They say that if you sit by Times Square long enough, you will see the whole world pass by.
I have never been to Times Square, but I feel something similar about life itself.
I believe that if you stick by the same spot with patience for long enough, you will come across what you were looking for, or the people you lost. Because the world is in constant motion, and those who passed by one point are going to come back there someday to complete their journey full circle.
And if you were there to meet them when they returned, you never know where things could go from there.
It was January 1st, 2016, Friday.
You know, that time when we all beckon to the million calls we ignore all year (or most of our lives) and decide to make everything in our lives right.
I filled a list up with all sorts of things that seemed like a great idea on the first of January. I even tossed in a few that I was certain to never strike off. Then there were a few I wrote down that I was not even certain how to accomplish.
In 2016, I decided, I needed to move on from the man I had been head over heels in love with for close to a decade.
I met him nine years ago, and we were together for four.
Our love was real but wild. Elating, but psychotic. Magnificent, but destructive.
When you are hit by true love, its enormity can transform your reality in ways you wouldn’t dare imagine. It hit me like a tow truck and I lost more than good sense in the wake of our separation.
The last time we said goodbye, my will to go on was snipped at with piercing jolts, the likes of which only a massive reality check can render. I could feel my system shutting down, cell by cell, my body rejecting its will to go on functioning without him.
He was gone and I had to keep going on.
But I didn’t want to keep going on.
The years after that day are a blur. There were several things I tried such as claiming I was over him. Realizing I was not. Accepting that he did not wish to speak with me any longer. Trying to be friends. Deciding against it. Thinking that someday we would wind up together. Thinking that someday he would want me back. Fearing he forgot me. Trying to remind him of my existence.Dating other people. Trying to convince myself that other loves were as big as what I felt for him. Wondering if he cared that I dated others. Stalking every woman he has been with since on social media. Accepting that his love will always be a part of me.
Even though we didn’t speak much anymore, as most estranged lovers/friends/family members do, we used to send each other a text on three occasions: Birthdays, Christmas, and New Year’s — because you know, it would be inhuman not to if you actually remember. And with him, I always remembered, always.
“Happy New Year, you!” I typed, clutching on hard to my phone which was currently the center of my respiratory system.
I’d learned over the years that the rare occasions my mind and body would awaken were when his name blinked across my screen.
“Happy New Year,” came his reply. No emoji. No exclamations. In fact, he didn’t even deem me worthy of punctuation.
“How was your New Years?” I key in, punctuation on point.
I could be an actress, I thought. It was the same thought that sprinted through my mind every time I covered up my feelings with words that meant nothing.
“It was good,” he said. Stoic.
I hated that he had no emotions left for me. That he could just say nothing because he felt nothing while I could feel every punctuation I wanted to say to him creating periods and semicolons in my heart.
I hated that my mind — which was this awake so rarely — was sensing trepidation and despair as soon as it was alert, wondering when he would end the conversation.
I hated that he could end conversations without goodbyes while all my million words of farewell chased him, trying to lunge in for one final embrace but instead diminishing into nothingness, unheard, unsaid.
“What’s up?” I continued.
Nobody in the history of ever knows what broken-hearted old lovers want to hear when they ask inconsequential questions. I grasp at thin air, hoping that in some direction there is a hanging rope, awaiting me to climb up to something that resembles a real conversation.
Our conversation didn’t last for more than five basic exchanges. But I was hell-bent on changing his mind about me. I didn’t want him to actually fall back in love with me. I only wanted him to see me as the person I had become and realize that I am now everything he wanted me to be when we were together.
Then maybe he would regret not giving us a shot, and say it to me in a moment of weakness. And maybe that would give me the strength to finally move on.
Or maybe we could transition into those exes who become friends-who-will-always-be-more-than-friends. I knew those kinds of exes. They were, as we millennials love calling things, goals.
When we were together, I always strove to become someone he would want to be with. He makes me want to be my best because he deserves the best — I’d say.
All those years later, the man still had me striving just as hard. This time, I decided, I would strive to make my way back into his life.
All I’d have to do was be patient, wait, and let him know that I was here. So if he ever chose to return, he’d find me where he left me, with words he walked away from and feelings he walked over.
On the first day of 2016, I decided that I would text my ex every single Friday for the rest of the year.
It began well enough. I don’t think he noticed anything at first apart from the ex’s umpteenth effort to get him to talk to her.
Our conversations never went beyond pleasantries. I asked him how his week had been, he gave me an answer squeezed dry of any real emotion. I asked him what plans he had for the weekend, he was always up to nothing much. Nothing much that he wanted to share at least.
I got it. I got it a long time ago. He didn’t owe me any answers. But getting that did not take away from the fact that I still had questions. So like clockwork, every Friday my mind went off with an alarm to send that text.
One Friday morning in February, I went to work, plonked on my favorite blue couch, and opened my laptop. The screen went blank and I went insane. The entire day passed in a mix of apprehension and planning what I needed to do to get it fixed. Somehow, I forgot to text the ex.
