I Didn't Want To Let Him GoWe take the last few steps up to my gate with my smile still lingering from his last joke as I pause to turn towards him asking, "can I have a hug?" At that moment I remember all goodbyes before when I asked, "can I have a kiss?" but I try not to let on, and if he has the same thought it doesn't show.
Saying yeah he bends slightly to meet my arms clasping around his neck. I only have a moment, but this is the first time in six weeks since I've so much as brushed near him so it seems like a dream. The hug lasts just an extra beat that tugs so hard at my heart and I don't know who didn't pull away first--he or I. For a millisecond I see him dropping his hands down to my waist, me settling into his arms, leaning in close against his chest--before I snap back to reality. I know I ought to just let it go at that but I sneak one last quick press of my cheek against his neck just before he pulls away.
I turn away to unlock the apartment gate, walking in a few steps before turning back to watch him walk across the street. I take a few steps up the stairs before pausing again, seeing him stop under bright orange light from the high-pressure sodium lamps of the streetlight. At least I think that's the type of bulbs--he told me once but I don't quite have his memory.
He presses his left arm out against a tree to stretch to the side, massaging his hurt shoulder. I wonder for the twentieth time that night what he would have done if I'd offered to try to work out the pain for him because it bothered him all night. I think again that he'd probably consider it inappropriate or merely an attempt to get close to him. And, truly, I would find that nearness immensely enjoyable--but also I so want to make it stop hurting, to do everything I can to help him feel better and to feel cared for.
He gives his shoulder one last twist forward then starts off briskly before picking up his pace to a loping run by the time I'm at the top of the stairs, peeking through the angled slats of wood to watch him reach his truck. I wonder what reason he has to run; maybe he just got tired of walking, or wanted to get his blood going or to hurry out of the achingly cold December night.
Or maybe he has someone; maybe the texts I saw him sending that night all went to some girl; maybe she's waiting for him now to have her tonight. A twist of jealous outrage that I have no right to feel burns through me and then leaves me empty in the cold night, staring out from the second story of my apartment building like a hollow statue.
I pass a row of other apartments on the way to my door at the far end with the memory of the brief embrace playing over, and over again, wondering who caused that extra beat. Hoping that maybe he didn't want to let go, either.
That brief hope fully articulates the thought that becomes one of those personal knives with which we stab our own hearts. I keep thinking, "I didn't want to let him go. I didn't want to let him go. I didn't want to let him go." The ache of it pierces my heart, wrenching deeper each time. My brow crinkles while I press my lips together to hold it down but I break anyway...by the time I've covered the ten yards to my door I don't want to stand and take it anymore so I sink down to one knee, folding my arms above my head, leaning into them against the wall as the pain excises each sob, pulling them like teeth.
Somehow, even though preceding events differed so dramatically six weeks ago I find myself in the same pose with nearly the same intensity of feeling when I came home after doing the sick, awful ****** up thing I did to found him waiting at my door. We were in almost the exact same place the last time I had any physical contact with him but instead of friendship there was betrayal; instead of hugging me he pulled my hands away from where they were clutching my shirt around my neck to hide the marks, flinging them down in disgusted rage as he reeled away, clenching his fists and jaw.
He embodied anger, pacing back and forth, a righteous, ferocious creature barely restrained by the cage of his own willpower. His eyes slammed into me like a wall of bright blue-green ice as he spoke. They froze me into an unresponsive, cowering, mute, numbed all the way through with the white-hot sleet of his words.
The worst thing? He spoke nothing but truth. Truth I had managed to avoid with even myself until that point. I wished he would call me names; I prayed he would hit me; I ached for punishment to cancel my crimes, for the immature insult that would let me lash back, but instead it just kept coming in choking, numbing waves--the worst truths about myself, what I felt most ashamed of, laid out in front of me in horrifying detail.
Only after a long pause did I slowly haul myself up from the depths of my own cold shock to look up, and found that he had left. Disappeared like a ghost. Everything sank in at once and the thought "I didn't want to let him go," crushed me that day, the same day that I last felt his touch--violent and repulsed as it was.
I had been utterly careless towards the people who put the most effort into making me happy--effort I failed to appreciate because I couldn't possibly appreciate what I was too self-involved to see in the first place. I wasted the single most rare, valuable thing I will ever have in life: the love, the dedicated care of good people. I was thoughtless of anything except what I wanted in the moment. I constantly lied to myself about my own intentions. I rationalized my own behaviors, never taking full responsibility for the outcomes of my own hurtful, wasteful choices.
Worst of all--at least I regret this the most of all--I gave up without trying. I convinced myself that no amount of trying could fix things anyway, so I may as well just give up. The message that sent to the people who cared for me? "You're not worth trying for." I didn't see that the act of trying when I harbored little hope while fighting deep fears served an essential key to loving someone. I gave up love because of feeling too scared and insecure to try. That I regret more than anything.
Maybe I have no chance now. Maybe no amount of trying can fix things, but I will not give up. The message I want to send to him is, "you are worth everything to me." I want to put in the effort to make him feel cared for. If all I ever accomplish is showing a beautiful human being that he is loved, I will consider that one of the most meaningful achievements I might ever claim. As Karen Schulz said, "regret doesn't remind us that we did badly--it reminds us that we know we can do better." So the only way to avoid regret is to do my absolute best, even--or especially--if I'm not sure my best will be enough.