This ache is a different kind of pain.
It is the ache of the love that almost was. You feel it in the depths of your soul, rattling in your bones. Your heart squeezes in time with your stomach as you see your almost-perfect love walk away.
The first time you met, you were both too young to know that what you felt was real and not easily duplicated, so you handled it carelessly. That early love was bruised like an overripe fruit by rough hands, and you set it aside, thinking leaving was best.
But, you carried her photo tucked away in a box and she carried your name echoing in the chambers of her heart. Life moved on and you moved on and a couple of marriages, babies and divorces later, you found yourselves sitting together in a coffee shop feeling as though no time had passed at all.
She’s still as beautiful as you remembered, but more elegant and refined. In her eyes, you’re still the most handsome man she’s ever met, but now your boyish smile is that of a man. Your knees brush under the table, and you both feel that same electricity you felt the first time you met, so many years ago—and what else is there to do but succumb.
It’s beautiful. It’s everything you’ve always wanted. You close the door to the world and get lost in each other for a while before the reality begins to set in.
You know that this feeling is just as special—and it’s still just as unique and you could love her forever—but you’re still a little unsteady from the hurricane that life just handed you.
You hold her loosely, and then you let her go. As she walks away from you that last time, you want to grab her, pull her back and never let her go, but you know you’re not yet the man she needs and the man she deserves so you watch her leave. You don’t know that she held her head up high to keep the tears from spilling down her cheeks. She doesn’t look back because she might change her mind and never leave—but she knows that the time isn’t right and the right person at the wrong time is just as bad as the wrong person.
You both live your lives, not allowing yourselves to wonder, “what if?” The pain first feels like a sharp knife digging into your heart every time you breathe, but becomes a dull ache that you can almost ignore. Just like the old photo you carry in a box, you’ll keep this ache because that’s all you have left of her.
She still hears your name in the pause between her heartbeats. She may even wake up occasionally with your name on her lips and reach over to the empty bed beside her, wishing she’d find you there. You still feel her fingerprints etched into your skin as though she branded you with her touch.
You both live your lives with an ache that you can’t quite explain to others and can’t quite understand yourselves. It’s the ache of the star-crossed lovers whose love almost was.
It was almost perfect. It was almost just right. It was almost yours.
You don’t allow yourself to think about what might happen in the future, because that unfulfilled hope might be more than you can bear.
So you think to yourself, “maybe next lifetime,” and you blow her a kiss in your mind. She feels you in the wind and in her bones and whispers back, “maybe so.”
Author: Lisa Vallejos, PhD
Image: Suhyeon Choi/Unsplash
Editor: Toby Israel