The Heartaches Of This Long Distance Relationship — TPOA #2

Brittany Padilla, Age 22

August 10th 2017

As I recall, the sky threatened to rain on my final day in Denver.

“Do you want to eat at the pho restaurant around the corner?” Brittany asked. “I think it’s called Pho888.”

“Are you sure you want your final meal with me to be Pho?”

“Why not? All we need is a place to eat and to exchange these rings.”

“You’re not going to eat Asian food again once I’m gone, are you?” I joked, fully aware of her love for oriental cuisine, although unsure if she would have the confidence to try new restaurants in my absence.

We walked into the empty restaurant arm in arm. Although it was 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon the restaurant was well staffed, as though ready for the lunch rush. A waiter sat us next to a wall decorated with pictures of boba tea.

I could sense Brittany’s melancholy despite the smile that she wore.

“Well… I guess this is it. Our final meal. Are you ready to do life without me?”

“I don’t think I’ll ever be ready,” Brittany responded. “But what other choice do I have?”

None, I thought. This will be our biggest trial yet.

“Do you want to eat first and then exchange rings, or exchange rings and then eat?”

“What if we ordered and then exchanged rings while waiting for the food?”

“That works.” I said. “Let’s do that.”

I knew I was asking a lot of her.

3 years before I could return; before we could start a life together.

3 years of uncertainty.

We had only just gotten her ring prior to arriving at the restaurant; we got mine a week ago. Although JC Penney didn’t have a large array of options, it still took us a while to decide. But we were determined to purchase it then and there, and eventually decided on a ring that had a small flower looking stone that sat atop a smooth silver ring.

We called them 'promise rings' although they did not share any physical attribute that made that designation identifiable.

Still, their physical aesthetic was not the reason we purchased them. They were simply pieces of metal to symbolize the fidelity we were committed to. This seemed like the logical step forward because I didn’t have anything else to offer.

All I had was a promise.

I opened the box that contained my ring and held it between us.

A promise must represent an action I can do, I thought before drawing in my breath:

“This ring represents my promise to stay faithful to you. To remain faithful even when the strength of our relationship feels weak. I know this will be tough, to go from seeing each other every day to every few months. You have been my bestest friend and I know that. . .”

I paused. Her eyes were already getting teary; she was doing her best to hold the tears in. I swallowed the lump in my throat.

“…I know that this is a lot to ask of you and I am sorry for having to put you through this.”

She blinked away the tears.

“I promise I’ll come home.”

— -

It’s almost been two months since I returned to my parent’s home. 55 days to be exact. I’ve managed to develop a daily routine for myself, a routine that accounts for the fourteen hour time difference between Brittany and myself. The thrill of being home has faded; what was once my grand return after years of being away at college was now normal and mundane.

I’m becoming acutely aware of the distance and time that separates us. Although I had an idea of what long distance dating would entail, none of the stories or testimonials prepared me for the loneliness. My perspective was colored by social media ‘highlight reels’ of couple’s reunions; none of them ever prepared me for the quietness of separation. Written and verbal forms of interaction are the only ways me and Brittany experience life collectively. Gone are the times where we could be quiet together.

Some days are better than others. On good days I find waves of confidence sweeping through me. This is working, I’d tell myself.

This is not one of those days. Today I had to face waves of pent-up turmoil and frustrations; the worry and anxiety that I had kept at bay for so long flooded my mind. Let go and let God, I repeatedly tell myself. But it’s no use. This plethora of emotions make me human; who am I to fight them? I feel lost and terrified, unaware of what the future holds, but painfully aware that the strength of the love I once professed is dissipating. Relationships, of course, should not be about the strength of love. Love is a good thing, but it isn’t the best thing. Infatuation and feelings of ‘being in love’ are not supposed to last forever. Like all feelings, they come and they go. I am gradually learning that quietly loving her from a distance is a lot harder than loving her in person.

But perhaps that’s what I needed to learn. Perhaps the true strength of love should be measured by the stamina in enduring the unendurable, not by the intensity of that love.

Still, I find myself wondering, what can I do now? I hate romanticizing the past, and yet can’t help but feel that I am in love with my memory of her. Video calls will never replace her presence; the pixelated screen can’t substitute her radiant glow. Photos too are but fragments of our life experience. Convenient and always accessible, but mere memories nonetheless.

“To be human is to remember”, I recall reading. So I begin to reconstruct a memory of her, trying to bring to mind all the memories I have of her. But it’s incomplete: I can’t remember how she smells or how her fingers feel around mine.

All I have are memories, videos, and photos.

And this black metal band around my right ring finger.

The Pursuit of Amelioration (TPOA) is an autobiography series of a millennial’s ambition of pursuing a career in social change. All documented in real-time. You can check out all the chapters of the series at About TPOA!

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