subject line: happy birthday.

 

The wrong side of “friends” and “something else.”

The date is in my phone calendar, set to repeat each year through 2100. Three years ago today we baked a lopsided cake together. (Only you would insist on baking your own birthday cake.) I accidentally bought half-and-half instead of heavy cream and the frosting turned out too thin and the layers didn’t quite stay in the right spot no matter how hard we tried. Two years ago we Skyped into the morning. You yawned and looked at the clock and we both laughed at how we had lost track of the hours. Last year I called you during that hour between your biology lab and my anthropology lecture on Mondays, and we laughed about that cake and marveled at the fact that it still tasted good in spite of everything we’d messed up.

This year, nothing has changed for you or for us, but everything has changed for me. Frankly, I’m hesitant—no, I’m afraid to call you. I’m afraid that in the minutes and hours that pass between us (because our phone calls have never been short), it might finally slip out. After over three years of friendship—countless Wednesday morning coffee runs, baking attempts that have turned out much better than that first cake, sorting through old records in thrift shops, hushed conversations in my car late at night, my head on your shoulder and your arms around me that time the heater was broken, those shared looks that for a brief moment might have said everything.

subject line: not throwing away my shot.

 
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Where my feet are

I missed my shot. I let her slip through my fingers and I missed my shot to tell her how I really feel.

Of course, I would see her after break, but that was a full week. A full week of time for both of us to rationalize this, to overthink and overanalyze and make excuses for it. To move past the way that it felt like the earth stopped spinning when our knees were millimeters from each other. We didn’t move them. We sat there, that millimeter screaming out in electric waves, despite the fact that both of us usually hate physical touch. Something kept us there and kept us brushing arms and leaning into one another gently throughout the meal.

Then I walked with her out of the building and awkwardly avoided the topic and let her go. I pulled out my phone and shot her a quick message: “Hey so I totally should’ve just told you what I wanted when we were walking out but I suck and that didn’t happen. If you have some free time later tonight (I’d rather tell you before break), can we meet up?” She quickly replied “Sure, how about 9:30? Also. Good of you to bring something up. Even though you missed one shot, you took another. That’s challenging.”

So with the plan in place to go for a walk at 9:30, I started thinking way to into it all. Her comment about missing a shot led me to believe that she knew what I was going to say, that she was already guessing what it was. But nothing inside me could justify that she had feelings for me too. I tried planning what I was going to say. All the clichés ran through my head, but I wanted to do something less like what everyone sees and just say what I felt.

Of course, I am a writer. So I ended up writing 12 drafts of a letter to her. Something to fall back on if I couldn’t get the words out. It ended up reading “So I kinda like you a lot.”

I couldn’t find the words. So when 9:30 came around and we walked around in the brisk night air, I kept saying filler comments. She kept chuckling but I knew that she was waiting. I knew that she was waiting for me to tell her and I couldn’t get anything to fall out of my mouth. I passed the note to her and looked up at the stars in the semi-cloudy sky.

She read it out loud, quietly, almost under her breath. I could hear the smile in her voice but I was so afraid to turn to look at her. “Yeah” she replied. “I kinda like you a lot too.”

subject line: I need to know.

 
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somewhere holding onto hope

I need to know what came next in the “We Keep Locking Eyes” emails. Is there more? I need to know that her heart isn’t broken, that the boy in her bed came back, or that he didn’t and that she is okay with it, that she figured out why he was there in the first place, that she accepted that she was good enough for him to be there. I need to know for me, because that was once upon a time me but it never got resolved, so even if it got resolved for her, I would be a little bit happy. And I need to know because the number of times I’ve refreshed IYFTE in the past 5 days is ungodly.

Please.

subject line: watching him dance in a bar.

 
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Athens, Georgia

The question i get asked most often is, “how have you and your ex remained such good friends?”

