I met him when I was 20.
I was lost in many ways, I was trying so desperately to find my way in a world that I didn't seem to belong in. I wandered the hallways of London College of Fashion, I looked at the glossy magazines, I read the hefty marketing books that weighed down my book bag, and I tried to fit in. I didn't. I couldn't sum up why in words, but I just wasn't like the people on my course, I didn't spend my mornings talking about this super cool, hip, you probs haven't heard of it, Shoreditch joint, I didn't have enough money on my Student loan to load up on Wasabi lunches that still left me hungry despite costing £8 everyday, and I just didn't look right. I wasn't skinny enough, my eyebrows weren't trimmed enough, and I didn't wear all black everything. (I also did things like deciding to dye my hair pillarbox red on a Tuesday night because Rhianna did it, but that's a story for another time.)
It was at a PR event at one of those fancy houses in Central London. The kind of venue that looks like a house from the outside, one of those houses that Sherlock Holmes would have happily resided in, but I could only dream of. I’d always read about big love, the kind that hits you in the face the moment you breathe the same air as someone else, the kind that keeps you up at night, and won’t let you go, like a bad habit. I’d always thought it an overly romantic, and ridiculous concept, but of course, at that point, I’d never breathed the same air as him.
I saw him from across the way, half way through a glass of Prosecco, and in mid conversation with a PR about the textiles in the collection we were supposed to be reviewing. We’d exchanged words online before, so I knew who he was, one glance told me that he knew exactly who I was too. He was taller than I’d expected, his piercing green eyes complimenting his flannel shirt in a way I wasn’t sure possible before that moment. There was something haunting about him, he was good looking yes, but that wasn’t it, there was simply something about him that I wasn’t able to put my finger on.
It’s funny really, I could barely tell you what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I can recount our first conversation with such vivacious precision that I could have sworn it happened this afternoon, not six long years ago. We stood on a Bloomsbury street corner and we chatted about the industry we had ended up in, we chatted about content writing, about relationships, and about London. People passed by, but we didn’t seem to see them, I don’t suppose they saw us either, we existed only in a bubble of infatuation and attraction that nobody else could penetrate.
We spent hours together, for so many days of the week, through every touch, every word exchanged, I knew we both felt something. I like to think in retrospect that I didn’t know about her, but I did. I always knew. I knew of her existence, I knew of her demure, blonde appearance, and I knew of her ordinary smile. Because the truth was, I knew this girl, we all know this girl. She laughs at your jokes, she compliments you in a way that won’t challenge you, she is very lovely in all respects, but I simply hoped she was a habit he would grow out of, and would realise all along, that I’d been there, and that I was the one.
I thought those feelings would fade, and I hoped they would fade quickly. I’d always been a romantic, I held hands a little too long, I loved a little too hard, I fell a little too fast. But I always managed to pick myself up, and to be steady and at ground base once again, ready to meet the next boy. But that didn’t happen.
I was never sure whether this was a blossoming love story, or whether I was just someone you kept around for validation. The truth is, I was probably something of a mixture. Months passed, we spent hours together every work day, when we weren't together, we were on the phone, we were having long winded text conversations. Of course I tried to date, I tried to spend less time with you, I tried to remove myself. But you were consuming me, you were my air, and breathing without you felt to difficult to contemplate. I was strung out.
I suppose the closest we came was sitting on the Covent Garden piazza on that sunny, June day. We shared ciders on a street corner, we danced to street performers, and we raised each other up to a level of instantaneous happiness I don’t think I’d ever felt before. In retrospect I’ve looked back on this moment so many times I can almost trace it from memory, and I can almost pin point the second it happened, the second you entered my heart, set up shop and never left. The glance exchanged was piercing, our eyes lingered on our lips for a few seconds too long, it was as if an electric spark between us had simply decided it couldn’t leave, electricians would ponder at that chemistry, and wonder why it sparked.
