The Course of an Almost Relationship
I haven’t seen him for 3 years, though it doesn’t feel that long at all. He still looks the same to me. Light brown eyes, cheeky smile; white T-shirt, black ripped jeans and chain bracelet; good old Kent and a Scotch.
I always think they don’t really go together — the carefree in his style and the old-school in his taste; in fact, they have never quite made sense to me. But I figure that’s exactly what makes him him, full of beautiful conflicts and contradictions, and I wouldn’t want him any other way.
I wonder what he’s thinking of me right now, what his first-30-second impression of the present me might be as he’s sitting in front of me, fixing his eyes on mine so intriguingly. It was actually one of our favorite topics back in the day during cold beers and cheap pizza.
All the “What did you think of me when you first saw me?”, “Do you think I have changed and become more mature?” would always lead to a passionate rambling session about the nature of life, of universe and nothingness, and particularly, of writer girls like me.
Till this day, I still remember my very first impression of him, the 30 seconds that decided 90% of any impression I’d later have of him.
It was a warm summer afternoon years and years ago. Upon seeing him across the busy London street, I immediately thought he reminded me of someone I’d known for a long time, of late winter and early spring, of excitement and safety of first love, of adventures and home all at the same time.
Then just like that, unexpectedly and completely against my will, something blossomed in my naive heart. I didn’t tell him any of that though. I listened to his impressions of me, feeling satisfied with the genuineness and told him, uh huh, I had to finish my pizza, refusing to reveal my thoughts.
The truth was I was too scared of his reaction had he known I’d felt such a silly, hopelessly romantic way about him before I even spoke to him. And I didn’t want to give him any chance to turn me down and take away the happiness I was filled with every time I was with him. It was magical and I didn’t always see magic in the ordinary with just anyone.
That’s why I didn’t ask any question. I didn’t mention the future, the dreaded talk “Where is this going?” I went with the flow, with happy hours and dinners and deep talks. With long walks home and playful showers and unexpected morning kisses. Cold beers and pizza and same old Scotch and cigarette breaks under the city lights.
And always with lots and lots of laughter, the kind of laughter you only share with bestfriends, with family members, the kind that makes you believe you’re really, really close and dear to someone. I was so happy being the best version of myself. And somehow in his lingering gazes, in wet kisses during and after shower, in crazy love-making, I could tell he was feeling the same — happy and confident.
What we had was beautiful and promising. However, we ended up never putting a name on it, which I understood and gladly accepted. At that stage of life, the timing was just not right for us. We both didn’t know what we wanted in life.
We were so young, so unsettled, so different. I was at the start of the adulthood race with endless possibilities ahead while he was dealing with the ghosts of the path he had already walked through. I was on the verge of exploding while he was jaded and deflating. I was hopeful, ready to jump at the future while he was hurt, finding light in an unresolved past.
It was simply an unspoken agreement that we let each other be and free to go find any missing piece of ourselves. Soon, as expected, life pushed us into different directions and we gradually, peacefully drifted apart.
In the last three years, I’ve moved on and not even in my wildest dream have I ever expected to meet him again. Yet, here we are, fresh as the Spring, together. He’s finally back to London and reaches out to me after all this time.
Although he has just turned 29 a few weeks ago, he still doesn’t age at all, only looking more manly and well put together.
I’ve learned that he has a different life now. He has gone on many cool adventures across Asia and Oceania, and decided to pursue his passion in photography. Good thing, my life is different for the better too. I tell him, “I’m doing very well”, and he replies, “I’m in a much better place now too” which I think is a good start.
I realise he might be more grown up, more successful, more self-assured now. But there’s still that same boy I met 3 summers ago in him, the boy who would listen attentively to all of my rambling, who found the way I say “bitches” funny and knew exactly what drinks to order for me.
What was there is still here today, binding us together. Even the first 30 seconds are still here, and he’s always the boy who made my heart race with reflex kisses in the middle of the night, who saw me as the carefree, pretty, interesting girl I’d always dreamed to be.
Being with him then was as though music was always playing in our background. So, naturally, being with him now, my heart starts catching up, and I can’t wait to tell him everything I never told him last time. Perhaps there might even be a different ending this time.
I want to tell him all the truths, the vulnerable yet powerful truth that my heart had chosen him before I could make any rational decision about him. I want to tell him that it was painful realising he didn’t hold onto me after all but every second with him was worth it, for life had never been so colourful and words had never come out of me so easily.
