You were my friend. Emphasis on were, I guess, because as much as I’d like to stay friends–as much as friendships are precious to me and I hoard them like doomsday preppers hoard canned goods because their life depends on them (because my life does depend on them)–I can’t. I can’t talk to you anymore without second-guessing, without thinking twice, without wondering if I’m saying too little or being too nice or giving you ammunition to gun me down again.
Just after it happened, a girl I once knew (or maybe I never did, really) told me this was my fault, that I’d invited it, that I hadn’t been careful and I’d let you in and I should have controlled it from the beginning. And even if everyone else after her scoffed at the idea–even if everyone else told me that there is only so much of a relationship (we had a relationship. Friendship is a relationship.) you can control–I can’t help but hate myself every time another message from you comes in. I can’t help but call myself “Weak.” when I do reply (because I miss you. Because I miss us. Because you were a habit and they’re always notoriously hard to break.) and “Cold.” when I don’t. I can’t help but feel I’m making mistakes at every juncture, whatever I do, because I’d apparently made so many before without realizing it.
Every time I drop my mask of cheerfully cold civility and one-syllable reply limit–every time I decide to be honest, hope I can appeal to your better nature–you ask me to take you back. To go back to how it was. Because you’re afraid, you say, you’re afraid you’ll never meet anyone else. I was (past tense, please note, please) your best friend, someone you felt comfortable spilling secrets to that you’d never told anyone. I kept you honest until the end, until honesty undid us both because you’d left nothing out except for one crucial thing…and because I’d been stupid enough to think that despite my better judgment and all our agreements you actually…
…I can’t say it. Even now. Honesty hurts too much.
There are days I believe that it’s all my doing, that I dreamed you up and made you an idea of a boy instead of an actual boy. There are days I can laugh at my foolishness, brush it off as growing pains. But most days–days when someone catches my eye, or else when my officemates offer to set me up with a boy, sometimes even a nice boy (one I wouldn’t have minded in a not-too-distant past)–I remember my damage all too clearly, see the fault in my stars that became fault-lines in my battlements, chinks in my armour that allowed you to slip through. You have become a lesson: that I am too vulnerable to trust anyone with myself. That the world is cruel and a boy’s heart can be cold and exploitative and see me as a game of skill instead of as a girl. That I can’t trust niceness, can’t put my faith in favors, because the last time I believed in a free cup of venti hazelnut macchiato it let me down.
I asked you to let me go, the last time. I begged you. I said I was walking away. And I have. I honestly don’t want to try and save this anymore. I don’t think there’s anything left to save, that we’ve set everything on fire, even the ashes. I want time and distance to heal my wounds so that maybe I can brush this off one day as youthful folly. “Please, let go,” I told you, “I have. I am.”
But you refused. Even in the end, I couldn’t count on you to care enough to do right by me. “Not this time.” you typed back. Even in the end, you were selfish.
Girls reading books about sparkly vampires and brooding rockstars dream of that sentence, but when it’s real–when it’s gray text in a Facebook Messenger window–it’s terrifying. It’s painful. Because it can’t be over. Because you are a sword of Damocles hanging over my head. Because you can’t respect me enough to leave me alone even though I’ve asked you to, begged you to. No isn’t no for you. I want radio silence, distance from my pain. You make it apparent with every “heyy” and “whats up,” reminding me that I can never escape my past or my mistakes. That I will always bear the burden of my vulnerability.
I will always be a plaything. It will always be my fault. I will always be stupid, and blind, and too trusting, and naive, and most of all–more than anything–broken. That my damage will define me because you saw me, and you saw the girl (the one that on my cruellest, angriest days I say stood in for everything you couldn’t get from me), and you said we were nearly one in the same. We were both damaged, and therefore we were equal. Or equal opportunity. And while I rebel against that, refute that, scream that I don’t believe that to the sky and hear it echoed back to me in a million voices that love me…
…I cannot banish the voice in my head that says you were right. That she and I were the same because we were damaged, and that made us easy, and that means that I could have been her just as surely as she could have been me and only by the grace of God did I escape relatively unscathed.
Or did I? I still see her today and she seems unchanged, still locked in a state of homeostasis even though you took more from her than you did me. She has been able to brush you off and move on. I’m the one who walks around with hooded eyes and the PTSD of a war veteran, the phantom ache of an amputee.
I ignore your messages. I’ve blocked your number from my cellphone. I’ve unfollowed your Twitter. The only thing left, really, is to unfriend you on Facebook, which I’ve refused to do until now because I don’t want to “make a big deal” out of it. But haven’t I already? Hasn’t the damage already been done?
I can’t trust anyone now. I don’t want to let anyone in, because I feel like love (There, I said it. I might have loved you. I nearly did. I will never admit it actually happened, because you don’t deserve the finality.) has become Russian Roulette and I may have dodged a bullet with you but everyone else after is another opportunity to get shot. This one may seem nice, that one may seem kind, but you seemed nice and kind and very nearly a right-proper Benedick to my Lady Disdain…
I can’t trust anyone else with my damage. Not anymore. Because I trusted you and you played me like you would play four strings until they sung sweet and low. Because blaming you is easier than blaming myself, but even then it isn’t enough to numb the pain that if I’m honest I still feel. The fear. The fact that maybe now the damage is worse and maybe I’ll never be able to trust anyone again without getting flashbacks. Without maybe getting ruined all over again, or else maybe ending up much worse.
I need the equilibrium. I need to learn to trust myself again. I need time to heal. And none of that is going to happen unless you walk. Unless you can find it in yourself to do what I think might be the only true act of kindness you will ever do me: let me go. Let go. Walk. Acknowledge that this is over and that ashes aren’t worth saving.
I write in those ashes, over and over: I’m not a slut. I’m not a flirt. I was just a fool. And sometimes, on a good day, I believe what I write.
I want more good days.