After that day, things changed. We both knew it. I left for America, in an effort to find myself, and to I guess remove myself from the sad reality that I was in love with you. She moved down to London, and you made a future together, I left it alone, I left you alone, and I tried to move on with my life.
Eighteen months passed by, I didn’t miss you every day, I didn’t go to sleep crying your name, I simply wistfully thought of you every now and then and I hoped you were enjoying your life. I knew that you’d moved up north, I knew that you’d quit blogging, and I knew that you’d done a social media cleanse. So to say I was surprised when you slid into my DMs that day, would be a understatement, to say I wasn’t happy, would be a lie.
I wondered how so much time could pass, and we could still be chatting as if nothing had happened, as if no time had passed. I lived in Australia now, and you lived in a little Yorkshire village. Our lives were so far away from each other, yet as time went on, and our conversations escalated to that of a sexual and romantic nature, it became clear to me that I couldn’t let go, and neither could you.
It continued for three years. I’d go to sleep at night reading your messages, I’d wake up in the morning wanting to hear from you, I felt paralysed, in limbo, wondering if the spark between us would ever go out. It was a love so pure, one where we sent snippets of our writing to be evaluated, one where we stayed up late on the phone talking about anything and everything, one where we thought about the past and the ‘what ifs’ of our lives. I was in an abusive relationship, something I was too scared to tell you at the time, but the truth is, my fleeting moments to connect with you were my safe haven, my recluse, my escapism into what could have been. Then the honesty came one summer day when I wasn’t expecting it.
‘I love you Millie.’
I’d waited for five years to hear those words, and here they were. Written on the screen in front of me, staring me down, I exited the app and refreshed it, wondering if I’d imagined it, wondering why he was saying this, why now? Why at all? Why me?
He told me how he'd always loved me, how he wished he could rewind the clock and do it differently, do us differently, how that one kiss would have changed everything. How I might be the one.
Of course, I’d always known that I was in love with him, it was so painstakingly obvious to me that I should have known better.
Then came the silence. In typical fashion you went quiet. Texts were ignored, calls were missed, questions were left unanswered. Elastic band theory at work of course, so I really shouldn't have been surprised, but I was. I was hurt. I suddenly felt alone. It didn't last for long, these periods never did. They were simply you clarifying in your mind what I was to you, or at least trying to.
The cold, harsh news of your wedding didn’t creep up on me, it exploded all over me. It made me analyse myself, my relationships and my perception of love. Because the truth is, whatever relationship I’d been in, as in love with someone else as I had ever felt, you had always been there, in my mind, like a disease I couldn’t shake, a cancer, multiplying and manipulating my anatomy and ultimately, slowly killing me.
It's dawned on me, that I was waiting for you. I've been waiting for you for six years, I've been putting you in a box at the back of my mind and happily living my life at a 90% spectrum, knowing that that little 10% will be able to come out when you ended things with her and came back to me, to let things be the way they are supposed to be. After all, you love me.
Today you married her.
You stood in a building somewhere, in a different corner of the world, and you made vows, I don't have to wonder if I entered your mind as you made them, because I know I did. I'll never understand what we had, I'll never understand why you plague my mind, my relationships, and my heart. But here I am, letting you go.
Love is a funny old thing, and I'm certain I don't understand it one bit. I know you'll pop into my Whatsapp, I know you'll want to finally fuck me, the way you've wanted to for years, and I know that a ring on your finger won't change things for you the way you wish it would. I know I have to be the strong one, I have to remember my morals, I have to put myself, and my heart first. I have to close the door I've always kept ajar, and I have to let you go.
Through the books I've read and the movies I've watched, I've tried to compare us. I've tried to figure out if we're Dexter and Annie or if we're Hubble and Katie, but the truth is, we're us. It's messy, it's complicated, and we look for validation in each other. Validation of a time we used to live in, of a life we used to have, a life that had possibilities, options, and roads to go down. To shut that door is to say goodbye, but it's also a way of choosing myself, of saying hello to my future and of freeing my head of the space you take up.