subject line: happy birthday to me.


waco, texas

Yesterday was a good day. Until I talked to called, and we talked about the letter I’d sent you. I shared how I’d realized my unhappiness, how much I’d taken on and finally understood I needed to take care of me. We talked about so much. And then, in a single sentence, you handed my heart back.

’I was jealous that he was dancing with her,’ you said. A friend of yours in grad school. You realized you probably liked her...and that you wanted to ask her out on a date. I was silent - out of sudden hurt, confusion, bewilderment as to why you were saying that. Why you were telling ‘me’ that.

Why, why, why?

Then I finally, quietly, asked you if you were planning to. You hesitated and told me you’d probably talk to her soon. And I got even quieter. Mind whirling blankly, eyes noticing everything - the soft glow of lamplight, my hair spilling out of my hands, paused breath...and a soft, stealing emptiness within me. And under it all, complete and dazed confusion, like a small child who wanders in a her room to find it looks nothing like it once did. Almost incomprehensible.

’Not again,’ was all I could think to myself blankly over the rush of stillness and hurt. I was instantly transported back to a year ago, where so many times I lay on my bed or curled up in my closet with your voice in my ear as you told me of the girl you loved in college, of the first one you met in grad school, of all the other - so very many - girls.

I’d thought things were different now. I thought you knew now. And all I could think, as I stared at the wall and as you continued talking, was that this time I had truly, really opened up and held out my heart in my hands - hopeful, vulnerable, and trusting. And you, with a gentle but oblivious smile, gave it back.

After we hung up, I curled up in my bed, staring at what, I don’t know. Just curled up, clenching a pillow as my mind tried and repeatedly failed to process what had just happened. ‘Happy Birthday to me,’ I whispered to myself in the silence, realizing belatedly that you hadn’t said anything about it...and I, so blindsided by what you ‘had’ said, forget to mention it.

Then, after a bit, one or two tears came. Slipping quietly into my eyes as quietly as I’d thought ‘I love you’ every day. They lingered for a moment and then escaped, dissolving into my skin, as if they’d never existed. Much like me in your heart, I suppose. I wanted to be angry with you...I wanted to be disappointed and upset and scream and cry. But all I could feel coursing through me was the quiet, gentle whisper of rejection. Again.

’You’re not good enough - not for me to notice.’

So I didn’t cry, I didn’t scream, I didn’t rage, I didn’t even journal to describe the hurt. All I could do was lay there, listening to my heart go numb in my hands where you’d placed it back.

Because last night, you reminded me what I was to you. An old friend - younger and different from you - who had once been a part of your life, but was now on a shelf that you occasionally looked at. And occasionally you brought me down - never for long and always back on the shelf in the end. I’m not sure if I’m still a friend to you. It feels like I’m just a memory from your past, from your old life and you will always, always be making new memories. So eventually some of the old ones get relocated to the back of the shelf, rarely to be thought of. I think that’s what I am to you now.

But to me, you’re so much more. But I’m no longer sure what I am to you anymore...if I’m even a friend. And how long that will last. How long we’ll go on having occasional conversations that always end with you breaking my heart a little more each time.

Because maybe I’m in love with someone who doesn’t really exist. Who won’t for some time. Maybe I’m waiting and holding my breath and aching for a man who won’t come for such a long time. How many years? How long will you make me wait? Or am I truly crazy?

I want to wait however long I have to for you. But I’ve offered my heart freely, openly, trustingly...and I don’t know if I can do that again. I don’t know. Because each time I do, you don’t take it. You gently hand it back or pull away or don’t even see it. And is that what all this is for? For me to stop? To hide my heart away within me and wait for you to fight for it? That will be such a long time from now, I’m afraid.

And I’m so tired of being afraid. Of waiting. Of been pushed back, passed over, patted on the head. Of always, always, ‘always’ being the one to reach out. Sometimes I don’t think you really know what you want. Because you won’t take it. So it’s hard for me to feel for you when you speak of loneliness and wanting to love someone. For the past two years, it’s been the litany on your lips...and I’ve listened quietly with a full heart and eyes that say, ‘Look, look at me, I’m right here, waiting for you,’ only you never do look.

And silence is so very heavy. And I’m so very small and fragile. I don’t think I have the strength to keep doing this. As much as I want to. Loving you is what’s killing me...stealing my breath, my sleep, my dreams, my passion for life, my sanity, my certainty in myself, my motivation, my heart.

How far will you make me go? How long will I wait here with trembling hands, waiting in vain, for yours to gently and finally take what has been yours for so long?

My birthday was five months ago. And it feels like the universe is laughing at me. It all feels like a cycle...feeling determined that I’m right, that I just need to wait it out, that you’ll eventually come around and find me.

Then, finally, I accepted the cold realization that you didn’t care, you wouldn’t come around, that I was putting my life, my future on hold for you when nothing was ever going to happen.

So I be brave. I move on. And I fell for a boy who was good and kind, who saw me for me - and I reached out. Only to be shut down firmly and oh so kindly, while the universe’s faint chuckle sounded in my ears...’You’re an amazing girl and you deserve better than me,’ this boy told me, and his eyes were so very kind. And I cried. Harder than I’ve ever cried over you, because he was so much kinder than you’ve ever been.

And because I had tried to take my life, my destiny, my love story into my own hands, but I couldn’t. Because the universe interfered. Because I can’t. Because I guess that boy’s not meant for me.

But I can’t get to you. We don’t even talk as friends now. So here I am, ignored and uncared for and trying to move on with my damn life, but my heart and the universe won’t let me. And your birthday is next month.

How’s that for irony?