All of my friends know him. And probably a little too well. They know his shape and the way he moves in his sleep, all of his best moves in bed. They know the way he likes his eggs and his go-to drink of choice. They could probably recite both his personal and professional resume, without having to dig way back into the memories they keep. Or the ones they’ve imagined so vividly, they almost seem so real, they’d go on record to defend them.
All of my friends know that guy… and so do you.
We all have one: that guy that was the hardest one (ever, ever) to get over. He’s the one who got under your skin when you were too young, too naive, too inexperienced to know any better. He’s the guy who introduced you to something at a pivotal point in your life. After a bad breakup, post-huge move to a brand new city, following the worst year you’ve experienced. He could be the first guy you slept with where you actually understood — and omg — felt a go-numb-in-your-toes orgasm. He’s the guy that treated you terribly, possibly cheated on you, left you hanging on the edge of possibility for months (or years), couldn’t meet any of your needs, couldn’t step up to the plate, called you up at midnight and randomly showed up at your door, so drunk he could barely stand. He’s the guy who knows you so well that he knows how to push every button, linger on each and every heart string and for lack of a better phrase, emotionally torture you. And tangle your lives together, long after you’ve separated.
That guy might not mean the harm he inflicts (though he could be rather manipulative at his core), but he always finds a way to stick around. He might actually love you in the silly, twisted, strange way that he can, but the love you deserve is bigger and frankly, easier than a chaotic relationship (and the on and off months of sex that follow). Without realizing it — because I bet it happened rather quickly — you’ll wonder how you lost yourself in this man. In all of the questions and the embraces and the fever-filled texts and emails and voicemails and mornings waking up naked, hating yourself a little more
But try as you might, with every ounce of dignity you have, you pull yourself out of it. You find the strength (and let go of the crushing fear) to walk away, promising yourself there must be a greater love out there for you, somewhere, somehow. You will refuse to settle. Or maybe that guy left you. Perhaps for someone else, maybe for another country. He could have pushed you to your limits, until the breaking point was simply non-negotiable. However it ended with that guy – it didn’t just end the second you deleted him off Facebook or blocked his email.
It kept going on. Because you let it. Because you wanted to feel something instead of nothing. Because the (select few) good times where everything felt right, where his arms held you tight, when you caved under his façade – are so much easier to remember than the times that he hurt you. Over and over again.
Over and over again, you’ll play through it all. Over and over again, you’ll cry and then you’ll stand up. You’ll say you won’t do anything and you’ll do everything you swore you would never do… again. You’ll give into the fear that perhaps there isn’t anything better out there, and he’ll play off your terror in a way so subtle you won’t detect it until someone points it out. That guy will haunt your romantic dreams long after he’s gone, long past the time when you were together, in a scary, confidence-busting way. And you’ll watch him do it. You’ll probably sleep with him. You might even find a day where you give up that anyone will ever mean as much – or make you feel so much – than that guy. Because that guy has you addicted to the story. To the drama. To that fragile piece of silver lining that make you wonder that maybe, just maybe, it could all work out one day.
That guy is a pretty obvious one for me and two years since we “broke up” – his emails still sit in my inbox. His phone number appears in my voicemail. He’s still here on these pages and occasionally on my mind more than I’d like. I blame it on a lot of things, like that he’s my last point of reference in a relationship. That he was my first (and only) adult love. That we really had something special.
But really, he’s just that guy for me.
He’s just that one guy that we all have to get past. And even though I have a pretty fantastic life, there’s nothing like clinging to the past that can bring a girl down or make her lose her thunder. If you ask people who found a way to release that guy from their life, they’ll tell you about how they met someone else and it got better. Or how they finally were tired of the constant production. Or how they had to block everything, threaten until they were out of breath and ignore every tempting invitation. Or how they finally realized they were never going to get that guy to be anything close to what they wanted.
We all have that guy, in whatever shape or form, age or stage he comes (and ultimately leaves). And for me, the biggest breakthrough, the thing that’s helped more than anything else on moving on past that guy is reminding myself he’s not the last guy. And if I can move from North Carolina to New York, lose my first job to find the dream job, find a way to survive and thrive in a city that gets a kick off knocking you down, then I can let go of that guy. I can leave him in the dust, in the torn notes, the pages I’ve penned, the hours, the days, the years I’ve lost and in the empty promises that were never filled. In the love I wanted so badly to feel in return that remained rather unrequited, and simply, never enough.
Because that guy can do a lot of things, including breaking your heart so many times you lose count, but he can’t break your hope. Unless of course, you let him.