I tried to forget him. I tried to find a way to live without the man of my dreams. But I couldn’t. Sam was in every memory; in every breath I took; in every word I wrote. My life went on. It had to. Although he had left me over a petty argument. My bed was empty without him. My life was empty without him. I needed something to fill that all-consuming void. Something. Anything. But I had no idea what that was supposed to be. He had left and he had taken me with him. Who was I without him?
Every morning, I got up, showered, had a cup of coffee and headed to my car. I got in, took a chewing gum out of the glove box, fastened my seatbelt and pulled out onto the street. My morning were dull. Ever since he had left me, there was no spontaneous lovemaking in the shower, no American pancakes filling my home with their sweet scent, no kiss that made me get out of the house too late. Every morning became efficient in their routine. No move was unnecessary. This boring way of life kept me from dealing with the pain of having lost him.
At work, I wore my brave face. I joked with the colleagues, and smiled with the parents who left their toddlers at our facility. My private life wasn’t allowed at my work place. Here too, I followed the routines that had set in. I peeled fruit and arranged it in bite-sized portions on plastic plates. I smeared bread with cheese and filled glasses with water. After breakfast, I cleaned sticky mouths and hands, and I changed diapers. All the while, I smiled and pretended to be happy. Singing, dancing, entertaining, and repeating everything again and again. It was the glue that kept me together.
My only weakness was naptime. Sitting in the bedroom, waiting for the children to find some rest, I too had time to think. I had time to miss him. I had time to count the days since he was gone. The even breath of the toddlers indicated that they were asleep. I exhaled, took my phone, and began to a scroll on my screen. On a site, I had recently met an interesting man. He liked to talk about movies and music. He liked books and apparently, he was working as a writer. I found him oddly fascinating, but Matt was no real distraction from Sam and my broken heart.
I had a private message and it made me smile. Matt asked about meeting me for coffee or a drink some day. He said he had tickets for a concert and if I wanted to join him, he would be happy. I didn’t reply to the message. I was not looking for someone else. I was happily licking my wounds. On the other hand, he had tickets to see Matthew Ryan and I had wanted to see him live for a long while. I didn’t know what to do and how to react. And I didn’t have time to deal with it right away. Saved by a crying baby.
But every workday has to end and mine did too. Walking to the parking lot, I thought back to that message and the invitation to the gig. Maybe I should step out of my comfort zone and do it. Just going with the flow and enjoy myself. I was not expecting to fall in love, but at least there was a possibility to have a nice evening with a man I enjoyed talking with. I didn’t have anything to lose. Apart from my broken heart.
“Pick me up at 7? I’ll text you the address” Before I could reconsider, I hit sent and drove home.
I was hungry. The fridge was full, but I couldn’t find anything I wanted to eat. And so I kept opening and closing the fridge for a while, realizing every time that there was nothing new inside. I plopped down on the couch with a load of laundry to fold and watched reruns of “Murder, she wrote”. The show reminded me of my grandfather. He used to watch things like that all the time. With the TV on and mindlessly folding pants and shirts, I felt thoughtless. My mind was blank. It was new, but not unwanted. It made room for something else.
It made room for hope. For the first time in a while, Sam didn’t dominate my thoughts. I didn’t relive this or that situation while folding this or that shirt. Was I freeing myself from the shadow of my ex lover? We had spent three years together. Was I ready to let him go? Maybe my heart had moved on, and my head hadn’t? If I had friends I cared about enough, I would have reached out and asked for advice. But I kept every one away from me. I didn’t allow anyone to get too close to me. And that was why he had left me.
The sun was setting and it became dark in my home and in my heart. I turned on the lights, but there was some darkness that kept looming above me. I had these moments of abject loneliness, of hopelessness. Often, they came without a warning, and before I could even react, I was reduced to a bawling mess. There was this dark cloud that kept me company. A dark veil wrapped itself around my thoughts, choking every attempt of happiness. I turned off the lights, made sure that my door and windows were locked, and headed to the bedroom. On top of my already miserable state, Matt didn’t get in touch. He hadn’t picked me up to see Matthew Ryan.
I shed my clothes, they felt restrictive and suffocating, and got into bed. I grabbed my pillow – the one I had since early childhood and that comforted me with its smell, and inhaled. Why did everyone abandon me? Why didn’t I deserve some love? It took all the strength I thought I didn’t have to keep from sending a needy message to Sam. I didn’t want to be that girl. I was better than that. But I was lonely. Naked. Raw.
“Hey are you okay? You didn’t share any music with me today ”
He was right. After having been stood up, I hadn’t gotten in touch. Was I supposed to act as if I didn’t care?
