It was one of those hot days on the last day of August that felt sticky. It had rained briefly that morning and the air had felt cleansed. For two people who didn't believe in the institution of marriage, and had trouble in putting all of our confidence into one person, we did the best we could when we agreed to do this life thing together.
First it was personal things he brought into my little apartment; his pillow, the candle, a TV. Then over the course of two years it was the more mundane things that felt like home; a refrigerator full of things he bought for morning smoothies, buying the same brand of coffee for one another, measuring cups, stealing his black flannel pull over as often as possible.
When we decided to let go we knew two things: it wasn't for forever and we loved each other to our core. As he began to move into another home we talked on the as often as we could at night, for an hour at a time because it felt important to make sure we were doing the right thing; to make sure both of us were okay.
On our last night together, I was frustrated and hurt that we were at this point. We both had tired so hard and yet after all of this time, it felt like there was nothing to show for it. With four teary eyes it took all of the courage to ask him one last time, "did you even love me?" And of course we both knew the answer before I even asked. I just thought -- well maybe if he didn't then this would be easier.
The almost three years we spent together in the capacity of being a family is something I will always treasure.
We were really good at dates and making memories that just might leave my heart full for the rest of my life like the one time we planned to go to the food truck festival but instead decided to stay at home, so we could be alone with each other and we made an assortment of fries for dinner. Or how we always had the same Thai order, and he was able to finish my plate for me. One time we picked flowers and at a local farm and walked around Old Town tipsy choosing houses we liked. Our last date together, we ate and drank. We both new it was going to be our last time together (at least for a while) so we found every possible reason to extend our time together -- grabbing tea to sober up. Forgetting were the car was parked. Checking on our favorite shops. Running to Whole Foods so I could pick up colored carrots to show my Chinese students.
It is easy to look back on the time you share with someone and think only of the beautiful, colorful times. The warm laughter and sense of security I felt around him comes flooding back with ease. But that doesn't paint the whole picture -- I know that.
As we were unbecoming there were times we disagreed on the process.
If we were going to separate, I needed complete and utter separation. No more seeing each other, my apartment would become mine again -- and mine alone, no more talking or texting. I needed him to not exist in my world in order to heal. He didn't need all of that.
We weren't horrible to each other, things were just really hard. We faced tragedy after tragedy. Between loss and death. Career changes. Financial struggles. Hospitalization after hospitalization waiting for a diagnosis. We did the hard things together. In many ways, he was stable when I couldn't be and in return I tried to hold that burden for him too. It is scary as all hell to let someone in like that; he didn't just know my bones, he could map my veins. And yet, sometimes it still doesn't work out. But we did life together, we truly did it all together; even on the ugliest of days.
The empty bed, single glass of wine and reruns of Parks and Recs alone are not curses that I yell at the Universe for. They are small moments in which I am able to stop and remember just how much I loved someone -- and still do. In many ways it was an honor having him be my family for the time we had together.
If I know anything to be true it is that people change when they walk away.
I loved him, as if the world was going to end ... and I still (probably) do.