It’s been a while hasn’t it, I’m sure you’d be surprised to hear from me after all this time. 3 ½ years seems to have flown by doesn’t it? I’m sure you’ve pushed me to the back of your mind, just like you tried to do with her. The only problem with that James is that she and I were never the same person; yet you still punished me in the same way, for transgressions that I’m sure were yours all along. You know I would have never betrayed you like that, but you still accused me of it, and as I look back now I worry that was just an excuse for the fear you felt inside, about our future that you could never tell me.
You broke me, James, you know, that, right? You were the one that helped build me back up from the destruction that happened before you, into a person that I had begun to recognise again, one that was learning to feel and love and god did I love you! You were the first to ever capture my heart, the first man I fell in love with, and for that, I will always have you in there, but you didn’t leave me whole. It feels as though you had to break every part of me, as though if you couldn’t have the whole version of me, then no one could, not even me.
I wonder sometimes if you think about what happened after I left yours after you hugged the pitiful woman that you had broken down, a shell of the one that you had met and fallen in love with I’m sure. That drive back home was the longest and the emptiest of my life.
Out of all the endings we ever experience in life I believe there is a different pain to be felt and experienced in each. Sometimes there’s the dread that comes ahead when you can see it looming in front of you, and the fear of what will come at the other end. In others, it’s the type that comes from nowhere, the ones that come in from your blind-spot and that floor you. Well, James, you were undoubtedly the second of those, there’s no denying that. But that was never just it, and it’s only recently as I have been writing about you and remembering things that I’m sure I taught myself to forget in time, that I recalled your final words to me:
I love you, Fae. I do still love you. I just… I just need some time.
Well, it’s been 3 ½ years now James, you’ve been with another girlfriend for 3 of those and I’ve, well, I’ve been through another 17 men since then… is that enough time now babe? Are we good now? I joke, but that’s only because I think it’s hard to comprehend how much those few words had such an impact on my life.
The months I held my breath without even realising, waiting for the moment for you to reach out to me, to appear on my doorstep tears streaming down your face as you told me how you had made such a mistake and that your heart had been breaking a little more every day we were apart. I’m still waiting, I just know you’re not coming anymore, and I’m ok with that now. But those words were never ok. You left me with a tiny piece of kindling of what used to be my heart and our love, and there was still a little glow to it. I can’t recall the number of days and hours I sat holding that in my shaking hands, trying to get it to ignite again, wishing that it would, but you stole my air. I could never ignite it again; you’d taken the fuel for what made us burn so bright, and you can’t have fire without air. And for those months I didn’t believe you could have me without you either, you were my everything and then suddenly I was nothing to you, when you had always told me that I was your world. Your worldie that meant the world to you.
I realise now, it’s the goodbyes we never get to have that are the hardest because, despite the hours of arguing and pleading that we had, you left me with that maybe. That bit of hope, so it was never really a goodbye for me. You left me with all the hope and dreams that we had made, that I held in my mind, which held me close on all of those lonely nights when I longed for your arms to find me. I waited for you and was loyal to you for months because I still felt like I was yours, and with every guy I kissed after you for many months it was your lips I was kissing in my mind. You were everywhere I went like there was a hint of you that lingered on my skin, but no matter how much I tried to scrub you from my skin and my mind you were there.
The funny thing is James, that I never blamed you back then, I only blamed me, and I believed everything you said to me and about me. I learned to loathe me as much as you did at the end, but James I wonder if that anger was actually aimed at me or you? Because in the whirlwind that was us, you committed many more wrongs than me. The messages that you sent to Gabriella, and the woman you denied kissing at that festival, but that I know deep down you did. The drugs that you told me that were no longer part of your life. I know I wasn’t perfect, but I guess what I’m trying to say is, neither were you.
There was so much I loved about you, and so many things about love you taught me and about myself. I’m just sad that we ended how we did. I wonder if that argument was because you were scared, and I guess if it was, I just want to say that I don’t blame you for that; because I was terrified too and of so many things. Of what I felt for you, of what you had come to mean to me in such a short space of time, but also of our future and how we would manage. I worry that we ended because you got scared and that’s how it manifested itself, in your paranoia that you could be enough for me on your own, because no matter how much I told you, you were; I don’t think you could ever believe that, because of her. The funny thing is, I get that more than you can imagine, and I think you could have ever realised at the time, because I always felt the same too, but for different reasons; and I’ve felt it many times since you.
I wish you could have just told me. That you could have confided that in me, and that that never had to happen. But at the same time, I know we never could have lasted, despite how much I wished that we could have. Fires like ours are never meant to last because we were never just a fire, we were an explosion, and I’ve learnt in time that flames like that burn out, sometimes just as quickly as they ignite; sometimes quicker still.
I think I always knew that you would slip through my fingers, and I wonder if you knew that too. You always did say that I would one day break your heart, and you’ve not been the last to say that either. I wonder if there’s something about me that is fleeting, something about me that makes me hard hold on to, whether I bring this out of people or whether I permit myself the luxury of staying. But I guess I’m sorry if I did break your heart, and I forgive you for breaking mine, although if I’m honest I think you broke us both that night. Our combined hearts.
