commitment between two people. But did I love you? In the brief moments after that question, I gave you my truthful answer.
I don’t know.
I didn’t have to see your face to know how much that answer affected you. You had asked for a yes or a no, and I gave neither. You refused my answer and asked me to call you back after I collected my thoughts and gave you an answer you could accept. But didn’t you already have it? It took no time for me at all to return your call and give you one, because I never even pondered the question you asked me. Instead I thought about the answer I had already given. What future could be built on an answer such as that, how can our relationship move forward when my words do nothing to me, yet everything to you? What answer could I ever possibly give after my first?
I lied to you. I told you no.
I still hold to this day that I never lied to you. You forced my hand; tortured the words out of me. I gave you the most truthful answer I could give to another, and that answer ended the relationship. Everything afterwards was a lie in my attempts to ease the suffering. Of whom? I’m not entirely certain. All I knew was that I didn’t want to lose you, when I already had. I asked you not to leave me, you said there was no way you could stay. I asked to remain friends, you said we couldn’t. So I did the only thing l could do, and let you go. When I hung up the phone, I knew I would never have you in any capacity again, you would only continue to exist how I wanted in my head, once again I had lost whatever it was I was seeking. I disappointingly felt nothing. There was no pain of loss, no pain of what could have been, absolutely nothing at all.
I did nothing for three days. I didn’t go to work, I didn’t respond to communications, I didn’t even eat or drink. I was awake, or asleep; yet always thinking. Once the moment passed I went about life as normal. I went back to work, and indulged in drinking and smoking heavily, I was chasing the high they gave me, even if only fleeting. At some point weeks later I was propositioned for a one-night stand. I jumped at the occasion, yet nothing came of it, in the end I wasn’t able to perform; I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
At the end of that year, my working season had been done for over a month and I was coasting off the money surplus I had from working but my living situation became unstable when my roommate whom I subleased from moved. The landlord wanted much more than I could afford to give until the next season started so I began to desperately look for new housing and a job. Whilst I could have continued living there, I didn’t. On a whim I asked the once worker, now supervisor of the animal shelter back in my home town if he would be willing to hire me, and he said if I could be there I would have the job. So I moved back home.
Around Christmas I had written you a letter. I’m not sure why, it was an impulse that contained no reasoning or motive, rather just for the sake of sending it to you. When you got it you texted me to reiterate you wanted nothing to do with me. So I’ve never tried since. Yet the day before I moved back to Arkansas, I got a letter from you in the mail.
That letter was the hardest thing I’ve ever read, and I still read it whenever I want to feel the reminder of just what I had given up. There are several sentences that always stick with me when the rest fade. I think it’s because they hit close to a home I don’t appreciate being apart of, but have been powerless to do anything about. You said that I hurt you, because you gave me a year of your time, effort, and emotions, and that it seemed I was able to cast those off as insignificant, that the person you loved telling you they weren’t sure they loved you wasn’t someone you felt you could be with. That I was apathetic.
Yet despite all of this, you still wrote me in a positive light, that I was the best man you ever dated. That you knew my heart was in a good place and that once you had time to consider the idea of friendship, that maybe I was someone worth being friends with. That if it was alright, you had hoped to hear back from me. Armed with this information I did what I do best.
I moved back home with my mother, and worked a dead-end job. Feeling that if there was any silver-lining to all this, I hadn’t brought you down with me, that your prospects were now much brighter than they could ever be with me. When you texted me about wanting to return my belongings you still had, I was easily 20 minutes away from you. But I had my mother do it, with explicit instructions to lie to you about my whereabouts. The reasons for that change every time I think about them, but one truth is always clear. I couldn’t bring myself to see you in-person. That it could have possibly been too hard for you, it certainly would have been for me.
So years later I was still working the dead-end job, but I moved in with John, a friend you once met to stifle my loneliness. Despite our many differences I was able to live with John because of the one reason most people didn’t like him. He was an asshole, but he was an honestly blunt one. I appreciated him for it. He was the first to tell me what he felt about things and why. He thought I was an idiot for letting you walk away, and I’ve slowly come to accept that he’s was right. He always is. Years of hearing this and eventually thinking it never allowed me closure. For years you’ve periodically haunted my dreams, as if reminding me what we could have been, what I could have had if I had done things differently. It was after one of these moments that I sent you a cry for help via text. I don’t know what I expected to come of it but the outcome didn’t surprise me.
I’m sorry I reached out to you out of selfishness, It’s been so long since I’ve spoken to you I forgot how eloquent you were. The end of that conversation I was left with the reminder that any friendship I could have once shared with you was long gone, and that you thought I needed to seek therapy. Several weeks later I accepted a job and moved to Iowa where I spend so much time working remotely that I haven’t found the time to seek therapy. Though I respect your opinion and I do plan to seek help, I fear what more I’ll learn about myself, or rather a lack of what can be done.
I’ve listed a few secrets here I wouldn’t share with people I hold close. Yet alone you. But why do I still feel nothing? I always feel that something’s missing, I’m always unsatisfied but can never think why. When this feeling overtakes me and I am compelled to come here and write, to try and understand what these thoughts mean by making them physical, something I can read. Something real. The only thing I’ve discovered so far is there’s a yearning, a longing within me for something I don’t have. That this feeling has been with me for as far back as my memory goes. However, I do remember a significant amount of time it wasn’t there, and the only thing missing since it’s returned. You.
There’s more to me than meets the eye, something that I’ve lived with longer than anything or anyone else. It was there before my unexplained mood swings as a child became known as bipolar disorder. It was there before the ostracization and home abuse turned my external outburst inwards, leading to my depression and the entity that moved in with it. It was there when I finally cast that demon personality out and stabilized my mood with better thought patterns. It’s been with me so long that I wasn’t even aware it was apart of me until its existence was suddenly, and unsuspectingly thrust upon me.
Though your existence has left me unchanged, you have changed everything I thought I knew about myself, and I now know longer know who I am, or who I’m going to be with you.
You are the biggest confession of all, and you are undoubtedly, unequivocally, undeniably me.