*If the former were right, could a heart heal so completely to again love so naively? And if it were the latter, if it had been some special connection, could she find that again?*
He pulled the truck into the parking lot. She stared at the meadow ahead, golden, brown. The summer flowers had faded, winter’s death was slowly creeping its way into the field. But it wasn’t there yet—no, it was still sunny autumn, it was still pretty, there was still hope.
She had known something was wrong, but at the same time, she hadn’t known. She had been joking when she said it. She had been joking when she asked it. Why don’t you love me anymore? She had been joking.
Then, the text. Seriously, is something wrong? I feel like you’ve been really weird lately.
And his response. Can you meet me this morning?
And here they were.
He turned off the engine, and there was silence. She looked at him, waiting.
“I’m sorry I’ve been distant lately,” were the first words he said.
She just smiled and shrugged. It was a smile, but it wasn’t a smile. She didn’t really know what to do.
“I’ve been thinking a lot,” he continued.
She thought back to the last time they had talked in this parking lot. It had been autumn, then, too. They had stood outside the truck, and her heart had pounded, terrified of what he might say. Her heart didn’t pound today.
“I don’t know if this is where I see my life going.” His words brought her back to the present.
“Oh.” There was the fear, then. Fear, but also, was that relief? The sudden thought, This is your way out. But the fear, too.
“I mean, going away to school, that’s what you want, right?”
She nodded, but she wondered if this was a price she was willing to pay. At the same time, there was that thought. That pesky thought. This is your escape.
“I don’t want to hold you back.”
She avoided his eyes.
“But my job is here, my business is here, my house is here. I don’t know that I’ll ever want to move away… I had thought you would finish school, get a job, and that would be that. I just… I don’t know if this is what I want. If I want to do a long-distance thing.”
“I understand,” she replied. She smiled the smile that wasn’t really a smile and shrugged again.
Then, there were the tears. Quiet tears that she ignored.
“We don’t even know if I’m going, though,” she said, carefully controlling her voice. There was a part of her that wanted to fight for it, and a part of her that wanted to just accept it. This is the way out.
“I know. So I don’t know what to do.”
She took a deep breath, steadied her voice. “Well, it seems like the issue is whether to break up now, in case I leave, or whether to wait and see.”
“Right… I don’t know what to do.”
And she thought of the last time they had talked here, the terror she had felt at the thought of an ending. She didn’t feel that now. She was crying, so she must have felt sadness. Or loss. Or something. But she didn’t really feel that terror.
She couldn’t remember how the conversation ended, how she got back to her car, how she made it through the day at work. It all blurred together.
They talked again that night. Nothing new. She hugged him, and it was weird. Wrong. She dropped her arms, stepped away. She curled up on the couch in the back room; and she cried.
Later, she wondered if heartbreak was always commensurate to love. She had loved him. Without a doubt, she had loved him. And she mourned the loss—a loss that was not just a person but a whole way of living. A home. Expectations. Family. Friends. It was all different afterwards. But even when the loss was overwhelming, when she wanted to yell, to scream, when she wrote the letters and sent the texts, when she deleted him from her phone and then added him again, when she did all of the breaking up—it wasn’t like the first time. The first love.
She wondered why. Did she love the first more than the second? And if so, was it the result of an incongruity of character? A mismatch of persons. Or was it a safety mechanism, a subconscious caution borne of experience?
She had loved her first love (and upon reflection, probably too much). They had been practically inseparable. He had been her best friend—without a doubt, her closest confidant. They could sit and do nothing at all, and she still would not have traded that time for a single second elsewhere. Just to be near him was all she wanted.
In many ways, they were alike in their interdependence (a thing she realized much too late), and though she had not seen it, the degree of affection had always been reciprocal. Looking back, she knew she had broken his heart. Probably repeatedly. It was only fitting he had then broken hers.
I want you back.
It’s too late.
She didn’t eat for a month. She dropped all her classes. She cried all the time. She was terrified of seeing him, yet her eyes always searched him out. She snuck onto his Facebook (he hadn’t changed the password), and it tore her heart out to see his messages from Kate. Yet she checked for them again and again. It was torture. Never-ending torture. Self-inflicted pain. But she had to know.
Sometimes it felt like she couldn’t breathe. She vacillated from hope to despair and back again. She wrote him letters. She ripped them up. She wrote apologies. She sent some of those.
He sent her an Airing of Grievance. It made her laugh a little. And then she cried.
To: Eva M. Manko From: Nathan Scott
I am sending you this message to alert you that I find your behavior of philandering to be particularly hurtful. I wish to draw this to your attention because you may not be aware of the effect that it has on others. Specifically, I feel sad whenever you philander. As an alternative, I would suggest that instead you could date someone who is easy to mock, an action which I would find to be 1000 times better. If you choose to persist in your philandering I may have no choice but to bite you. While this is another possible solution, it would be sexier for both parties if we could avoid it.
Gravity of Offense: Incalculable
Offense Frequency: X Frequent
Sentiment: X Most seriously
Parties Offended: X Myself, X Others, X Society, X God
Please Respond: X Never, X Include Apology
Additional Notes: You stink.
She missed telling him the miscellaneous. She missed that the most. She found things each day that she wanted to tell him. Things that she couldn’t tell him. He didn’t want to hear them.
