That no matter how little I may feel
Nothing is a failure
If I learn from it
I have to keep reminding myself
That it’s okay to
Have been so sad that I didn’t go to class
It’s okay if I slipped up and called somebody
Whose number I meant to erase
It’s okay if I spend a few days in bed
So long as I get up again
I have to remind myself that
I wasn’t made to be perfect
I was made to grow
And nothing is a mistake if
I am better because of it
The only problem is that the recipient of these feelings, these unending physical aches, is either taken or unreceptive. They go to the cleaners to get suits ironed for the women they will come home to that are not you; they eat spaghetti and meatballs in dim restaurants with low-quality wine while secretly holding hands with someone who is also coincidentally not you.
You have to start learning how to enter a room without worrying, or maybe hoping, that they will be in it. You have to get away from their invisible presence, the way their atoms cling to your sweater sleeves and make you feel dizzy. It is said there are five stages of grief, but no one ever talks about the different kinds of grief you’ll have to go through to let go of someone whom you love dearly but will never be yours. You’ll have to go through all the possible combinations and versions, maybe some of them infinite, in order to move on.
There’s the My memory has a checkout line that always wants to keep you on the conveyer belt kind of grief, the I’d rather die than not see you anymore kind, the Why are you with her when you could be with me kind of grief. Your heart will feel like it’s been through a cheese grater and then doused in salt and vinegar simultaneously. You will feel like hell, or maybe even start to think you’ve actually arrived there several decades early.
But a haircut is just a haircut. It was not for the purpose of impressing you; in truth, this person probably notices you on average only 1/5 the number of times you notice them on a daily basis. So you need to start taking the other route to the bus stop or the office or even the deli, the route that does not involve catching a glimpse of them through the window or sitting in their cubicle. You need to stop ordering vanilla lattes at Starbucks exactly when you know they’ll be working behind the counter.
Forget their handwriting. Stop memorizing the way they dot their i’s or how their h’s always look too much like n’s. Focus on the ugly things instead- the bad morning breath, their refusal to apologize for hurtful utterances or lost arguments, maybe even how they always forget to throw away the used coffee filters. Try to remember that they are not perfect. They, too, have belly fat and creaky knees that may need surgery a few years early.
The moon was once jealous of the sun for loving the earth so stubbornly, but then the night sky came and devoured it whole. If you don’t stop this now, you too will be eaten alive by unreciprocated feelings. It is not selfish nor is it wrong to get some “me time,” to lock yourself in your room and turn on music without lyrics that will help de-clutter your mind. Breathe deeply. Letting go does not come at once or after a walk around the block; it normally comes after a cross-country trek or roadtrip around the world. Allow yourself the luxury of taking it slow.
Step by step, erase them from your memory. Throw away the eighth-grade concert ticket they gave you on a whim, the rainbow paperclips from your first school project together. Don’t touch the doorknobs they turned anymore or re-trace their steps in the hallway on the way to French class. Go your own way. Allow yourself the kinds of nights where all you feel like doing is eating an entire tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream alone in your dorm room, or watching reruns of Friends in your footie pajamas.
Forgiveness is hard. Forgetting is even worse.
There will always be people in your life who will take your heart when you hand it to them and will squash it in their fists until it turns into a bloody pulp. There will always be someone who will never notice you no matter how painfully visible you make yourself. That’s the sad truth.
But the other universal truth is that there will always be the one person who takes your heart in their hands when you offer it like a gift and will treat it as if it’s made of glass, who will not drop it no matter how heavy it gets.
This is the person worth waiting for. So forget about anyone else, and wait for them instead.
“I promise to love you:
at 6 am when you’re waking
to go to work, to school, or whatever
road life takes you on;
and when you didn’t sleep well,
your hair is a mess
and your eyes are sleepy.
at 8 am when we say goodbye
for the day and you’re rushing
out the door with a cup
of black coffee, after finishing
a morning cigarette
when your lips taste like
caffeine and nicotine.
at 3 pm when you’re exhausted
from the day and people have
worn you out and you feel like
sighing, crying, and falling asleep
and escaping in afternoon dreams.
I will kiss your forehead,
and wrap myself in your arms.
at 10 pm when you’re heading to bed,
even though you won’t sleep for hours
and you’ll flip through all the channels
tired of dismal newscasts and re-runs.
at 3 am when loneliness and sadness
do not destroy you, but consume you
and when you weep without an explanation
I’ll kiss your lips, softly and
tell you you’re the absolute best.
When we talk about life
and why winter kills the flowers.
I will love you when you grow old,
I will love you even after that
I will love you if I’m no longer here
I will love you
I will love you
and I will love you.