It was around 8 pm when my phone lit up in my hand. I had handed over my laptop to a dingy little store which I prayed could do magic for cheap.
“No have a nice weekend message?” He had begun to see my pattern. I smiled.
That day we came quite close to a real conversation. I told him about how awful my day had been. And then I told him how I had recently written a piece about our relationship which got a good response. I felt the need to thank him. We spoke for twenty minutes that day.
Things returned to the same after that evening. I used several spare computers until mine was fixed, and I still wanted my ex to have a good weekend every Friday.
Some days, I would sit back and smirk at how it must bother him that I didn’t want more, I didn’t even try. I’d think that it drove him little nuts not knowing why I was doing what I was doing. I won’t deny that there was some fun in that.
But then there were days he would make his snide little comments that were almost mean, but not quite. Not enough to make him a legit bad guy. But if you read the fine print on the Being A Decent Human 101, you’d know better.
It still got to me but each time I voluntarily shook it off, I shook off a little more of his hold over me.
I still needed that one shake though, that one jolt that would set me straight.
I work with a dating app. Although working for love is satisfying in many ways, it can sometimes be a double-edged sword.
When all day, every day, you are trying to help people find the loves of their lives, sometimes you wander into that lane you get lost in, no matter how hard you try to steer clear of it. The love of your own life.
It was March 11th, 2016, Friday.
I was on a ride back home from work when it happened. I don’t remember what the trigger was, but I found myself bending over, holding on to myself for dear life, wishing that it would stop, the love.
It had to stop. It had to leave me, all of it, all of me.
Was I going to spend the rest of my life a little in love with someone who would never love me back?
I couldn’t breathe. Something inside me was contracting, shriveling up, and I could feel it’s weight, ounce by ounce, coming together and knocking me down.
I don’t know how I made it through that ride. But I remember admitting to myself that despite the four years that had passed since we broke up, it still wasn’t over for me and I desperately needed it to be.
The next day, I was on yet another ride to a friend’s place when he texted me, out of pattern.
An extra text on a Saturday, I wondered what was happening.
And then he said something to me that I will never forget because I knew right then that I would never love him again. That was when I realized just how difficult moving on could be, or how easy.
When we were together, I had confided in him about a certain darkness within me that I rarely ever tell anyone about. Oftentimes I have felt the silence on his tongue wanting to throw it at me, but until that day, he never said it out loud. Not even when he looked me in the eye post-breakup and said, “Let’s tell each other mean things and get it out of us.” I had nothing mean to say, and he chose to taunt me with what he would always leave unsaid.
That silence was what kept me hanging on for years. The hope that that silence meant something else, or nothing at all.
But on March 12th, 2016, Saturday, I saw that it meant exactly what I feared it did. He never understood me and he never would.
We each have something that keeps us holding on to an old lover. A dream left unfulfilled, a fear of what could lay ahead if we let go, or sometimes a fear of what we leave behind if we let go.
I realized that the answers I kept searching for weren’t to the question “Why did you leave me?” but to the question“Could you promise me I won’t regret moving on?”
I took the long route to find the answer, inebriated by sights of lovers who found their way back to each other. But my story coming around full-circle would not look like Fatima’s from The Alchemist.
In my story, when I met my old lover again at Maybe-ville, I’d pick the path of Maybe Not.
I decided that the only way to know if I was over him was to keep my Friday ritual. This time it was more a test I had set for myself than a snare for him. I had to know if the feeling would return if we remained in contact, or if it had left me forever. For good, as they say it, and I finally knew why.
Weeks that turned into months passed and he tried his usual antics to rile me up. But now it only reminded me how I was not with this man, how I never would be again, and how that was downright fantastic news.
It was June 2nd, 2016, Thursday.
That day it dawned on me that he was never my love, my love was mine and belonged solely to me. But it chose to wrap itself around him, and until it returned, I would not be able to give it to another. It had needed answers to return, answers I did everything in my power and took over four years to bring to it.
Right then, I decided that I would give my love to someone new because I finally felt that I had it back in its entirety.
Along the course of these strange events, there came a man I fell in love with. Head over heels, madly, passionately, ridiculously, insatiably in love with. That afternoon I mustered up the courage to say it to him and he returned the sentiment.
It was my favorite June second, it was also my new boyfriend’s birthday.
Speaking of birthdays, you know what they say about those things. It’s one of the few times in a year when you get to talk to those people whom you talk to only on Fridays. Okay, they don’t say that but I did.
It was August 2nd, 2016, Tuesday. My birthday.
I thought he would wish me but he didn’t. So I asked him to. That was the last time I texted him.
I realized, that in all those Fridays and the years that preceded them, he may or may not have seen me for who I had become, but I saw him for who he had become. Or perhaps, I finally saw him for who he had always been.
It was December 2nd, 2016, Friday.
The day before had been his birthday and I didn’t wish him. I believe it is inhumane to not wish someone on their birthday if you remember. But that’s the thing, I didn’t.