The Summer that Stuck: Letters from Under the Skin
In our series of anonymous letters, one man on the heartbreak that taught him the most.
I think both of us knew that our summer romance had an expiration date. The only question was how rotten our togetherness would become after that date had past. We both began hopeful and both of us were hurt, and dealt with it in our own ways.
I still remember the first night we kissed. Nothing felt more right but because we worked together, we weren't sure if it was smart. We disarmed each other: no guards, no second thoughts, and no armour. We laid all of our expectations, desires, and insecurities on the table. We wanted each other, or at least the idea of them. We wanted what we felt for each other that night to be uninterrupted and undisturbed. We were worried about m moving away at the end of summer - we said we would figure it out when the time came. She worried about me wanting to be writer and I would write about her - she probably will never read this. But above every small stress or worry, we were scared how suddenly we had fallen. She was scared how she didn't think she could say, "No" to me and didn't like how it seemed we could read each other flawlessly. We explored each other until the sun rose. To be honest, that was the last time we were completely vulnerable with each other.
The answers we rushed through to alleviate our fears festered and we shuttered them away. We never confronted them again, much less talked about them out loud. We didn't fight for each other; instead we focused on building up our defenses. We stopped letting the other person in. Remembering this now, hollowness surrounds me. It sucked. We built separate fortresses to protect ourselves from the buzzer that would sound when our time was up.
Everything crashed into each other on the last big party of that summer. We'd spent the day together and went to the party seperately. She ended up ignoring me the entire night; even if we were playing the same game or talking in the same circles. She didn't want me to drive her home and didn't give an explanation. I tried talking to her when the party was dying down. She stood under a lamppost in an alleyway smoking, and when she saw me, began screaming at me to go away, to leave her alone. I did.
I was a wreck when I got back to the party. I refused any comfort from friends. When I'm upset, an overwhelming feeling of unworthiness floods into every inch of my being. I feel failure, shame, and doubt. I am hopeless. I know turning to others will help me find my footing, but I reject it. I lie to myself:
I'm weak if I ask for help. People have their own problems; they don't need to fix mine. It's unfair to ask people for their emotional labour. I'm going to die alone.
I didn't sleep that night. I'm grateful my close friends would not let me abandon them for brunch the next morning. I'm pretty sure I said all of five words the entire time I was there, but it was good for me to get out of my own head.
We didn't talk for a few days before she apologized for what happened over text. I forgave her and asked if I could see her. She wasn't ready. There was no time left. I would be heading home in a few days and she was going on a trip with a friend before her school year started. I couldn't leave things like this. Before I left I wrote her a heartfelt letter and made her a care package. It contained her favourite candy and snacks, a book I thought she'd enjoy or at least make her think, and a flannel of mine she liked to wear. I don't know if she ever read my letter or cared about what was inside the package. For all I know she threw away the entire box without opening it. Honestly, It doesn't matter now.
I texted her sporadically the next couple weeks and got no response. I finally lost my patience and asked what was going on. I wanted an answer, I wanted closure. Anything was better than silence. She texted back, "I'm moving on. So should you."
I haven't seen her in more than two years. I doubt I will ever see her again. I'd be surprised if she ever thought about me. I wouldn't be surprised if the thought of me makes her sick. This is the first time I've thought about the time we spent together in awhile. I didn't think I was worthy of her that summer. Women like her aren't interested in guys like me. This is an idea I still struggle with.
I shouldn't be scared to be more vulnerable. I should communicate what I feel, what I want, and trust that she would be receptive and give a damn about my concerns. I should trust that the people who love and care about me see me for more than my insecurities.
It's been four summers since we first kissed. I don't think about her much, but I do think about the feeling on that first night. Not because I long for it again but, because it stands as a reminder for the lessons I've learned about relationships since then. We saw everything that night - what we wanted, what scared the shit out of us and everything in between. We ignored it. We saw, but we didn't want to believe it. Love didn't make us blind. No. Fear did. Love sees all.
This is something I'm still trying to learn.
Each Post in this series is written and published with total anonymity - because honestly, we've all been this person, navigating these incomplete, crazy, maddeningly beautiful experiences together. With love.