What happened was that I was young and I did not know what I was doing; I was hopelessly romantic and alone, eager to love and to be loved. When I met you, I saw possibility. I saw someone who saw me, someone who might have been just as lonely. And perhaps you saw how I wore my heart on my sleeve, like a sticker thoughtlessly applied and easily capable of being ripped off. But you did not pull or rip it off—I did that on my own.
What happened was that you loved me, fully and passionately. You did things, beautiful things, for me. And I cannot repay you, because you will never truly grasp how much those things meant to me. I am sure that you regret those actions and you probably see them as a waste. Maybe they were. But know that they meant the world to me and at one point you meant the world to me, too.
What happened was not you, and I keep trying to tell myself that it was not me either. But to tell myself that is a lie. The problem is that nothing ever remains constant: people change, minds are never restless, and hearts—young hearts, at least—are fickle. When we first started dating and you said, “You better not hurt me.” I said something like, “I won’t. I promise.” I said it carelessly, thoughtlessly, because I never imagined that I would be capable of causing so much damage and pain.
But maybe in the back of my head I thought, You’re going to make him cry.
I constantly think of this and I wish that I had said, “I’m telling you this now: I’m sorry.” Perhaps then we would have been more careful and more apprehensive of each other; perhaps I would not have thrown around the word love so frequently and so recklessly. And then those grand notions and schemes of you and I would never had been planted in our heads. I still feel nauseous when I think about all of your plans of us, the plans that you never told me about, plans that you only dreamed of. Sometimes I think the death of an unlived dream is more painful than the ones that become reality and then die.
What happened is that I changed. I wonder if you recognized it or if you could see it my eyes. We were happy and in love. But you loved me more than I loved you, and that filled me with guilt. I felt like I was robbing you of something precious and highly valued. At the beginning, I remember smiling and laughing so frequently that it was on par with breathing. I remember thinking of how wonderful it felt to know that you are being thought of, and how amazing it felt to say goodnight and good morning to someone. And this made me happy. You made me happy.
But something started happening. The bad thoughts started coming back. The smiles and the laughs were rehearsed and I put on a mask so that I could fool you and everyone else into thinking that I was fine. But I was not fine. And I think you knew this, but you did not know how to talk to me about it. And it is okay. Just know that the bad thoughts were never because of you. There are moments in my life when I know something terrible is going to happen. It is like getting this feeling that a horrible storm is coming, a storm so powerful that houses and trees are torn down, so powerful that it could potentially shut down the world. And this is what I felt in those last months. And I wish I could have told you, but I did not even want to tell myself. And without really knowing, I was walking into the wind and rain.
I was not lying when I said that it was all happening again, that I was becoming ill again, and that I needed to get help. I really did mean it when I cried and said that I just wanted to go home, that I just wanted my mom. And I am sorry to say that that was the only thing I wanted. If I had stayed, the storm would have ripped us apart. It was not a chance I was willing to take.
I know that leaving broke your heart. But knowing this does not mean that I understand the caliber of your pain and grief, and it scares me when I try to think about it. Sometimes I think about how things could have gone differently. I think about what I could have said to make it easier. When I told you that it was not your fault, I like to pretend that you understood this. I picture you holding me and saying, “It’s not your fault either. Everything will be okay. You’ll be okay.” Maybe then the pain wouldn’t have stung so badly. Perhaps things would have turned out differently and both us would have been okay.
Yet, we both know that this is not what happened. The storm came and it raged and it caused too much damage. But like all storms, it passed. Some things were fixed and some things were lost, things are still being repaired and we weep for the things that are gone. And, still, on some days all I can see are black clouds on the horizon, but most days I just see a pure, blue sky. And I hope, more than anything, that all you see is the sun.
Addison Bell is a senior at DePaul University where he is studying English Literature. He is the President of Oxfam DePaul and volunteers with Oxfam America, an organization dedicated to ending world hunger, poverty, and social injustice. Follow Addison on Twitter @boy_1904 and on Tumblr: colourmegreenwich.tumblr.com.