And it’s true - he’s still one of the first and only people i run to when I need a helping hand. However, i would be lying if I said he knew the first thing about the woman I am today. Nor could I tell you anything about the human he has turned into since the spring ended in 2015.

i would describe our “friendship” as this: we love to wish each other well right before we pray new relationships don’t work out in each other’s favor. It’s like some twisted Shakespeare shit.

subject line: feels.

 

Denver, Colorado

I thought saying “see you later” as I watched you get on an airplane to go to Afghanistan was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And then I found out I was pregnant with your baby. And then you cheated. And then I miscarried. October is hard. The days hit me harder and harder. Almost 6 years have passed, and today, I found out you did too. Of all the stupid things you’ve done, a drunk driver was the thing that ended you. I thought “see you later” was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but man, that has nothing on the pain I feel now. I’ll miss you always.

subject line: late night snacks.

 

in my empty house

I’m 23 and currently live alone. I don’t really have any friends in my town, so I spent my evening trying to learn how to cook hardboiled eggs. I don’t even like eggs, but I cooked 10 of them. The first two were ruined, but the third was tolerable if I covered it in salt and black pepper. I counted it a victory and ate another one as a sort of purposeless celebration.

Spending evenings alone is not something new to me. Most days it’s nice. I can read and clean and dance and binge watch my high school TV shows while eating ice cream out of the bucket without a soul to judge me. But once in a while, on days like today, I find myself crying on the floor of my kitchen, holding 7 tolerable hardboiled eggs in my lap, absolutely desperate for someone to share them with.

subject line: language barriers.

 

Tennessee

How do you love someone and leave them in the same breath? It’s been nine months of fighting for each other and learning to love and letting myself become vulnerable. He’s held my hand and waited for me to speak when my courage was broken on the floor. He’s never once considered leaving my disaster. And yet, I can’t find anything we have in common. No one thing that holds us together.

I’m full of a whirlwind of passion and creativity and all I want in life is to make everything I feel and see and experience into something I can touch. I just want to hold everything and hear it whisper. It’s more than something I do. It’s who I am. He’s the opposite of all of that. And I don’t know that he is ever going to be able to speak that language with me.
And everyday I wonder if that’s what I want. To be loved, but never understood.

And then he shows up with flowers and a kiss on the cheek and that ridiculously adorable smile and I wonder all over again. When he thanks me for not leaving I want to cry. Because I love him so much, but I can’t promise that I will be here tomorrow. I can’t promise that, because it would be a lie.
And I think I hate that the most: that I sit here and let him believe I’m here for the long haul because I can’t find the courage to speak.

subject line: Shaky Knees (+not the good kind).

 

Georgia

It was 5 o’clock. I was in Atlanta, and you were 58 miles away getting married. All I could think about was your first dance at the golden hour and how I’d be seeing pictures for weeks to come. I was filled with caffeine and my knees were shaking with every staircase because I knew she was walking down the aisle, and a year ago we had planned for that to be me.

subject line: "I love you, and I'm not going anywhere."

 
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Winston Salem, North Carolina

I’ve never experienced friends that worked through problems.

I’m use to fighting and fighting hard. I’m use to saying all the low blows because hurting them first meant I wouldn’t get hurt worse. I’m use to holding onto anger and ignoring them until they realized they had done something.

Until about two minutes ago, I didn’t realize that this is the healthiest friendship I’ve ever had. And I’m not use to healthy. Because healthy has to keep showing up time and time again. Healthy is vulnerable. Healthy is full of grace. Healthy is apologizing. Healthy is saying when you’re hurt, instead of running away.

”I love you and I’m not going anywhere” is what she wrote. I wasn’t expecting to read that. So simple. Yet I had to hold back the tears.

She didn’t bolt. She didn’t disown me. She didn’t tell me I was being over dramatic. She stayed.

Maybe it really is that simple. Just stay.

subject line: tired.

 
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Georgia

I love you, but I’m tired.

I’m tired of the 52 miles I drive to see your face.

