The one that got away but never left

She’s the one that got away. She got away some five and a half years ago. We’re still friends.

When we were together, all those years ago, the relationship wasn’t much, and it wasn’t much good. There was passion, all the passion that an eighteen year old asshole could muster for a fourteen year old he tricked into dating him after suffering the loss of two engagements in a six-month period. I admit it. When we were together, all those years ago, I didn’t treat her well, and she fell in love with me. Idolized me. I broke her heart. She represented my own failure to me.

I couldn’t maintain relationships being a nice guy because I kept getting left in the dust for the ‘bad boy’. I could get girls by being an asshole, but I couldn’t keep them if I kept being an asshole, and I couldn’t keep them if I changed into a nice guy either, because then I wasn’t the person they wanted to be with. I was all messed up by the time I got to her, and I tried something like this: I made it seem like I was being a nice guy when I did asshole things. I was very open and polite and smooth-talking and spun everything to seem like it was nice and normal and did awful things. I didn’t know what I was doing. It was a bad time for everyone involved. It obviously didn’t work out with her, but within a year of her leaving me, my last good friend parted ways with me, too. I was being a real jerk and not a good person.

But we kept talking, she and I, from time to time. She’d call me up to chat, or to ask how she should handle some troubling new obstacle in her relationship with someone else, but I never got the whole story. I got a filtered version of her. She was still in love with me, and she was sure that if I knew everything that was going on with her it would hurt me, so she made up some rules in her head about what she wouldn’t tell me and filtered her speech through her rules before opening her mouth. We spent hundreds of hours talking on the phone, getting to know each other, I thought, but the person I was getting to know did not exist. It was an idealized, filtered version of the person she really was. And over time I began to fall in love, but with someone who didn’t exist.

She went on with her life and I went on with mine, but we kept talking now and again. When I found myself living a life I never meant to lead with no friends and no one who really respected me, I started working my way upward out of the hole I’d been burying myself in. I worked on becoming the best version of myself I could be, believing that if I were a good and worthwhile person that I would naturally be surrounded by other good and worthwhile people and that good things would happen to me. It has been a long and troubled path with many setbacks and roadbumps and unexpected outbursts where I’ve discovered that there’s still some asshole lurking inside me, but I’ve come far. As time passed and I fell more and more in love with the version of her that she let me know, I did everything in my power to to the right things to and for her, to show her that I was a changed and changing man, that I was worth being with. She told me that she loved me, but what she loved was the idealized version of the asshole that I had been when we were first together, not the person I was then becoming.

This confusion lead to a series of encounters that made it seem like we were on a good track again, that we loved each other and could be together, and that our mistakes were behind us. We really began to connect. Except that out of that connection she realized she didn’t love me the way I loved her, and I realized that she was not the person I had fallen in love with. And it ended again and we both came out of it confused and uncertain as to how to proceed. So we fell back into our old habits. We continued on with our individual lives. We talked time and again, and she only gave me the filtered version of herself and I loved that version of her. Deep down, I was frustrated that I had no idea who this person really was. I was frustrated that after all these years of trying with her, we still only had this nothing of a friendship built on half-truths and ideals we didn’t know whether we should believe in.

Did I mention that I haven’t had a real relationship with anyone since she left me for being such an asshole? I’ve tried, time and again, and I’ve certainly tried with her, but nothing seems to come of it. I try off and on, and when it’s off, I try mostly to make myself a version of myself that is someone that someone would want to be with, and for good reasons. I’m trying again, right now, with someone new. It really seemed to upset the one that got away, and we’ve been fighting for a couple of days about it, but even if she isn’t speaking to me right now, that makes sense; she’s the one that got away. We’ll still be friends, later.

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Author, artist, romantic, insomniac, exorcist, creative visionary, lover, and all-around-crazy-person.