I want to tell him that he was my muse and it was a lie that I would not write about him. I want to tell him that even though our time was short he had unknowingly healed one of my past wounds and touched my soul like few others did. I want to tell him that I wished he had given us a chance because we both damn well deserved it.
I don’t know what to do with our kisses, with all the songs that were on repeat as we drank away our Friday nights or buried our lazy Sundays in bed, with his random words and gestures that fitted right in all the empty space in my heart, with his go-to Scotch and cheeky smile, with knowing where his burnt scar is. Yes, I still remember them all.
I want to tell him everything, anything he wants to know, anything he’s been waiting for. I’ll never start a sentence and not finish it, leaving him hanging in frustration ever again. I’ll tell him I do care and I’ll finally have his answer and a better ending for us… if only he was actually sitting in front of me. If only he was still alive.
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I made this meeting up. He’s not here. Not anymore. I’m fine but he’s dead. He’s dead now. Today is the 3rd anniversary of his death, and I’m at his favourite coffee shop, the place captured in his latest Instagram photo dating back to 11 August 2013. It was also the date I last saw him.
The real story is, we ended just like any average almost relationship does: when calls were missed and text messages went unanswered, when it was obviously, painfully a waste of time unless we moved things forward. As it was clear we wouldn’t move anything forward, our arrangement eventually reached its expiry date.
That’s the nature of an almost relationship: For a while, it was enough. It was enough until it wasn’t, until everything felt like a big, fat, boring, old lie that I got really angry at myself I’d ever bought in the first place.
The timing was just not right for us — that’s one thing. But maybe it wasn’t even about timing at all. Timing was just some lame excuse like the rest of the bullshit I had to tell myself everyday for the sake of my own sanity. Who am I kidding, really? It stings me that regardless of what reason, it all boils down to one simple fact that he didn’t choose me.
So, we said our last words to each other, disturbingly chill about the whole thing, with no question or disagreement, then two weeks later he got into an accident and was gone forever. That’s it. POOF. Nothing matters anymore. I have no one to verify the existence of what was once us, no one to direct unresolved pain and anger at. What am I to do?
There’s no 29-year-old him. No reaching out and second chance. There’s not another Scotch. No Asia and Oceania trips. No more Instagram photos. He’ll never age, never change. What was there is still there, good or bad, no matter how mind-fucking, all untouched and unexplained. I’ve never seen him again. I’ve never got to tell him my honest first 30 seconds.
And I don’t even remember what our last words were because it had never crossed my mind that those were actually our last words.
It’s achingly frustrating that without a label, all my feelings were unjustified and I didn’t even know what rights I had to grieve but I let myself do it anyway. I just had to. I grieved — over the end of our almost relationship and over the loss of him.
Ever since, I’ve also been learning to deal with all the things I’m left with that don’t even seem real anymore: Intimate details about him. Pieces and pieces of our happy time together splashing all over the streets of London. Burst of memories that knocks me right over when I’m convinced I’m over the past.
All while having to bear the reality of a no label relationship that I might mean nothing to him.
Don’t worry. It’s not that bad anymore. Time does heal and things are slowly getting better. There’s no anger, no resentment, no regret. There’s only acceptance and forgiveness and harmless nostalgia.
It’s just crazy to think that some word you say to someone could actually be the last word you’ll ever say to them. It’s crazy to realise that life can be so, so short and you might never see someone again, not EVER again in your entire lifetime, and everything you ever shared is nothing but a fading memory.
It’s even more crazy that some people think it’s a good idea to hold off feelings and act “chill” like nothing gets to them, like other people are really just Tinder profiles and phone numbers they can delete and replace and everything is wiped clean.
See, how precious it is that we have a chance to cross lives with each other, to say hello and bare our souls with one another…
There it goes — that’s my story, my almost relationship and almost lover. It’s been three years and on most days, I’m good now. I write this down so that I will not forget about him. And I won’t. Well, honestly, I’m scared I will eventually do.
You know, my brain — some day, it will not be working properly anymore and I’ll forget bit by bit. And if I would, there would be nothing left of us. There would only be him and me as these two separate lives that had nothing to do with each other and this coldness of people passing each other by…
But well, isn’t that how almost relationships are supposed to work?