How do you know if you have truly moved on from someone?
I’ve had some vivid moments of this. Moments of recognition that the person you loved no longer has a hold on you. A moment when the only feeling ever left is indifference.
I remember a guy I met in college who I really, really liked. By some twist of fate, I ended up being good friends with him and his whole family. I found myself spending Sundays in their home after church. I went with them to family events and they always treated me like I belonged. Everything was great until he had a girlfriend. Although I knew that I was really just a friend, him having a girlfriend changed everything. I remember going home one day and saying to myself, “That’s it. I will never speak of his name ever again.” And I didn’t. I stopped going to church and stopped seeing his family. I was already working when this happened so it was easier to make an excuse and slowly fade out of the picture. I never saw him again until 3 weeks ago on our day trip to Paris. I think more than a decade has passed since. I still like him and he is still my good friend. That did not change. Other feelings than friendship? Oh, definitely no more. They’ve been gone a long time.
Two years into my first job, I relocated to a new site and just had a huge crush on one of the managers. Everyone knew, including him. It was an embarrassment, but he was really cool about it and I was happy he went along with it. He left the company a year later and I was devastated. I even wrote him a goodbye note on a carefully selected card, which now makes me cringe because it wasn’t long before we were reunited. A few months later, I decided to leave the same company and was just planning to focus on getting my second degree. He got wind of this and instead of getting my second degree, I found myself in a new career path working with the same guy I was so infatuated with. Ok, fine. I was in love with him. For 5 excruciating years. Outside of that, he was really someone who paved the way for me. Wherever I am now in my career, it’s all thanks to him who was the first to believe in me. I tried to move on from him and did have a boyfriend in between, but he was just there. He would even support me and give me advice. I remember him saying to me once, “You know, you always short change yourself. You always put yourself in situations where you are on the losing end.” He was probably referring to himself because there was no way he would be in love with me. He’s gay.
I love recalling how I knew it was all over and I was free again. It was several months after he just up and left and moved to Singapore without telling me. I was sent to Cape Town for a week for work. I was on my flight back and just as the plane took off from Johannesburg, I was thinking how awesome it was that I was sent to Africa! I was looking out of the window of the plane and I felt as if something washed over me. I felt as if something really heavy just got lifted and my heart just became whole again. It was at that exact moment that I knew it was over. Five long years of feelings gone and I was totally free! And I can finally think of him without feeling anything. Or I no longer thought of him. That was indifference. We remain friends to this day sharing only birthday greetings on Facebook or Whatsapp.
Yesterday, I saw a picture of my first boyfriend. He’s married and lives in Canada now. I haven’t seen him in years and seeing his photo sparked nothing but curiosity. Curiosity in a sense that he was once a big part of my life. Now, he is just a familiar face. A little older but still the same handsome and fit man who was really incompatible with me on so many aspects. I recognize those now and not ending up with him was probably one of the best blessings-in-disguise I could ever have.
These three little stories of my life, they are like the dead stars in a short story of the same title I read in high school. It was a story about a man named Alfredo who was attracted to a woman named Julia. Only, he was engaged and cannot dishonor his commitment. Many years later, he visited the town where Julia still lived and when he saw her and touched her hand, he realized his feelings for her were long gone. He compares his love for her to dead stars. My favorite line in the book is, “So all these years—since when?—he had been seeing the light of dead stars, long extinguished, yet seemingly still in their appointed places in the heavens.”
I wonder when this moment will come for me and The Friend. I wish he could be a dead star too.
October was a mad house for me, thus the writing hiatus. I was trying to take advantage of the little pockets of clarity and focus being away from him afforded. I was trying to make sure I do my job especially with a lot of people counting on me.
By the end of October, I was off to my dream trip to Iceland with side trips to London and Paris. It was an amazing time with few of my best friends, but that’s for another story. On this trip, I had hoped that I will go home with the same feeling as that of coming home from Cape Town. Only, I knew it wasn’t going to be. He was with me on this trip. I stayed behind in the UK for a few days for work and being alone makes you think. I knew I was going home practically to the same situation. The chunk was gone, and in fact I no longer cried. But it was replaced with some kind of millennial madness. It’s called social media.
You see, he and I remained connected through social media – Facebook and Instagram. That was how he would throw breadcrumbs at me and I would see it as a sign of hope. Alone in the UK, I started contemplating. What was I hoping for? That he would change his mind and eventually realize he really wants me after all? But what were these breadcrumbs really telling me? During the 3-week trip, he sent me a message once, to ask how I was doing. He did this minutes after I posted a picture of me and my old friend in Paris. Coincidence? Maybe. But you see, these situations are familiar. An ex who smells you moving on and he hasn’t made up his mind if he wants you to, he somehow makes sure you know he’s still alive. Aside from that, he liked a few of the many photos I posted and often watched my stories on Instagram. He made a few comments on the quality of my photos because we both knew he was supposed to teach me take photos. He was the photographer after all. As shameful as it is to admit, I had clung to those again as a sign of hope.
On my 20-hour journey home, there was a thought that kept nagging me. I do not want to go home the same. I do not want to go home without reclaiming something of myself; for myself. Why do I keep on thinking about him still? Why does he still make me cry? It hurts a lot when I see him interacting with our common friends on social media and he deliberately ignores me. He used to have that kind of attention for me. Maybe because it was safe for them and for me it had a certain degree of expectation? Obviously it is different now with everything that happened between us. Still, how easy is it for him knowing that he can hurt me like that? Or maybe he doesn’t know he is hurting me. Maybe by staying connected to him, he thinks I am fine and thriving in the aftermath of our sordid story.
When I finally got home, I chanced upon a quote on Instagram that said, “Any man who can fall asleep soundly while knowing that you’re crying to sleep because of him, is never the man for you.” It jolted me awake. Like a slap in the face. A man who truly cares for you will be careful about your feelings. He will think hard about his actions and would only wish for your happiness. If he knows he wronged you, he will try hard to make it up to you.
Obviously, these were not the actions from The Friend. Because he led me on, he did not really care if I got hurt or not. He has been out of my life since, except for the breadcrumbs he occasionally offered. To keep me close and at bay at the same time? Why? Never wanting me, but never letting me go either. Why do I take the meager part of himself that he offers anyway? Can’t I have the whole bread? Why am i still crying? Then and there I decided I am no longer willing to be miserable. I think I will listen to my friends and take a chance on me this time. I took a deep breath.
I went to Facebook and opened his profile. I clicked unfriend. Yes, I am sure. After that, I clicked block. Yes, I am sure.
I went to Instagram, clicked on his profile and clicked on block. Yes, I am sure.
Except that I wasn’t sure about what comes after. I know the tears stopped. I was calm.
It’s just as well. I never liked bread anyway.