Five years is a long time to wait. All I've ever done was compare you to every single boy who asked me out, replaying our memories rather aggressively and with abuse. It wasn't healthy, and I'm apologizing to myself, not to you. I was driven by the thought that you were the best. I was taught at a young age that the real one comes only once. It's a total no-brainer why I waited for you for years. I thought you were the one and I let you go.
I saw you today at school, the first time in a very, very, long time. You were surrounded by your posse of boys who all wore Nikes. I was with my own friends, of course, though they do not share the same imaginary social hierarchy as yours do. You saw me first. You looked at me, confident that I would stiffen with your presence. I thought I would, too. But for the first time, I felt... silence. No overwhelming self-consciousness, no weird heartbeats, nothing out of the ordinary was heightened just... nothing. And I found it very pleasant. In fact, I felt I was free.
Our town wasn't big enough for the two of us. One of us had to move out. I haven't seen you during high school, but having your memory ingrained in me, I didn't need to see you to feel your ubiquity. You were away on an attempt to pursue your passion and I was stuck here deliberately trying to live my life with books and school in an endless cycle. But now that you're back, I couldn't help but acknowledge your presence. You've grown—a lot. A lot taller, more muscle ,and no trace of that baby fat I was so keen on remembering. But you never lost that dreamer's eyes, the kind that wouldn't look away until it startled me. You eased into the man I expected you to be and I cannot help but be proud of what you have become and of what you have achieved.
There were these fleeting moments when I was so tempted to let you go. There was no point on holding on when you know it's too late. I felt like I was drowning in your absence. I dwelled on the bottom of the surface for far too long that I forgot how to breathe. I was waiting. When I got so impatient, when I attempted to move on, I would resurface back into the air only to find myself deep down under where I knew I belonged. I thought it would be like that. So I waited until the moment sunk in. For the wave to come and drag me deep down under, for my senses to realize you're within reach again. But it never came. It never did. So this is what they call being numb, huh? Or is this my first taste of freedom?
I remember the first time I fell in love with you and how every heartbreak you caused felt. They said we were practically kids when we fell in love. They criticized that what we had was nothing special but a fling. Adults, of all people, know better than to bind love with age.
I remember how unsettling it was to sleep that night before the first day of college because I knew the next morning, I would see you again. And when I did, I wanted to run to you and hold you because more than anything, only the assurance of you right there in front of me would satisfy the longing. I knew seeing you would be like falling in love all over again. But that did not happen. I gracefully glided in front of you like a lark happy of its freedom.
I haven't grown bitter. In fact, I still find it in my heart to say "I love you." It's just that, the heart has its limit too, of how much it could contain and how much it is willing to suffer. I used you as my crutches for so long that I've forgotten how it would feel like to stand on my own again. It was late one afternoon when I saw you again, at the same spot, but alone. I sauntered in front of you, showing off the independence I found. However, you grabbed my hand, and although I was already on top of the water surface and not in it, I could feel myself sinking again; slowly and surely as I fought with myself to look you in the eye. "I didn't tell you for a long time... I love you, I love you still."
You flashed me a sad smile, but I can't. Not anymore. You see, you can't just take a person back to a time where it hurts the most. Maybe I'm being selfish, but the truth is this time, I want you to hurt. I want you to drown in my absence and maybe in time, when I can answer the questions that toy with my thoughts at night: the buts, ifs, and maybes—especially the ifs, we can continue whatever the remains may be. Maybe then, we deemed our worth to the universe for it to leave us alone. I'm sorry, I can't help but blame the universe. I blame the fates, and all the other divine interventions who don't believe in Happily Ever Afters. I blame our society for judging us. Using words I would never like to recall. They mold me to believe in fairytales and when I actually lived in one, they closed the book and tore up the last page.
I was disappointed when you said , "I love you." I chided myself for not saying it back. It felt obligatory. It should have been an impulse. "I love you, too." Oh, how I practiced ever since the first time and the last time you said it to me. I wanted to be ready. I wanted it to sound like those young women in the tv shows: fluent, sexy. But most of all, I wanted to copy the way you say it: assuring. Even if it was just a croak and a stab to my heart, I failed to utter it. Knowing nothing will change I should've just went for it. The ball was in my corner. Hmm, the ball was always on my corner, that's how you played it. Every goodbye, every parting, the last subject or question in the conversation, you always hung up before I beat you to it, kiss a second too soon. You always kept me on my feet, you know?
I guess this is it, I won't reply anymore. My time is up, I blew my chance to move. It was a good game, call it a stalemate. With or without you, I should be happy. So this is the end, my lover. I hope when I wake up tomorrow, I can finally give this letter to you. I loved you.
Please don't reply. Save me the frustration of this attempt to move on.
Written by Nikki Diane Cadiz. Got your own story to tell? Drop us an email at candymagazine @gmail.com! We'd love to hear what you have to say. If you're lucky, you just might get published in this space, too!