You were mine for a heartbeat.
I remember the first time we met, both a little drunk on white wine. I needed the liquid confidence that night. Your lips were unfamiliar then, seemingly incompatible with mine. I remember thinking you were a little silly-childish even- and that your laugh was strange. I didn’t think I would ever see you again.
I don’t know how it started, but your voice found its way into my head. You became the first person I spoke to when I rose in the mornings and the last before I closed my eyes. I wish I could remember our conversations; it’s funny how the smallest details mean the most in the end.
I remember being scared. I didn’t understand how someone like you could be attracted to someone like me. I was a naïve girl clinging to the ghosts of the past, insecure and shy, dating in college for the first time. You were older, wiser, more successful. You spent your nights at clubs, mixing music and partying until dawn, while I spent mine at home with a book in hand. You were the type of boy whom I would admire from across the room, but never be confident enough to approach.
You asked me, in less distinct terms, to be yours. I declined. I was still a little caught in the past and afraid of the future. I had discovered what it meant to be young and free, and I wasn’t ready to settle down again just yet.
But slowly, somehow, you filled in the empty space between my lungs. For the first time in months, I came alive. Whenever our eyes met, I felt like I would never let you go. My body burned, remembering what it meant to love and be loved once again after months of hardship and sorrow.
On our last perfect night together, we held hands while walking along the river, and then cuddled despite the blistering summer heat. I knew then that I wanted to be with you, yet never thought to put a name to what we were. I thought time would always be frozen in this moment, and that I was secure in your embrace.
And just like that, you were gone. Silence slipped between us, creating a bitterness on my tongue. I started to feel guilty for trying to speak to you, as if my voice were a nuisance in your busy life. Days turned into months. I kept trying to keep us alive, crying out for attention, desperately seeking affection despite your apathy.
In the rare moments I spent in your arms, I felt like I was stealing moments from the past. Each time we kissed, I thought you would be mine again. My imagination rushed ahead, inventing a future out of scraps of memories. I saw us graduating together, moving on to our adult lives hand in hand, an uncertain future but one with you by my side.
I missed the signs that you had moved on. I accepted your excuses and invented my own. Some part of me recognized your indifference, but I needed you in my life. You had wanted me once; why wouldn’t it always be this way?
The last time I saw you, I noticed her makeup on your desk. I didn’t say anything, hoping I was wrong. I never imagined that there could be someone else more important in your life. That night we slept apart, our backs facing each other and a divide between our bodies. I had never felt more distant, yet desperate for your love.
Two weeks later, you were gone. And you didn’t even say goodbye.
I fell apart. I woke up in cold sweats, sick to my stomach, remembering that you were holding someone else like you used to hold me. I wanted to call you crying, begging for you to take me back, not caring about how pathetic I looked. I couldn’t get out of my head, even though I knew I would never get the answers I wanted.
I haven’t let you go just yet. I can’t stop thinking about at the past. If I had said yes then, would you be mine now? If I had simply asked you to be with me then, would you be holding me tonight? I still find myself lost in memories, drowning in denial and the fear of what’s to come. I keep waiting to hear your voice, to assure me that everything will be okay. But in the end, you still chose her over me. That’s all that matters now.
I never realized how much it hurt to lose someone who was never truly mine.
- Mari Strand