I worry that part of the reason that you could never go back on your words was because of how stubborn you always were; one of the many things about you that made me smile and writing about it still brings a smile to my face. A part of me always wished that I could have changed your mind that night, but I think I always knew that I never would- and I feel if you had you would have been giving up one of the things that I fell for about you anyway.
It’s funny, I started this letter with the title “Let Me Go”, but it feels very different now that I’ve started writing; I feel almost as though I’m letting you go. Finally letting go of the kindling you left me with, and letting it die out with the breeze- the air that I’ve learnt to breathe on my own. Because I could always breathe alone, I just forgot how to for a while, because my mind was so full of you and empty of me.
It would have been about March 2015, 6 months after you left but didn’t, and about 3 after I found out that you had already moved on, that I slowly started to get rid of your things, but somehow you stayed in my mind anyway. Yet the only thing that fills my mind right now as I write is the day that I burnt that photo of us, the one that I kept from Paris, the one that matched yours. The one of us kissing. The lips that I had yearned for, that I would never feel again. The ecstasy of such a feeling, that I would never feel again- it makes me laugh really because you never really did get rid of that ecstasy, did you? Because it was never just me that gave you that; the pills did too.
The relief I got as I burnt that photo was indescribable because I finally felt like I had come up for air again, after months of drowning in the despair that you left me in. I had finally resurfaced, as I watched our faces in that photo burn like we did, in an all-consuming fire that we would never have been able to sustain or survive. The feeling of the breeze that I could finally feel on my skin again as the embers of us blew into the air and drifted away. That was the beginning, and this is perhaps the end; I feel I’m finally letting the rest of us burn. I feel like I held onto you without even realising, you were the weight that was keeping me in the water. But now I’m letting you go I feel like things are lighter, like I can finally bring myself out from where you left me, and where I left myself.
I spent so long feeling as though I needed you to be seen, as though I needed love to be seen, and perhaps we all do, but maybe I’m not as invisible as I always told myself. I feel like I’m finally starting to see me, not that “Tinder girl” that you made up, that you perceived and that you spat out in disgust. I’m seeing me, and yes this is much later than all of the men that I have yet to write about, but I’ve finally realised I’m not invisible, I am invincible.
Phoebe showed me the acknowledgements at the front of her thesis the other day when I saw her, and the sight of it alone made me cry. Because I think it was the realisation that people see that side of me, James, the side that you didn’t at the end, or maybe you never did. Maybe I was always just a “Tinder girl” to you, a weak crying girl that couldn’t bear to see the end of us. But I am so much stronger than that, I am invincible, and it is in letting you go finally that I realise, that I was never yours to let go. I have always been and will always be my own, and a fucking badass at that.
Those lines that Phoebe wrote about me still fill me with a sense of pride, because that was the me after you, and perhaps even during and before you. I’m only just starting to see what they see too; I just wish you had as well. Or maybe that was what scared you the most? The strength and courage that lies within me? Because I have seen things you can’t even begin to imagine, and I have come back stronger every time. Those 3 years of my life doing the doctorate were some of the hardest of my life, and that was still after the mess that you left me in, as well as all the bags that I carried with me from before you too.
I wonder if part of it was the fear that perhaps I never really needed you as much as I had convinced myself, and you saw that because you always wanted to be needed, like we all do. But I’m starting to wonder if that paranoia was because you knew deep down that I never needed you to piece me together at all, you were just the catalyst that helped that process, and maybe you knew that those years would be my making, creating a person that you could never hold onto. That I would out-grow you and slip through your fingers, breaking your heart as you always thought I would. I guess I’ll never know, but I do wonder as I write. Maybe I’m being arrogant, but I wonder if deep down the reason I feel so awful writing that is because knowing you like I did, I know it’s more than likely true
But, like I said James, this is meant to be a goodbye, not an opening of questions. So, I guess this is my time to say it because you never really let me. You tried to make me a voiceless woman like he did before you, you didn’t let me say what I needed to, but I’ve learnt that I don’t need your permission to speak and that my actions and my person can say so much more than the words that I was never able to say to you.
I wish you well James, I hope she makes you happy and I hope you make her happy too because you look it in your pictures- although I learnt with you that happy pictures don’t necessarily equate to happy memories. But I hope, nonetheless. I hope that you can hold on to each other and find comfort in each other, knowing that you are enough for her because you are. You have a lot to offer people and her no doubt, and I hope that your fears around that are dissipating either by themselves or with her help. Thank you for being the catalyst that I needed back then, but I guess thank you for letting me go all those years ago, and I’m sorry I held onto your memory for so long. Thank you for helping to show me just how invincible I am, and that I never needed to drown in the first place, maybe one day I’ll remember that.
I wish you well, and I will always remember you, my cheeky chappy sailor.