If it weren’t for him, I’m not sure I would have learned this to the degree in which I did: You can’t love someone into loving you.
I met him almost a year ago, and it started out the way it always does.
He was on the other side of the bar with his jet black hair and heather grey eyes. He screamed heartbreaker as he slid free mojitos my way. And when asked if he was single, his answer confirmed the red flags that were waving right in front of me.
“It’s summer, of course I am.”
Just like that, I ricocheted right into him.
He flaked on our first date, and like most circumstances, I thought I knew exactly what that meant. But then his name popped up on my phone several months later in a two-sentence text that read how his mother passed away and how he was packing for her funeral the night him and I were supposed to have our first date.
I don’t know if he had remembered how I shared with him that my mother is gone, too. But for what it was worth, the moment he shared his ill-fated news, my entire perception of him flipped.
I saw his pain as something that humanized him. I figured, I understood him. Until I did the one thing I never want anyone to do to me.
I wanted to look after him in the way I would love for someone, somewhere, someday, to look after me.
And that’s exactly what the problem is— I wanted to love him because his tragedy looked a lot like my own.
Our relationship, if it can even be labeled as one, went a little like this: He would shoot me a text the night of, casually mentioning how he hasn’t had dinner yet and he would ask me if I was in the neighborhood and would like to join. I was never in the neighborhood, but I would always say yes, and I’d stay the night knowing I wouldn’t hear from him again until he felt like it.
Everything was on his timetable. But what’s wrong here is why I allowed it.
This wasn’t about him as much as it was about myself. I was available to someone knowing full well he may never give me the same, because I was giving him the type of love I needed myself.
The last time I saw him, I decided to make it my last.
It was the morning after and he was in the shower as I was browsing through his book collection when I realized his space opened up a type of vulnerability neither he nor I could have anticipated.
Beside his books were childhood photographs of him and and his mother, unframed, but of enough importance to have a place in his home. And when I saw those photos, I didn’t just see him, but I also saw myself in a light I hadn’t really considered until recently.
While I can’t assume he feels the same, I know why I hold onto older photos of my mother, in particular. They allow me to see my future through her past. And if nothing else, they serve as a constant reminder of what it looks like to be taken care of unconditionally.
With that, I knew I had overstayed my welcome as I grabbed my things and said goodbye to him. It wasn’t so much about ending a relationship with him, but rather, cutting myself off from doing to him the one thing I never wanted anyone to do to me.
Because sure, the bare bones of what we were to each other were just fuck buddies— that’s how it all started. But when I found out the one major thing he and I have in common, everything changed.
That may not have been his reason for being in this, but I can’t exactly say the same.
I think I thought that by being there for him in such an intimate yet superficial relationship that it would console him in a way I’m seeking too.
He was flakey and noncommittal; and I wanted to care for him despite knowing deep down he may never return the favor.
His texts were always so inviting but the radio silence he would return my way whenever I reached out first always revealed more. If I had just listened instead of compensating for what wasn’t there and what I had hoped he could be for me, then I would have grasped sooner how nothing in this world is truly ours if we have to force it to be.
I tried so hard to hold his hand thinking that’s what it would take to hold my own. I was ready to lose myself believing it would fill the space of who we’ve lost. But now I know, that’s not how people fall.
We just can’t love someone into loving us.
Because to fall is not only to feel, but to be moved.