“Sorry Matt. I had a bad day” I texted him. It was the first time I even considered lowering my guards with him. Everything had been shallow until now.
“Wanna talk about it?”
Did I? Was I the kind of girl who poured her entire emotional baggage onto someone else? But I was in distress and I had nothing to lose.
“I’ve been left not that long ago. Some days it is really hard. I don’t know who I am without him. And I don’t remember who I was before him. It’s messed up.” I hit send and groaned. I didn’t expect and answer. But it came.
“You will be okay. The woman I know doesn’t need a man to tell her how to feel and who to be. Wanna meet for a drink tomorrow?” His text made me cry, and I was glad he couldn’t see me.
“I am sorry that I am such a mess,” I apologised.
“You are human and we are made of emotions.” I smiled. I didn’t deserve anyone this kind.
“I will try and catch some sleep now. Thank you for being there.” I ignored his invitation for a drink. I was in no shape to make such a decision.
“Sleep Shelly. I will be here tomorrow.”
I woke up and assessed my state of being. The heaviness from the day before was gone, only residual melancholia scraped at the edge of my thoughts. I took my phone and sent out a message before I began with my usual routine.
“Thank you for having been there. For now, I am better.” I didn’t wait for a reply. I got in the shower, shaved my legs and pubic area – just for me, and washed my body. Already I felt more desirable. I took time to straighten my hair and find something nice to wear. I always did that when I didn’t feel all too well.
Work was over too soon. I had fun that day. The colleagues had complimented my hair, which lightened my mood. The kids weren’t any trouble that day, and even my boss had nothing but nice things to say. I didn’t think about Sam. But Matt was a constant in my thoughts now. His kindness, and his willingness to be there at my worst – it meant something to me. I had a fuzzy feeling inside. And whenever he was on my mind, I smiled.
“Still up for that drink? I will be at the Club tonight.” Confident and satisfied with myself, I got home to make the best of me.
As I sat there nursing my beer, I didn’t wonder why he hadn’t replied to my message. My mood was too good. I smiled and I flirted, but the longer I sat in that bar alone, the more I wished I wasn’t there. I started to feel uncomfortable. All eyes were on me. Or at least it felt that way. Matt had stood me up. All talk, no action. I grabbed my tote bag and threw some money on the counter. It was a heavy tip, but I didn’t care, I felt tired. I just wanted to go home, and forget about this evening. Matt was just like him. I was too stupid.
I wrote several messages but I sent none. They all sounded petty and childish. I wanted to act like an adult. We weren’t a couple. There had been no promises. Matt had asked me out twice. I should have waited for his affirmation. I groaned and threw my heels in the closet. In the bathroom, I rubbed my face with a washcloth until the mask came off. My face was red and swollen. I felt raw and swollen on the inside too. Just to punish myself, I opened old chat logs of Sam and me. He had been charming in the beginning. Until everything had become about sex.
For Sam, I had become a slut. I had sent nude pictures in various positions. He had asked to show myself like this and like that. Once in a while, he sent something back. It had felt good to take these naked pictures. To see myself as a sensual being. It had changed me. But the knowledgeable that he still had those pictures made me uncomfortable. I wanted to text him and ask him to delete my pictures. But who was I to believe that he had kept them? I was sure he had moved on, and that he had found a new woman to manipulate. Anger rose in me. Why didn’t he say something?
“stupid,” I pushed out through clenched teeth. I didn’t believe in regrets. Was Sam making me regret our time together? I chose to believe that I had changed in our three years together. I wanted to believe that I was more of a woman now than I had been before. I was stronger. And I was weaker. Most of all, I was alone. Before him, I had had friends. Now that he was gone, I only had myself. And I didn’t like my own company a whole lot. I raided the fridge to stuff my face. No need to look pretty for anyone anymore.
Matt didn’t get in touch. He didn’t apologise for standing me up. There was silence on all channels. I messaged him a couple of times, but even after telling him that I was worried, he stayed silent. It worried me even more. In the meantime, I tried to distract myself with cleaning my home. While doing so, I realised that I didn’t have any hobbies. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t know what to do with myself when I was on my own. I didn’t want to go out and meet new people. I wanted to be on my own. But I didn’t want to feel this lonely and alone
I realised that Sam had put me here. I tried not to think about him and mentioning his name, but it was the truth. Sam had wanted me all for himself. I dressed the way he wanted. I ate what he ordered me to eat. I felt what he made me feel. He had been my guide. My light. He had made me who I was. But he was not here anymore. He had moved on as soon as he had made sure that I was broken beyond repair. “No one will ever love you like I do.” Sam had repeated those words again and again.
To be continued