You were the lesson I didn’t want to learn.

When you appeared in my life that night two years ago, standing quietly across from me in the kitchen at a party, I knew you were mine for the taking. I sauntered up to you with a sober confidence that had suddenly risen into my lungs, surprising to even myself.

“Hi, I don’t think we’ve met”, I smirked coyly.

I usually knew everyone at these parties. You smiled back at me and we were magnets colliding. It was never the same after that night.

We became two parallel lines, sometimes running so close that we were merged. I closed my eyes so many times those first few months, thinking “this is exactly what I’ve always wanted”. I fell blissfully into your skin and white sheets. I began to lose track of what home felt like, because it was migrating out of me and into you.

“I’m afraid of how much I love you”, you said one night.

“Afraid? Why?”, I asked, concerned. “Love shouldn’t be scary”.

“I don’t know”, you said somberly, after a long pause.

I watched your face fall with all of the emotions in your chest that you couldn’t turn into words.

I should have known that night, but I didn’t. I should have known that you were a tangle that I’d never be able to undo. But instead I clutched your words tightly to my heart, as the proof I’d been desperately searching the world for. I was so lovable it was scary? Finally! Your words, your instability, your enigma — it was silky seduction for the hungry ghost inside of me.

As you slowly started to drift away, the hunger began to rule me. I became acutely aware that you now held the watering can for my withering insides, but I didn’t ask for it back. I tried harder to polarize myself into who you would love. A girl you loved so much it scared you. But that was precisely it — you were terrified of being exposed, and the closer I came, the more knots you tied into the tangle around your heart. I didn’t ever stand a chance. No one did.

But you persisted. Not with me of course, but with someone new. A new pretty face to let close, in hopes that she could untangle you. You probably didn’t realize that I saw the texts and song recommendations that you sent her between forced smiles with me. But come on, girls notice everything. I noticed and I pretended it was okay. We were okay. I was okay. But we weren’t, and I wasn’t. In truth, I read our forecast with painful clarity, but you were the lesson I didn’t want to learn. The end of us meant the end of my perfectly scripted future. The end of us would mean I would finally have to stare in the face all of the pain I had been hiding for years. I would have to come to terms with the fact that I’d been cobbling together the affection of man after man to prove my worthiness, and I didn’t know how to stop.

But our end became a period, where always before there’d been a comma. You were the lesson that taught me that there is no compromising on the fact that happiness is grown from within. Just as you’d never untangle yourself with each new stand-in brunette, I was never going to feel loved by anyone until I cultivated my own love.

With time, you’ve gone from title role to just a footnote in my history. And maybe that footnote will always burn a little hot with the memory of how you broke me wide open, but I’d never take it back. Open is how the light gets in.

“Happiness is an inside job”
— William Arthur Ward