Two years ago, he called me on my birthday.
I was out to dinner with friends in Santa Barbara at the time. I was so excited to see his name, I fell down the stairs trying to get outside to answer the phone. I paced anxiously in front of the restaurant while my friends watched my bizarre mannerisms through the window. He’s the only person who has ever made me feel this way. The butterflies. The increased heart rate. The uncontainable giggle fits. My heart and my smile are noticeably more radiant in his presence.
A few weeks later he came to San Diego. It was early August and I was moving in a few weeks to Sumatra. I was 20 minutes late (as per usual) to meet him and his coworker for dinner at Stone Brewery. Seeing him for the first time in months sent every range of emotion coursing through my heart. I hugged him longer than I probably should have, but after all these years coming in and out of each other’s lives, I lived for his embrace.
As we ate, I stared intensely at Alexis. I knew if I looked over at him next to me, I would have lost my composure and melted right there on the table. We navigated depths of conversations and expressed opinions we hadn’t quite shared with others. Our night carried on from Stone to Downtown to the front door of their hotel. Realizing it would be some time before we had this chance again, Kyle and I opted not to say our goodbyes.
We took a stroll along the embarcadero; our fingers perfectly entwined. The night was clear and still. The air was warm but the intermittent wind from the harbor caused a slight chill, encouraging cuddles and a welcomed proximity. Again, we talked at great lengths as if no time had passed. He was doing so well in work and in life. I was so content being on the receiving end of his stories.
That’s when he told me he wasn’t planning on coming back to San Diego any time soon.
I forced a smile through clenched teeth and a shattering heart. How quickly this confirmed all the reasons I never told him how I felt. I didn’t believe I was worth the distance. My hopes, attitudes, and dreams didn’t jive with his life, his career, or his friends in the city. No matter how effortless these moments felt or how deep our connection continued to be, he was there and I was here. Except I was leaving this time and he would move forward in his life as he has always done. It was a helpless, sinking feeling.
But why feel sadness, when your dreams are literally standing in front of you? In between stolen kisses and enamored glances, I reminded myself of the most important thing:
All I wanted was to see him happy.
That night I learned he was.
As we said our goodbyes the next morning, I contemplated telling him how I felt. How I’ve always felt. How simple and genuine it would be to tell him I loved him in our final moments together. Instead I cried the whole way home. Both in knowing this was the last time I would see him, and accepting he would never know how I feel. It was a devastating realization, but I was SO thankful for our precious time together. I would have given anything for another chance to wake up in his arms in that funky hotel room. But this was for the best.
I would forever love him from a distance. An outside admirer looking in.
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