Being single really doesn’t feel any different than being in an LDR, she wrote on facebook. In fact, I can’t tell the difference.
I often wonder if I’d be able to tell the difference. If I’d still think about him while I wash my hair, microwave my breakfast, lace up my shoes and walk the treadmill at the gym. I wonder if I’d still call him while I’m driving home, text him before I go to sleep, and stay up until 3 a.m. responding to his chat messages on gmail. Somehow, I don’t think so.
“This isn’t going to work,” I told myself nine months ago when he first told me he was moving. “Shit.” I really liked the guy. Maybe even loved him. And guys weren’t exactly coming through the door like Netflix. Neither of us brought it up until it became obvious how blatant our avoidance had become. When I started describing my grandmother’s hip surgery during a longer-than-usual-silence, I knew we had to talk about the future.
“We should break up,” I told him. “But I don’t want to.” I was being totally honest. I’d never arrived at an answer in the weeks I’d been thinking it over. In fact, the more I thought it over, the more confused I became. There were no right answers, only wrong ones. He looked pensive. And remained silent for a few moments while I felt my stomach tumbling over itself with apprehension. What exactly was happening? Were we about to break up?
“I don’t see why we need to,” he said, finally, and the rush of relief I felt flooded over all my misgivings and lingering doubts. I pushed them out of my mind while I helped him tape up boxes and print his boarding pass. “We’re doing the right thing,” I said over and over inside my head. For the next few months, I was going to do a lot of talking to myself.
The first two months were hell. In retrospect, it seems silly, but at the time, I felt like the world was crashing. I hadn’t realized how much I cared until he was gone. Friends tried to tactfully step out of the way of my self-pitying word vomit, but it was impossible to escape. I punished myself by deleting his number from my phone, his texts from my inbox, his e-mails from our first year of dating. “I can’t miss him,” I thought as I silently counted the number of days between visits. But I did, every second of every day. Missing spilled over the edges of my heart and bled through the borders of my brain to infect every part of my life. Unaware and self-delusional, I let things fall apart.
Until finally, I fell apart. The cracks appeared but I ignored them and kept getting up every morning to hate myself and every hour we spent in different states. I didn’t need to be happy; I needed to grow. Or so I thought. I let my hardships define me and then it wasn’t even about the boyfriend anymore. He slipped through the cracks and I was glad. One less thing to worry about as I struggled to find a job, find a cure for my now-daily headaches, and find some stability in a life that had lost a lot of definition. Yet he still called me when he found a few moments from his hectic schedule, and told me, unconvincingly, that it would be alright while I cried silently on the other end of the phone. I wondered what had torn me apart first, my boyfriend, my body, my brain, or my grand plans for the future. My heart is breaking, I whispered to myself while I tossed and turned sleepless. But it wasn’t breaking; it had already broken, and everything else was breaking as part of a chain-reaction.
Now we are friends. Technically, we are still together, but without being able to slip my hand into his, without feeling his hands in my hair when I’m sad and lonely and want comfort, he is not my boyfriend, not really. I tell myself this every day, in order to focus on living happily without him. I can predict to the minute the times he will call, and I can predict his silences as much as I can predict his responses coming through the tinny speakers of the telephone. I imagine what his face looks like when he smiles, when he laughs, and when he hears me cry for the millionth time. I no longer worry about the line between like and love, and I miss him all the time. But have I grown? Yes.