I’m tired of your mom, her angry phone calls about us changing plans, and the way she drives by to make sure we are where we said we are.

I’m tired of the silence after you hang up with her because you’re mad that she’s so strict and I’m mad that it feels like nothing ever changes.

I’m tired of your brother’s girlfriend. I tried to like her, but she’s so fake, and I’m tired of no one else seeing that.

I’m tired of having to ask you to call me unless you’re bored and have nothing better to do.

I’m tired of the hesitation before I say, “Uhhh, yeah,” when someone asks me if I’m happy.

I’m tired of telling myself that maybe it’ll get better— that you’ll be more compassionate and your mom will be less crazy.

I’m tired of you talking about YOUR dreams & how you can’t wait for me to cheer you on from the sidelines when they all come true. I don’t remember ever wanting to be on the sidelines.

I’m tired of listening to you put other people down based on where they live or how much money they have or whatever else you find wrong with them, and I’m tired of you thinking you’re always right.

I’m tired of being drained on the car ride home because I’m lucky if I get two hours a week with you and I spend the last one staring at the clock wondering if it’ll be six weeks between dates again.

Oh, and I’m tired of them not being actual dates because you’ve never picked me up and taken me out and dropped me off back at my door step.

I’m tired of your one-word responses. I’m tired of feeling like I have to fight to have the upper hand. I’m tired of needing someone who’s never next to me.

I’m not tired of the good morning texts, because I promise I haven’t forgotten that they make me feel so good. There are times when you make me feel so good.

I’m not tired of holding your hand in the car or kissing you after a long, hard week. I’m not tired of you laughing at me and telling me you don’t care what happens as long as we’re together.

I love you so much. There is so much I’d miss. But I am so tired.

subject line: Close to Midnight, Far From Paris.

 

Ohio

Ernest Hemingway said that in order to write, really write, you had to write one true sentence. The truest sentence you know.

Its hard to know what is true when you’ve adapted your life to fit into whatever mold someone needed you to be that day.

I’m a people pleaser.

You wanted a girl who drank Miller and cursed like a sailor. So that’s who I became for you. You wanted no commitment and late night booty texts so that’s what I convinced myself I was ok with.

But this summer it will have been 4 years since we started this drunken craziness. 4 years, 2 journals, many sleepless nights, and countless coffee dates trying to defend you to my friends.

The truest sentence I know is that: I wished to God that you loved me back.

The second truest sentence I know is that: You can’t love me, because you don’t even know the real me.

subject line: I'm the girl he didn't chase after.

 
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2000 Miles Apart

In alot of ways I feel like if you had called me I wouldn’t have been able to answer the phone. Because its hard for me to even write this. I guess I had this idea that you left our argument and would come back willing to fight for us. Even if I didn’t answer, that you’d call again. And again. Tell me I was worth it... but you left. And I haven’t seen you since. I haven’t heard from you since. Pictures are gone of us. Not a trace that our “we” existed.

I think the worst part of this for me is the moments I valued and treasured and cherished so much are now poisoned by the love that feels no longer validated. I remember my first visit home after we decided to go long distance the way you looked at me and held my hand and kept getting caught breathless... it had me convinced that I would hold your hand forever. The way you kept smiling at every word I said.. the way you loved me that night. The way you would text me and tell me what you were doing and end it with “ love you,” every. single. time.

Then I went back, and long distance resumed. But it would just be for another month. It wouldn’t be that hard... I thought. And I don’t know what happened. But the “off period” scared me more than anything in the world. And days turned into weeks. And soon it was time to visit home and the fear that I was losing you was growing. And, I did.

The entire relationship I just wanted you to see you through my eyes. You are incredible. Your work ethic. Your drive. Your smile. Your laughter. Your mentality. Your desire for growth. I kept trying to come up with any way to show you how much amazing talent and potential you have. I wanted you to pursue your relationship with God deeper. I wanted you to pursue your biggest dreams.

