To the Ex-Boyfriend I Never Loved-
I had a dream last night, one that pictured you. It was so foreign and unfamiliar. Not that dreams normally are familiar, but it’s rare that I have a dream about you.
It’s even more unusual when a dream or memory involving you is positive.
I demonize you frequently. If we’re being honest, doing so makes it easier to live with myself in how things ended between us. You really weren’t that terrible of a lover. You were actually a pretty good one, especially for my first. You treated me kindly for the most part, and you were patient with a very sheltered girl. You had your flaws and shortcomings, and I certainly did too.
It’s easier to accentuate your downfalls instead of celebrating your triumphs. It’s simpler to focus on the lack of feelings I had for you, instead of admitting that I did care deeply for you.
In this dream, I’m walking quickly down a hill in a darkened town that I faintly recognize, even in its remote locale. I can barely make details out, but I know I’m striding quickly to catch someone… before I know it, you step onto the sidewalk, crossing my path diagonally. You look over to me, and your classically infectious grin makes my heart race. I slam into you in the biggest hug, and you’re so genuinely happy to see me. I can smell your scent; a mixture of cologne, body wash and … you. I feel your black hoodie, the one you later gave to me, envelope me in a warm hug. Your Vans sneakers still make you just the tiniest bit taller than me. You kiss me, and I kiss you back, and it’s like things were in the beginning of our brief relationship during my freshman year of college.
This dream leaves me puzzled for the rest of this day. I haven’t thought of you in a significant amount of time, mostly because I’m married now. Most married people don’t wonder how their exes are doing, unless their marriage is either in jeopardy or on solid enough ground to branch into polyamorous territory. For some reason, I can’t seem to shake this dream, and I think of you throughout the day. I briefly debate reaching out to you, but it’s been 6 years since we last spoke. I inadvertently and occasionally hear how you are through mutual friends, but those begin to thin with the passing years.
Having lived life in the last ten years, I can reflect on how I acted when we were together, and the conclusion is: I was a shitty girlfriend.
This puzzling dream has caused me to reflect on our relationship for the first time in nearly a decade. Having lived life and matured significantly in the last ten years, I can honestly reflect on how we acted when together, and I’m able to come to a conclusion: I was a pretty shitty girlfriend, and I didn’t always treat you as you deserved. I was blindly loyal to you, but stayed with you when I didn’t actually want to be committed long-term. I often judged you unfairly; after we broke up, I painted a worse representation of you to friends than you actually were. I’m sorry for that. Self-preservation only gets me so far in this equation; at some point I was just being an over-dramatic and unfair dick. I thought emphasizing your negative qualities would add dimension to my personality, my history… but instead it just made me small.
Thank you for being kind to me. Thank you for flirting with me. For pursuing me as I learned how to date you.
Thank you for being gentle with me. Thank you for being interested in me. Thank you for pursuing me, and persevering while I ignored your initial advances. Thank you for quietly being with me in my struggle of figuring out who I was, and would become. Thank you for pushing me, even when it toed the lines of what I was comfortable with; if I hadn’t become accustomed to you, I wouldn’t have been inclined to push the limits with him.
I’m sorry you sold your prized classic car to buy a ring. I should have been more direct in letting you know I never saw myself marrying you. Your personality, temperament, behavior is far too similar to my father’s. The way you treated your mother was a glimpse into the future of how you would treat me, and it wasn’t one I wanted.
I reflect fondly on the memories of us starting out, when we were passionate and young together. What was once laced with shame has given way a collection of favored memories, a treasure trove of youth, impulsivity and… idiocy. Thank you for wanting me. Thank you for teaching me. For saying I was perfect, and everything you ever wanted. For a sheltered girl starving to feel love, you offered all that I could want and more.
Sometimes I wonder how things would have gone,
if I had met you before I met him.
Maybe we would have felt more compatible, maybe more harmonious. Maybe we would have been married by now, though I find that unlikely.
I’m sorry. I am not the same person I was then.
And now that ten years have passed since the beginning of us… I’m sorry for the way I acted and treated you when I was younger. I am not the same person I was then. For some weird reason I don’t like to admit, you taught me so much about being in a relationship. You showed me the importance of caring for someone else, for being present, for the ramifications of being inattentive… and what it feels like to know that someone isn’t the one.
I’m sorry for how we ended.
I’m sorry I torched our ending in an attempt to stunt its continuation. You wanted to follow me across the world, and I severely wanted our chapter to end. I’m sorry for not handling things gracefully so that we could have salvaged a friendship out of it. I’m sorry for not knowing how to react, respond or communicate efficiently in that moment. That shortcoming has stayed with me for the last decade; I could have done more to avoid you so much heartache.
You had your flaws. I had weaknesses, a lot of them. The moments shared between us are private and imperfect, but they happened for a reason. If someday our paths cross again like they did in my unexpected dream, I hope we’re again happy to see one another… and both enjoy the nostalgia of what we once were.