an alarming unhappiness


It started out as a fairytale. Even in hindsight, I won't deny that. We met online, though we were three thousand miles away, and tried to pretend we were just friends, but soon we were falling. I had started talking to him just two months before I was to head off to France for a seven-month contract, but I was starting to fall in love with him and the way he told me I was beautiful and that he loved talking about language with me; I wanted only him forever. I told him I liked him and I insisted that he either tell me his true feelings or lie and say I was disgusting and that he'd never want to be with me, because that would make it so much easier to get over him.

But he decided to tell the truth, even though he had just gotten over a big breakup - one that to this day he's not over - and of all fortuitous chances, I had a layover on my way to France in an airport four hours' drive away from him. He knew, and I wondered if he would come. I spent that first flight agonizing over the uncertainty, but giddy with a degree of sureness that he would be there.

And he was.

I lugged my bags and my guitar to the front of the airport, where he was waiting, for the hour-long layover I had between flights. His whole body was shaking, and he held my hand, leading me to a sunlit, secluded alcove under a big escalator where he laid down a blanket and gestured to the picnic he brought. He told me how much he liked me, and how much he would have regretted it if he hadn't come to meet me for the first time in person when he had the chance. I played him the song I had secretly written for him on my guitar, right there in the airport, with my back to the rest of the travelers, not even meeting his eyes because I didn't know how any of this worked.

He gave me my first kiss and waved to me as I re-entered security and made my flight just in time. That flight across the ocean really felt like I was flying, like I had sprouted wings and was high on the excitement of being wanted and feeling the potential of this perfect relationship whose start was so beautifully fresh. Then I was in France, and we talked every day online, he was charming and kind and supportive, and everyone I met was wowed by the romance of our story. Our story, I thought. I would tell it to people for the rest of our lives and it would be the sign that it was meant to be from the start. Imagine - my first love, this perfect!

He even came to visit me for a month over the winter holidays, three months after the airport. We overcame so many challenges in that brief period - my hostile roommate kicking us to the curb and leaving us to fend for ourselves, dirty replacement accommodations without heating or a functional bed frame, more rude people than I can count, the utterly insulting high prices of everything in Paris, my trip to the emergency room for a bad cut on broken glass... We survived all this, and he made me love him so much through it all. He was there for me every second, and I was grateful for that but also felt so guilty to be dragging him through my crazy life.

The day before he left, I said what I had been wanting to say for months. I said what he later told me he's not sure he can ever say to me. I don't regret it, because it's how I felt and how I still feel. Every good memory we had made during his stay - wandering Montmartre, kissing in the metro station, him lifting me up in the kitchen and smiling warmly at me, every ounce of desire he had for me that I returned - all those good things made me overlook the bad. But everything changed after that day, after that sunny morning on the mattress of the borrowed room we were in, when I told him I loved him as my heart raced and I lay pressed against him. Whether all the changes were due to my words or simply happenstance, I don't know.

But I cried so much after he left, I felt as if he had died or left me. He had a new job back home that left him no time or energy to keep in touch with me, and I felt completely alone. I moved into a new place, since I had been kicked out of the old one during his stay, and although everything there was good, great even, I couldn't feel relieved. I felt empty without him, and emptier still after realizing that I'd spent an entire month neglecting my own well-being while I tried to keep the two of us afloat in a country where he didn't know the language and didn't have the financial resources to help me out when I was in need. The good memories helped me remember how much I cared for him, and I tried to keep him aware of my affection by sending emails and offline messages, because we talked so infrequently.

I even came back to America for a little while, and we were able to talk on the phone again. But he was never the one to call, he felt too stressed about my being upset and my wanting to talk about the relationship and the need I have for there to be an end date for the long-distance part of all this (which there still isn't). And in his indifference, his unwillingness to take five minutes to send me an email or call to say goodnight, I have gained perspective. All the hurtful things he said without thinking, all the discrepancies between our needs and personal interests... And then he managed to say the thing that has been stewing painfully in my heart for the past four days: the crushing confession that he might not ever be able to love me.

I blame his ex-girlfriend. I blame his upbringing. I blame so much, and I had resolved this year to eliminate blame from my life. But the way he is, is not good for me. It's maintaining an alarming unhappiness in me that I need to get away from to feel whole again. Ending this will break my heart, and his too if I'm to believe him. The fairytale was so promising, so beautiful, so achingly beautiful that I don't want to give it up. Neither of us realized in the beginning that we were fools to think this would work. We gave it up by starting it in the first place.


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