When you walked into the party last night, nothing happened.
My world did not shatter. The wind was not knocked out of me. My heart kept on beating, steady.
I pretended I didn’t see you for as long as I could manage and continued to talk with a few friends. I caught a glimpse of your partner—radiantly smiling—and the person in your Facebook photos became real.
My bones and skin and heart and self stretched to accommodate this new reality. After uncomfortable growing pains, my body-mind settled into this world in which you and I are nearly strangers and you are happily partnered and in love with someone else.
I wanted to tell you that I feel no resentment, no jealousy, no regret. I wanted to tell you who I am now. I wanted to thank you for helping me learn how to love myself and others more fully.
When it was time to say hello, I awkwardly hugged you both. I gave myself no time to feel your skin against mine. The frame of your body—its volume, its shape—did not register. You didn’t feel familiar or unfamiliar because I didn’t feel you at all.
I wanted to tell you that even though I couldn’t feel you, it was good to see you. I wanted to tell you that in the years since we last saw each other, all hard feelings have transformed into unconditional love for you.
Our love was tumultuous in the way only first loves are—the way that rules our happiness and becomes the outlet for our tireless angst. My ego was wrapped up in that seemingly endless cycle of pleasure and pain. My whole being was riddled with landmines of jealousy, possessiveness, ecstatic happiness, secret joy, and hidden torment. Any effort to love you risked emotional suicide. And we kept returning for more.
I wanted to tell you I forgive us both.
Since then, I have learned to love differently. I have learned that to love does not mean to possess, and to be loved does not mean to be possessed. I have learned that love is a dance animated by unceasing compassion for oneself and the beloved, not an object to be attained or a goal to be achieved. Not a static state of being but a fluid process of relating.
I have traveled the world, which has compelled experimentation with different types of relationships; some all-consuming flames whose only remains lie in scars on my retinas, others soft tides that subtly shaped my contours. I have left young loves still ripening on the vine, and sipped the fermented medicine of others on long nights alone.
I wanted to tell you about the risks I’ve taken that have cracked me open, the joy that I’ve experienced, and that I’ve hurt. That I’ve made myself stronger—more resilient and more awake.
Just before the party ended, we found ourselves face to face in the hallway.
I said hello and kept moving, the silent blip filled by the ineffable things I wanted to say to you. My sturdy thighs didn’t quake as I sent you my love and walked away. In my steadiness, I accepted parts of me without wondering if they had your approval.
As you left, I said goodbye without wondering how or when I’ll see you next, trusting that while I’ll never say these things to you, you’ll come to know them with time.
Author: Kelly Klein
Image: 500 Days of Summer (2009)
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren