I’m halfway through a fresh slurp of hot ramen, when it hits me.
In a moment, the chew and spring of the noodles, the fatty broth still luxuriating on my palette.
They fade away.
And now, I am suddenly reminded of you.
It’s not the first time. It certainly won’t be the last.
All that’s left to do is to try to stifle the grief, maybe try not to be the crazy person crying over a bowl of noodles today.
Still, the guilt wells up behind my eyes, the regret claws at my throat—raw and strained. They give way to memories of you.
Once upon a time, you sat across this slightly sticky table with its single wobbly leg. The thought of how happy you were makes the regret that much worse.
Once upon a time, we walked hand in hand in the damp, predawn gloom in an ocean of paper bibs—the smell of sunblock hanging in the air. The patter of well-worn running shoes. The air vibrating with muffled voices.
Once upon a time, I met you for the first time. You briefly met my eyes when I caught you jokingly attempting to steal my drink at an evening in an open bar.
Once upon a time, all you wanted to do was share the next adventure with me.
And as hot tears threaten to spill down my face, I shove the emotions aside and try not to think about how once upon a time, I chose to leave all of that behind.
The thing they tell you about grief is that it takes time. The thing they don’t tell you about grief is that it grows and evolves.
Like a Pokémon companion whose only job is to remind you (in new and innovative ways) of how you goofed.
And when the last dregs of regret are drained from your bitter cup…that’s when you grow as a person. You see things with new eyes, and because now you know better, it’s back off to the land of missed opportunity and regret—where the crying is ugly and consistent and your silly logic has no power here.
I wish I could change too many things about us.
But more than anything, I wish I had slowed down enough to bask in the sunshine with you a few more times.
Somewhere, in my rush to find the next big distraction, achieve the next goal, find the next shiny spark of novelty, I stopped seeing each magical moment with you for what it truly was.
And I can’t help but think
That maybe if I could have let go of that urgency a bit sooner,
You would have felt less alone.
What hurts right now is seeing each missed opportunity clearly.
Seeing how just taking my foot off the gas would have meant the world to you.
Regret is seeing the high road and knowing you didn’t take it.
But maybe the bitterest truth here is that all of it, all of it, is just empty philosophy. The hollow regret of a man who wishes he could have been something besides exactly who he was.
I wish I could forget what it feels like to end a six-year connection with you.
You, who only wanted to be loved and held.
You, who fought like hell for us, even when things were at their worst.
You, who begged not to be left alone.
The guilt and regret are mine now. And maybe someday I’ll learn to forgive myself for the past.
Or maybe every time I grow as a human, I’ll see a new/old piece of sparkle about you. A single star in a galaxy of light that the old me was somehow always too busy to see.
And maybe down the road the grief will once again wash these old and faded memories back up on shore like the tide.
Perhaps that’s the truth about grief. That maybe it takes way longer to fade away than any of us are really willing to publicly admit.
That maybe grief means all the growing we’re doing is actually worth a damn. That the pain is a sign of deeper empathy and compassion. And the echoes of regret are simply compassion left unfulfilled.
That maybe, every once in a while, we all need a good, swift kick in the ass.
One to help us remember that, despite our best intentions, you can’t always be the hero in someone else’s story.
Maybe one day you’ll wake up and realize you were the reason someone cried themselves to sleep. You were their punishment for having the audacity to love you fully and deeply.
And one day maybe you’ll begin to understand, and maybe even accept, that if it could have gone another way, it would have.
Until that day arrives, it’s just you, me, and the company of the world’s worst Pokémon companion, reminding us at irregular intervals that mistakes were made.
Good luck to us both.