I finally saw The Fault in Our Stars a few weeks ago, and as I’m sure everyone knows, this is a very famous quote from the book. I’ve always loved this quote (along with all the others) but it means something a little different to me now.
I’ve referenced my former boyfriend several times – I have two, but I usually only talk about this one. I talk about it all the time but never about how it ended or why. And I’m not going to tell you now. Partially because I don’t know how myself – I know more than most people, but I still don’t know. The only person who knows is him – he may not have figured it all out yet, but somewhere deep inside himself, that information is hidden.
And I’m not going to tell you because I just don’t want to. I am rarely at a loss for words, but this is the one thing that simply causes my brain to shut down. I tend to just explode into a puddle of tears and frustration and anger and grief. I can make self-deprecating jokes about it, but it is very difficult for me to talk about seriously. I’ve been through a lot of hard things, but nothing like this. Nothing else has felt so final, so permanent and life-changing.
But recently I had to say goodbye to this person, so this I guess is my way of saying ‘goodbye’. And no one is ever going to ask me for my side of the side of the story. But I want it to be out there, to exist in some shape or form, because I was a part of this too. The part that no one wants to think about. And the consequences of all of this for me will be just as far-reaching.
I’ve said for years that he is the love of my life, and despite recent developments I still can’t say that I entirely disagree with that statement. I was his too, but for a much briefer period of time. It’s hard to believe that, given everything else that happened, but that doesn’t make it less true. How do I know? A few things, of course, but this one I feel says it all: I have known this boy for years. At this point, I think it had been 8. In all those years, I don’t remember him ever making me any promises. At least not serious ones. He was overly cautious of them, because he knew that there was a good chance he would let me down.
But he did make me one promise. It was March, it was freezing, and we were walking around the quiet streets of suburbia. It was at least midnight, maybe later. If you’re thinking that this does not sound appealing, you are correct. I was upset – I’d been feeling anxious all day, without fully knowing why, but I knew that I wanted to see him. (If we’re honest, I sort of did know why: I was planning on kissing him the day before, which was hands down one of our best days, but I chickened out. I never told him that. And I continued to chicken out until it was too late. And god, if I don’t regret that now.) He was working on a paper all day, because he’s much more sensible than I am, but finally, he agreed to walk around with me in the freezing cold at midnight so that I could tell him what was wrong and hopefully feel better. Adorable, right? Adorable. On this walk, I finally got him to say the L word for the first time in four years, instead of it just being implied, which was nice. But more special than that was this – I was worried about our future, like always, and he promised me that if we were to ever not be together, it would be my choice, not his, because somehow he just knew that he wanted to be with me and he would never choose otherwise. Boys make promises they can’t keep all the time. I know that. But not this one. He had every intention of keeping it. He believed it when he said it.
A couple of months later, though, it was like something snapped in his brain. He told me that he didn’t love me any more – first it was maybe, then it was definitely. (I don’t understand the reason for these steps.) He told me he didn’t know why. He says he still doesn’t. I don’t know either. I have yelled at him for breaking that promise, and questioned whether he ever really loved me at all, especially recently, and especially now, when he won’t speak to me at all – but after reviewing the evidence over and over again I have to conclude that he did. At least for brief periods of time.
We always used to say, “You never know, maybe one day”, and that was still the case up until very recently. I told him to still keep me in mind in that light, as an option on the table. But then something changed, and now there is no “maybe one day”. He would have done it on his own eventually, but I had no interest in dragging things out and watching my heart break apart a little more every day, so I took myself off the table. I just wanted to get it over with. So even though he kept saying it for some reason, through a mess of tears I told him to stop saying that. We were done. Forever.
I guess that doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people, but to me, at least, it felt like we were together for such a long time. Since we were kids, practically. Even when we were with other people we still kind of belonged to each other a little bit. Even when we were over, we were never really over. I don’t know how we knew that. We just did. But this was the end of that.
It sounds like it was a choice but it was not. I was only speeding up the inevitable and I think he’s probably grateful for that now. Because now I think he’s happy. Or he will be happy, at least. And that’s good. I, however, am not. It all happened so fast, at least on my end. It was very much like ripping a band-aid off. Actually, no. Worse than that. It was like waxing the most painful part of your body, because he was a part of me as much as hair is attached to your skin. I was left to deal with things on my own.
I had believed that we would work through this together. I would have worked through anything in the world with him. I thought that was what he wanted, but it wasn’t. He told me I was still an option, that he was torn between two people, but I wasn’t really. He had his mind made up already, he just didn’t want to tell me. Unfortunately, I am smarter and more observant than he thought, and social media is a bitch.
I thought that he would at least help me get through it, because even with all of these changes I just wanted my best friend to tell me I would be okay. I still do, all the time. But he didn’t. This experience produced the greatest thing that I have ever said, in my opinion (“You can’t just throw a grenade and then walk away from the explosion with cool sunglasses on!! You have to deal with the aftermath!”), but it didn’t produce much else.
