"It's been a year, Jo. A whole freaking year. How are you still upset about this?" I was mumbling to myself as I stepped into my apartment, a laugh leaving my lips, though there was absolutely no humour behind it. I wasn't crying, but I felt that tell-tale lump in my throat that indicated that there was a sob hidden there somewhere, waiting for the right moment to surprise and ruin me.
I wanted to let it out as soon as possible. Cry about it some and then bury it in the back of my mind, forgetting it until whatever else triggered it once again in a couple of months and it broke me again. Like a mature adult, right? At twenty-two, I should be able to do that, instead of curling up in my bed for way too long and sobbing into my pillow. Plus, I had just bought a silk pillowcase, and I was not about to cry all over that. Did tears ruin silk? Probably not. But I wasn't about to risk it. Not over some tears I'd be shedding over him, anyhow.
We were together for the better part of two years. And I was happy for the first, maybe, six months? I liked him at first, and I would get excited when I received his text and all I wanted to do after talking to him was to talk about him to my friends. And when I wasn't talking to or about him, I was thinking about him non-stop. He was an ever-present thought in my mind, painting over my other memories with his smile and his laugh, sitting in the corner of every passing thought I had. But after those six months, that smile and those dimples didn't do it for me anymore. His jokes annoyed me. His interests weren't mine. We weren't even friends, I don't think. I started tolerating him only. And badly, at that. I rolled my eyes at his words and I resented him for not being able to keep up with me. I didn't like his way of thinking, or texting or expressing himself (He was the monosyllabic sort, though, so maybe that was more universal than just a me thing) and everything about him became annoying to me. I didn't like him anymore. But I suppose I still loved him. So I stayed. For far longer than I should have. And when we finally broke up, claiming that long-distance wasn't for us, I did cry. And as I got in my car to drive away, leaving my high school life behind, I did feel sad about him being part of that life I was leaving. But I got over him. Truly. I stopped thinking about him after some months, I went out with other people, and I liked other people.
But this new update about his life caught me off guard. I'd been scrolling through Instagram mindlessly when I swiped over a story he'd uploaded. He'd tagged a girl in it. I was curious, so I clicked on her profile. And that's when I saw all their pictures together, hugging or kissing, sitting really close to each other at what I assumed was a birthday party for either one of them. Probably hers, judging by the glittery backdrop they were standing in front of. And that's what led me to choke back a sob. A full year, maybe even more, after we'd shared our last hug, our last kiss and a few pictures are what finally made me come undone.
I still held my phone in my hand as I sat on my bed, their bright faces smiling at me. I could almost see the way the girl's smile turned into a smirk, saying pretty clearly, in a voice I wanted to imagine was all high and nasally, 'I win. I've got him, and he's decided I'm the one he'll be a great boyfriend for. I win.'
Because that was what bothered me. It wasn't that he'd found someone. I was actually glad about that. What hurt was the idea that he was being a good boyfriend to her. That they were happy. That was what was killing me inside. We'd tolerated each other, and had spent two years together, not even being happy. We barely had these kinds of pictures. We never thought of taking them. Maybe we never even thought of holding each other for more time than strictly necessary to be able to get the right shot. We kissed, sure, but was there any passion behind it? Not that I could remember. Everything we did was domestic, and boring, and stale.
I ached for what I saw in that picture. I wanted to feel that happiness with someone. I wanted to be in love, see everything through rose-coloured glasses because I've never been. I did love my ex, but I can't remember ever being in love with him. I cared for his wellbeing and I wished him all the best when we parted, but it was never more than that. I realise that now, in hindsight. I never fell for him. Not in the way they talk about in songs and poetry. But I want that so bad.
Closing Instagram, careful not to like any picture I shouldn't, I lay back on my bed and opened Spotify instead. If I was going to be self-deprecating and wallow in self-pity, I would be doing it to a reasonable soundtrack. So I pressed play to my 'listen to this with a broken heart' playlist, mostly consisting of Taylor Swift songs I thought depicted heartbreak perfectly. Even if until now I hadn't actually known what that felt like.
Now I did. And I could recognise it. I could almost hear the crack! when my heart shattered into a million pieces because I hadn't loved my ex.
"God, I'm being ridiculous. Crying because I wasn't in love with him? This is so stupid." I covered my face with my hands, and that sob finally left my throat. "Who cries when they're not in love?"
Me, apparently. I felt like I was grieving something I never had. Was that possible? Grieving and missing a relationship that never happened?
Maybe there were snippets of it that could've been turned into something bigger and better, but it had never taken off. It had never worked out the way it did in romantic comedies. It had just been that; a small flicker of something that quickly burnt out and then was never reignited.
Now I cried. Loud, ugly, red-in-the-face crying resonated across my room, overpowering the soft, low notes of Taylor Swift's singing. I just wanted to be in love. I grieved for that moment when I'd been excited about my SAT scores and he'd take me out to dinner, or bring me flowers, or just hug me tightly and press a kiss to the top of my head, because it never happened. He'd just said 'congratulations, you did great' and that had been it. I grieved for that birthday when I'd just wanted something heartfelt as a gift and I'd just gotten a lousy invitation to watch a scary movie (which I hate). I grieved for the boyfriend that he could've been, and the years I lost waiting for him to suddenly wake up one day, a new man, ready to be the boyfriend I wanted.
I ached terribly, imagining all the things he could've said or done that would've made me infinitely happy, but he never did. The flowers I always pointed out, but he never bought. Why couldn't I hurt over something I'd had, instead of something I wish I could've had? It seems much easier.
Finally getting my breathing back to normal, even if there was still the occasional annoying choked sound from when you've been crying too much, I sat up. I paused the music leaving my phone, opened up Instagram once again, and blocked him without a second thought.
'Give yourself a day to cry about it, and then keep going.' That's what my mum taught me. Simple. I had already cried enough. Now all that was left was just to keep going.
Maybe sometime in the future, I'll be able to cry for something I lost, like a normal person.