I never wanted you to change. I know you probably think that. I just wanted you to want to grow with me. Like we had promised eachother we would. You changed, though, just not in the way I wanted. You turned cold. Those weren’t the eyes that loved me just a month prior. Those weren’t the hands that held mine and told me you’d love and cherish them as long as life would let you.

I think the hardest part is that you left the argument and said you’d call. Like it wasn’t a big deal. I told you not to leave. I begged you not to leave. I needed to work this out. I thought I knew you’d call... and you didn’t. Just like that, now we are out of eachothers lives.

I don’t hope our lives cross paths someday. I think that’s what makes this breakup different than most. Part of me hopes you miss me but the other part is so disappointed in the fact that you walked away so willingly from something that was so amazing... and I know it wasn’t just amazing for me. It was amazing from you too.

I think you’re scared. I think you’re really scared. And afraid. And you’ve always looked down on people for breaking open.... but babe, breaking open is where the garden of life sprouts. You can never truly love someone if it doesn’t come from the broken parts of your heart, too.

I don’t need to cross your path again. I loved you as hard as I could and gave everything I had. I won’t text you and tell you I miss you. I won’t lurk on your social media. I won’t get drunk and leave you a voicemail. I’m moving on now. Im chasing my dreams now, its time for me to go. Just like you did.

I hope someday, you look under your carseat, and find the love letter I left you that you haven’t found yet. And when you do, I hope you remember me... the girl you didn’t chase after.

subject line: closure

 
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London, UK

5 months ago I told you I needed space to think. To think about whether I wanted to be with you or not. You asked how much and I said as much as I needed. What’s funny is before I said that to you I had made my decision, I didn’t need space to think but I needed to search the depths of my soul to make sure what i felt in my heart and gut were right. Fast forward to last weekend, you send me an impulsive WhatsApp message asking if you would ever get the closure you needed that I started to feel guilty that I had left you hanging in the balance of things. You see, I was too busy doing life (the good, the bad and the ugly) to think about where I left you. Although this might seem selfish, it is the first time in my life I put myself before anyone else and focused on me, my mental state and doing things on my own terms.

As much as you were once my comfort blanket, the bubble we lived in was bound to pop at any moment, it wasn’t realistic. I mentally checked out the first time we said bye. The second time you came back around, I was only here because you needed someone in your life to all to and you were gong through things. I won’t deny you were never there for me when I needed you. You were, but the relationship became about making sure you were okay and you got what you wanted and that consumed me. There were times I never wanted to answer your phone calls but I always thought what if he was having a bad day and just wanted to talk to someone. So it’s only natural I got to a stage where I was mentally exhausted and I can’t deny that these months of space have been the best i’ve had. So I guess I need to let you let me go cause I let you go a long time ago. And whilst you will always have a special space in my heart as my friend and my biggest supporter, I don’t think I could give you what you want because I reached the finish line of this 400m race a long time ago and left you at the 100m mark.

subject line: i hope this gets to you in time

 
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Golden State

I have had so many different types of days filled with so many different emotions throughout my life time. I have had days when I allowed myself to sink in sadness over little things. There were days when I was at war with my own mind. Days when I was happy, so happy that I felt like I was on top of the world. Days when my heart literally ached for someone who didn’t even think about me. Days when I felt completely alone although I had an amazing friend by my side. Days when I looked at life and didn’t see a purpose anymore. Days when I looked in the mirror and hated my body, the way I looked, a certain facial expression I made, my smile, or the side view of my nose. Now I look back, and for the first time I can say i’m actually happy, and things are going in a positive direction. I can look in the mirror and point out my positive features, instead of just over focusing the ones I don’t exactly love. I’m not bragging or saying I have reached “utopia”. I am saying that life may seem like a lost cause, or seem not worth it. Many things are temporary in life, some good things are, too. But the negative feelings and the negative thoughts that harass you everyday are temporary. If you find this email, know that things will get better. Stay strong.