She wanted to tell him that she really did value his opinion—that that very day she had decided to put hot water in the pot when she went to boil her noodles. She had taken his advice; she wished he knew that.
She wanted to tell him about her trip to Kings. And how she wished it had been with him. (Yes, fine dining). And how she wanted them to eat brunch at Brooks in their pajamas. And to drink apple juice late at night.
She wanted to tell him how she had finally realized how much he had cared. And how stupid she was for all the times she had gotten mad, for every fight she had picked. She wanted to tell him how much she missed him.
Finally, all she wanted to tell him was that she was sorry. And that he deserved better.
He wrote her, months later. They had not been months of separation, but rather, months of mutual destruction. She was surprised either of them had a heart left when all was said and done.
I don’t have any fancy stationary to dress this up like you always did for me, or any cute gel pens to match the paper. I think this suits me better, scratched out, half-illegibly on an old notebook. It’s fitting, like most things I do, this letter is completely unpolished, but I hope, like always, the content will speak for itself.
I have loved you more than I ever thought possible. Sometimes I wondered if I’d be stuck, nursing some misanthropic coldness for the rest of my life, and then I met you. You were the sun for me. You gave me a happy reason to wake up in the morning, because I always knew there would be an early morning text inspired by your confused kidneys, or a call to drag me out of bed to start the day. Even now, every morning I check my phone, hoping for anything, just a few words to remind me that you are still there and that you still think about me. No matter how mad we got at each other or how frustrating things were, part of me always reaches for my phone. Text message received From: Manko, Eva.
You’re the goofy, impulsive lunatic to my logic and sarcasm. No matter how down I was, you were always there to be a dork in the endearing, cute, loveable way that just makes my heart melt and jump at the same time. But now you’re gone. You aren’t there to cheer me up anymore. You’re the reason that I’m feeling this way, and there is nothing that can change that. My closest, my only confidant has left me for someone else.
Sometimes I feel like I’m OK. Like you are with him, but I’ll get along just fine. And then I see you, and you see me. You don’t giggle at me anymore. You don’t look at me the same way. And then I see him, and I want to run. I want to run as far away as fast as I can. I want to fight anything. Him. A stranger. The wall. It doesn’t matter so long as I can punch out the agony, the heart-wrenching feeling that makes me feel like I’m dying. I want to beat it out and give myself back some control over my life and my happiness. I’m tired of being afraid to walk out of my room or go on Facebook. I’m tired of texting or calling you and getting a terse response and knowing you’re with him before you even hint at it. And knowing that there is no way for me to win your attention. I think that’s what really gets me. It’s the helplessness. I can’t stop you. I can’t move on. I can’t fix it. I hate not knowing the answer. The truth is, I’m not sure there is one.
You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met. We had so many stupid, selfish fights about absolutely nothing. There were times when you drove me absolutely insane. And then a day would pass, and you were all I could think about. You still are. I don’t know what the right answer is for us, if we’re right for each other. I really don’t. But there has to be something to it when no matter how mad I get or how frustrating you are, I still wake up, praying you’ll be there. I don’t know how to classify it. My friends are no help. They’re either soulless or bloody hopeless when it comes to girls. Or gay… I don’t think I really care what it is or what we were or what we could be. All I do know is that you never leave my mind. That your smile still lights up my memories and your laugh is the ultimate high. It echoes in my head and I can’t help but smile.
I can’t have you back. Hell, who knows if I want you back. You’re with him now. It never occurred to me that it would actually happen. I look at the first messages he sent you. I remember how unsure you seemed. Now, I wonder if I have any reason to hope that you’ll leave him. I’m scared for you. I know you’ll fall hard and fast, no matter what you say. I know you better than you know yourself, whorebag. If that bastard hurts you, drops you on your face like his friends said he’s apt to do… I’m scared for you. Don’t take crap like you did from me. You’re out of your mind for doing it once. You’re also just out of your mind in general, but that’s a side note. Please, don’t get hurt again.
Love always, forever, no matter what,
2:03 AM This is where it gets crappy… It’s late, that’s all. But I want you out of me. I want to scour every fiber, every muscle, every piece of my heart that you still occupy. I want to bottle up every last fragment and throw it into the ocean, if only to make you go away. But I can’t. I’m realizing now that whether I like it or not, you’re a part of me, just like I hope I am of you. You’re tucked away where you used to keep me warm, hidden away in my heart of hearts where thought you’d always be. But you are just a memory. All that’s left are memories.
He said it better than she could have. Better than she ever did. Of course, he said it too late. Just like she realized it too late. In the end, they both suffered. Unbearably.
She told him once he was like cancer. He had metastasized into every bit and piece of her life, and she couldn’t cut him out. Sometimes he was still there; she found him every so often in unexpected places, in people or in dreams.
So, she wondered, was that the reckless love of a first? A heart that had yet to be broken? Or was it something specific to the souls involved? If she had been someone else, would he have felt the same? If he had, would she? More importantly, could she ever feel that way again? If the former were right, could a heart heal so completely to again love so naively? And if it were the latter, if it had been some special connection, could she find that again?
She had loved him, the man in the meadow. Like Nathan had predicted (though admittedly with another), she had fallen hard and fast. She had jumped in, and she had been happy. She had really loved him. After all, she had spent years of her life with him—so how could she not?
But could she say she had loved him like her first?
And can first loves happen twice?