When I was young, I loved you so much it scared the fuck out of me. So much that I wouldn't dare tell you. So much that I wouldn't dare ask you to love me back as much. Because I didn't think that kind of love got given to girls like me. I loved you so much that I told myself I didn't.
When we were a couple, I used to fantasize about us in the future.
About us meeting up again when we were older. In some diner, in Manhattan or London. After we hadn't seen each other in decades.
Because you see, even when I was with you I knew we wouldn't end up.
That we wouldn't wouldn't end.
Because I didn't dare dream of love neverending.
So I dreamed of: Love. Never. Ending.
And I dreamed of you meeting up with me decades later in a coffee shop, our lives long separate and full of things we hadn't shared together. The coffee shop smelled slightly of stale cigarette smoke and strongly of brewed coffee. Your hair had gray in it. You still looked good to me, though. And I imagined you speaking quietly and sadly. I imagined the world had worn on you a bit. You were more tired, less prone to judge. I imagined you could, mostly, just see me. Not me with symbols or measurements. You just saw me, sitting there, a human. Me, and the long stretch from when we were young and together through to now. A long path. But nothing had gotten less. The connection, the need for each other, still there after all these years.
In the scene, though, we still held back. We had a very politely intense conversation. And I can't remember what I imagined back then we said to each other; I just remember the look I imagined being on your face. It was full of "should have beens" and "could have dones." I remember you being less ashamed of your human sentimentality. I remember me imagining us both at different times on the verge of misty eyes. But not actually crying. I don't remember me imagining us touching. I remember looking down at my hands around my coffee mug. And looking at your face. I remember wanting to reach out and touch your hand or your face. But i don't remember imagining me doing it.
I never fantasized about what happened after the conversation in the shop. I kept us suspended there, older, more world-weary, you more capable of seeing me, sitting across from each other in a booth in a coffee shop, touching each other without touching.
When we were still a couple, I once asked if you imagined me in the future. And you told me you thought I could do extraordinary things. But that you weren't sure if I had the capability to live up to my potential.
For years after we ended, when I did anything, I saw two things concurrently: myself doing it, and you watching me doing it and making a judgement on what I was doing. I walked through the world still trying to be worthy of your love. Was I being interesting enough? Too bourgeois? Was I informed enough about world events? Could I expound impressively on politics? Philosophy? Would the books I was reading and the films I was seeing impress you or make you sneer? Was I wanted enough by others? Was I living up to my potential or falling short?
Was I extraordinary enough?
The answer was always no.
At some point, some year, I stopped thinking about what you would think. At least directly. But, though it became not about you specifically, the fear of not being extraordinary enough remained. There was this constant belief that I had to be "more special" (than what?) and achieve something (what?) that said something (what? to whom?). And my assessment was that I was always falling short.
I won't blame this all on you. This was already a budding fear of mine well before you said what you said. But I loved you. And you were supposed to care about me, to believe in me. And that's what you believed about me--that I might never be capable of being as good as I could be. You drove the last nail of my own shaky sense of self into my no-confidence coffin, and it stuck.
These days, though, I'm trying to let go of the whole "supernova or empty space; no other options" mentality. When I can manage to let go of it, I find that's where happiness lies. I'm ready to be happy.
These days, I'm almost at the age at which, when I was 21, I imagined us being when we met in the coffee shop.
But these days, I don't fantasize about meeting up with you anymore.
And these days, for the first time since we ended, I believe that if we did meet up, it wouldn't be like I'd imagined. Because, I'm no longer the girl I was then. And I haven't grown into the woman I imagined myself to be back then.
And I can also see for the first time that I'm not going to grow into the woman you imagined me to be, either. Though your words were like a curse that led me toward that fate for a long time, I'm not headed in that direction anymore.
Recently, a friend brought me news of you, unsolicited. I heard you were asking after me, as I've been told you always do. I was told you talked in great depth about our connection to each other. You told this friend-in-common that I was the one person who knew you best in the world; who truly understood you at the deepest levels. Not that I had been, at one time. That I was. That you still think I am that one person who knows you. After all these years of non-communication.
It was suggested that instead of asking after me through others for all these years, that you just get in touch with me.
I was told you shook your head ruefully and said, "There's nothing about my life that would be worth telling her."
And now I suddenly remember that another person once told me that you'd said to him that you thought I was you in female form.
And It finally sinks in. After all these years. It was you who feared you might not live up to your potential. You who felt you had to be worth something. When you said that to me, you were saying it to you. You in female form.
Of course, that was a big fear of mine, too. So I suppose we were alike. Except for one difference. I believed in you. I would have been proud of you, no matter how grand or simple your life turned out; no matter how radical or mainstream you became. I was proud of you, even then. Even when we were so young and without newsworthy achievements.
I loved you. So much it scared the fuck out of me. So much that it would have never occurred to me to wonder if you were capable of being as brilliant as I knew you were. So much that I could have never said anything so cruel to you.
So I think we were different, after all.