Do you know what it’s like? When your toes curl? When your heart races? When your soul calms down? Do you know what it’s like to feel like you’re the purpose of another human being’s existence? Like nobody else in the room will ever matter more than you do? Like the luckiest being alive?
Have you read a Mills & Boon book? The rich and handsome Italian man falls in love with the almost-average girl that brings trouble where she goes? That was my story. Everyone involved in my life knows bits and pieces of this story. But nobody knows the truth. I never trusted anyone with the truth. This truth.
I was your typical teenager. Born into a dysfunctional family. I had no sense of permanent relationships. Terrified of commitment in my own way. I ran from things that mattered. I enjoyed the temporary. I enjoyed the boys that swore they’d never love me. There was a comfort in knowing that. Because I knew how to be prepared for the temporary. I knew to believe that people would leave. I didn’t have faith in the ones who promised to stay.
I was visiting my father in another country. A friend in that city introduced me to him. On another occasion, I would have flirted with the guy. But not him. Even I knew he was far too out of my league. He was handsome. Not the kind I was used to. Snobbish and cynical. Grudgingly atheist. He too came from parents that would have been happier apart but chose to be miserable together. He knew the fear of promises and forevers. We became MySpace friends.
22nd July 2010. I needed a lunch buddy. He said “Yes.” We got subway. He called it a date. I didn’t say No.
It’s summer romance. I’ll leave and he’ll forget about me. A guy like that is not interested in me. He just wants to have fun. Fun is good. Fun is safe. Fun it is.
I landed back home after the summer. I turned on my phone and there it was – “I hope you got home safe. Call me the moment you can. I’m counting days till I see you again. Yours truly, R.”
I still grin when I think about it. It was our inside joke. “Yours truly.” He was my Shakespeare in disguise. I had fallen in love with a man that was far too good for me. He was mine. And not just for the summer.
We did the long distance thing. For two months. I’d cry and he’d make me smile with stories of the adventures we’d go on when we were together again. If love could be a person, it’d be him. He introduced me to all his siblings and best friends. I was “the girl he’s going to marry.”
When I got insecure, he got on a flight to visit me. When I got upset, he stayed up all night talking to me. And the best part? When I missed him, he missed me.
Hand written love letters. 8-hour skype calls. I wasn’t just in a relationship. I was in THE relationship. I had something every girl dreamed of. I had a man nobody ever gets to meet. I felt something I’d read of. A feeling of floating on the clouds. I was excited yet calm. He was my storm. He was my warm cup of coffee and cozy book during the storm. He was everything I’d ever wanted. He was everything I’d never thought of. He became the one I wanted to hold on to forever.
And life, for the most part, was beautiful.
But Fate never did like it when that happened.
There is this moment we all go through in our lives. The moment we find ourselves unable to help as we watch the ones we love suffer. We can support them. We can stay on the phone for hours so they feel better. But we can’t fix the feeling that hits them the moment we hang up. We can’t fix their problem.
His father got very sick. He moved back to Italy. The long distance became longer. His emotions grew messier. And I was useless.
There are particular emotions you feel at certain moments that you’ll never forget.
I’ll never forget the inability to reach out and hold him as he cried for hours. I’ll never forget my heart break as I couldn’t help him when he needed me the most. I’ll never forget the regret of not being there with him when I should have.
He lost his father after a long struggle. As a result, he lost himself. An adrenaline junkie. He drank out of his mind. He slept with every woman that went his way. The man I loved became someone I would never consider being with.
His sisters told me he’d gone off the edge and I should give up. But I couldn’t. Because you don’t give up on a relationship because it got difficult. You don’t give up on someone you love because they’ve gone off the edge. I fought for who we were. And this is the moment where the world will begin to disagree with my choices.
After being unreachable for four weeks, he drunk dialled me. At 2:37am on a rainy night.
“Hey babyyy. Guess what? I was just with three women at the same time! Aren’t I the coolest?” I saw a man struggling to fill a void while running away from it. I smiled and asked him to get home safe.
After fighting with me for days, he told me he was too drunk to know where his home is. He’d forgotten his address and was unable to identify which of the cards in his wallet had his address. I had him hand the phone to someone standing next to him and requested them to guide him home. The woman who loved him but never got the opportunity to be with him became my helpline. She showered him. Had him change clothes. Put him to bed. And waited for him to sleep. I still find myself owing her one for that.
We were in the same city again. We had a fight. We went back to his place and his anger got the better of him. It was a fraction of a second. I told him he was overreacting. The next moment I had my palm on my cheek. It was the first of many times.
A date after forever turned into the beginning of the end.
10th September, 2011. 12:45am his time.
“I need to be without you. You’re holding me back. I can’t go through this with you anymore. I can’t be tied down to someone like you. I need to be with me. And lots of other people. It’s time for me to be with other people. This is what I want for my birthday.”
I hung up after telling him something he’d told me a little over a year ago. Something he told me right before he said the words I never thought I’d hear, for the first time.
“If you ever have a wish, I want you to know, I’ll do anything to make it come true. Because I love you. And there’s no changing that.” I gave him his wish. He was no longer tied to me.
I didn’t cry.
I met him a few months later. He was sober. He was dating the one who wanted him. The one who rescued him when I was in another country. The one I owe. He called me that night. It was like old times. He asked me to say Yes. Said he’d give up everything and come back to me. But that was his guilt talking. Not his heart.
I’ve heard people dissect my relationship. Call me weak for staying when he got abusive. Some said I was an idiot for leaving someone so wealthy and handsome.
A few months ago, I met a friend. We talked about dating. We talked about him. She made a comment.
“He broke you. He became a monster. I don’t know why you can’t see that.”
I thought about that days after the conversation.
I fell in love with someone nice. Someone kindhearted. Someone caring. He believed in me. He believed in us. He worked for the greater good of so many. He took over his younger brother’s tuition because he could. He gave away money every month for the elderly and the adopted. He was made of something most people don’t understand. He loved so freely. He didn’t have expectations. He didn’t expect you to love him back. He never hurt people. He was careful with emotions.
He made me ambitious. He gave me a reason to work harder. He made me comfortable in my own skin. Everything I am today is because he walked in to my life when he did. Everything I will ever be, I will owe to him. He was my pillar of strength.
But life caught up to him. It threw him a curveball he didn’t know how to tackle. He gave in to the pressure. It didn’t make him an abuser. It didn’t make him an alcoholic. It didn’t make him a cheater.
It made him human.
He didn’t break me. He made me better when I was at my worst.
And I only wish I could have done the same for him.