He didn’t mean to break my heart. But he did.
There was a big revelation, and I hope I never forget my initial reaction – there was some sass, yes, and insta-tears, but there was also a lot of bravery and unconditional love. I said, “I’m going to say some stuff, and I need you to remember it forever.” I was talking to myself as much as I was talking to him. And I do not remember exactly what I said, so I doubt he does either. Way to go. But I remember that he told me he was afraid that I would see him differently. I said no. You will always be you. And it’s true – I am incapable of seeing anything else. He will always be him, the version of him that was “mine”. The version that I met when we were kids. He’s grown up now and so am I but underneath the hipster glasses and nice clothes I still see that. And I told him that we would always be best friends first and I would always support him.
It’s hard. I am trying to find the words to explain how hard it actually is but I’m failing – this is the best I can do. There’s been a lot of crying, a lot of fighting, and a lot of confusion. I am angry. He left me in a very unfortunate position. I am 21, nearly 22, with little to no proper relationship or dating experience. I wish that he would at least have corrected that before this happened. It did occur to me that I didn’t have to keep this secret – you can do a lot of damage with that kind of information. But as angry as I am, revenge has never been my style, and ultimately I will protect him until the day I die. He knows that; that’s why he trusts me. Lately I feel like I’ve been taken advantage of because of that, but even so, I’d rather be a good person than a smart person. I’m actually both, but if I had to pick, which it seems I do in this scenario, that’s what I would choose.
I don’t know how I’m going to explain any of this to any future partners. I don’t know if I’ll even HAVE any future partners. As of now, I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the belief that I will never get married or have a family, and I’m trying to find joy in life elsewhere. I tend to walk around saying that I’m going to die alone a lot, half joking, but more serious than people think. I used to think that the problem was that I just hated all men. And it’s true, I do hate a lot of men. They’re the worst. But there are a select few I really like. Those few just never like me back. So the problem isn’t the world, after all. The problem is me.
I don’t tell this story a lot but when I do, people usually tell me that they totally know how I feel, and that something JUST like this happened to a friend of theirs – but they’re wrong. People laugh as if its a funny sitcom plot. But there is nothing funny about this. This isn’t someone who I went on a couple of dates with. This is someone I was planning on spending the rest of my life with.
Right now it feels like the only thing worse than having something bad happen to you, is being the casualty of something good that happens to someone else. There is a price to pay for everything; I am the cost of this. He decided it was worth it. How do you forgive something like that? I don’t know. But I’m trying. I have to.
That’s what I mean – I’m the part of the story that no one wants to think about. The price of happiness. We like to believe that these things are effortless and no one was hurt in the process. True love reigns and everything is ponies and magic and rainbows and unicorns. I wanted to believe that more than anybody. But that’s never true. I just hope that someday I’ll find love and happiness too, and that maybe all of this means that I’ve done my time and no one else has to suffer.
In the grand scheme of life, we didn’t last that long. There was so much that we never did, and for that I am rather angry, both at him and at myself, because I will forever be wondering. I could have been more pro-active. There was so much I never said. I could say it now, but that would be overstepping the line. Even the things I did say, I wish I said them more. Every day. I wish I never said every catty thing I didn’t really mean. I wish I felt everything I feel now at the time, and not just in hindsight.
I can’t change any of that. I have to live with what we had. So now, I am 21 years old, and the story is over. Is he still the love of my life? Yeah. Just maybe not my entire life. Maybe just my life so far.
So, back to where we started: if you have been living under a rock and have no knowledge of the basic plot of TFiOS, Hazel and Gus both have cancer. They meet, fall in love, and have a beautiful relationship for a very brief period of time until Gus dies. They are separated by death, not by choice. I, on the other hand, was left. I recognize that.
But like Hazel and Gus, what we had was pure and real and it made us both better people. It became tainted over time with various mistakes and insecurities, but it was born out of innocence. It ended, but within those 9 years we were endless. So this I guess is my goodbye, since I never really got one.
We had our own little infinity, where there was an unlimited number of chances and late night walks and days spent watching TV and MSN conversations and text messages and phone calls and “maybe one day”s.
Just because it ended doesn’t make those 9 years less real. They happened. He walked away but we never knew that he would, least of all like this. We didn’t see any kind of end at all, at least not really. Not permanently. All we saw was forever.
Even now, when I talk about this with my friends, and I tell them that it feels like he doesn’t care any more, and maybe he never did, and maybe I am just nothing to him now, they tend to just look at me sadly and say no. From everything you’ve told us, it’s so clear that you guys really cared about each other. That doesn’t just vanish. He loved you.
I know. And for that I am forever grateful.