How To Leave
It’s not like you started with a grand plan to hurt them, or use them. But then at some point, you did, and so you decided that it didn’t matter, and what if you were selfish this time? You were hurt by someone before and you got over it, so you’re certain they will get over this. This is what you tell yourself.
You’ve learnt how to leave, but sometimes you don’t leave soon enough. So even after you realize that it isn’t working, and that you aren’t exactly feeling it too much, you stay. For the sex, for the company, for the bants, for the attention, for the shoulder to cry on, for the understanding, non-judgmental friendship. You stay just a bit longer than necessary.
Sometimes you make sure you tell them immediately you find out.
“I can’t love you”, you’d say.
They’d nod as if they understood. As if they could understand how everything that felt perfect and right could suddenly not be those things. Their eyes would hold confused looks, but they’d nod still, because, well, they want to seem cool, and detached and maybe unaffected.
But sometimes, someone makes it really hard for you, and asks why. You wonder what you’re supposed to say then. That you don’t know why too?
You come up with something, anything. And sometimes they accept your half-assed explanation, and allow you leave quietly. Other times, they decide to protect themselves, or heal. And then they cut you out completely.
This is when you feel guilty, and you somehow realize how much you’ve hurt them because they have refused to hide it. You start to wonder if you’re a bad person.
Your friends are kind, and they like you, so when you confess to them, they tell you that you were not wrong to leave and that it was better to leave now than later. But there’s a pesky feeling that refuses to go away, and somehow feels a lot like guilt.
Guilt is a rotten thing. Nature’s own very gauge on our actions, forcing you to feel shame for committed wrong. Guilt means you did something wrong and you deserve some sort of punishment for it. And it’s that punishment you fear, and the form with which it will manifest.
You tell yourself that you did the right thing by leaving when you did. You could have been an asshole and dragged it on for longer. But no, you were the bigger person. You put yourself in the line of fire to save both of you. To do something difficult that you’d both appreciate in the long run. You forget the relief you felt when it was all over, how easy and quick it was for you to move on and replace them.
You lock up all stray memories of when you declared your feelings, and said those mushy words, you wrap them up in a nice box labelled “good times”. The specifics will make you doubt your goodness, your right to leave. It will sully your conviction when you tell yourself that you did the right thing in that situation and decide not to feel guilty about it.
You miss them sometimes, because let’s be honest, you did quite like them, but not really like that, not enough. Not the way they would have wanted. And even when they asked you, they begged you to stay, you turned away, because in the end, self-preservation is the right thing, no? It’s the smart thing.
They say you reap what you sow. But what if you started to sow love with someone and then left it to wither? You were certainly not going to get anything to reap, but what about the other person who is left with the dead plant? Who gives them their happy ending?
You will push all this from your mind. You will be magnanimous. Offer time, robust explanations even. You’ll offer to meet them somewhere neutral for coffee or yogurt. Whatever they would like, you’re generous now. You will endure their preferences this time. You will craft beautiful sentences in your head and deliver them even beautifully. Most times, they let you get away with it, other times they don’t. That’s when you decide whether they’re sour losers or not. That’s when they get their labels.
Every once in a while, you form great, meaningful friendships out of the mess. Friendships based on a mutual decision to never speak on the matter. A friendship with hope as its core. They, hoping you’ll one day see how awesome they are and kiss them. You hoping that they’ll eventually see how mismatched you both are and thank you.
I’m not here to tell you to never start. I’m not here to tell you to never leave. I like to think they’re two sides of the same coin. Sometimes you’re the one who gets left, and sometimes, you’re the one who leaves. And that’s okay (I think).
***My apologies for all the pictures of sunsets. I needed page breakers and I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of finding relevant photos. But they’re beautiful pictures, and I do hope you enjoy them as much as I did.