I would never describe myself as a happy person. I realize that sounds depressing. It’s not that I’m unhappy per say. I just don’t exude the happiness that you see of some people. Overly happy has never been my niche. My emotion for joy never really goes to that level. I’ve been told that no one can make me happy. Only I can. And I understand what they’re trying to tell me. But on my own, I’m not sure that I know how to do that. In my best days, I mostly just feel ok. Just ok.
I have felt happy at times. But I have not yet experienced something I would be comfortable calling the happiest time of my life. I mostly feel incomplete and haven’t wrapped my head around being truly happy in my life.
I know that people have a hundred and one ways to be happy. But me, personally, I just don’t know how to do it. I cry even when I have nothing to be sad about. Most days feel like a loss. How do you wrap your head around such a feeling? And I know that there are some amazing people who have it so much worse than I do, and are a hundred times happier. But I am not them. And try as I might I end up here. Crying on the floor about nothing in particular.
I have a good life. I have loving parents. I’m close with my brothers. I have great friends. I’m not ugly, dumb or unmotivated. There is nothing wrong. And yet, I cant shake the, at times overwhelming, feeling that I am somehow broken for my inability to be truly joyous in my life. And my momentary happiness is never enough.
That being said, this is a “recent” moment where I felt such initial hope and happiness. The story has already played out, but in this moment my hopes ran free. Something they generally don’t do very often.
I dramatically flopped onto the couch in the living room. My brothers and cousins sent me a sidelong glance but didn’t acknowledge me outright.
This day had been nothing short of perfection. It had been a hot, beautiful, clear skied summer day, spent bridge jumping, football watching and family bonding. It made the emptiness that usually threatened to overtake me, settle to a deep recess within.
For such a long time I had felt like I was just managing. I wasn’t living, I was surviving. Just doing the minimum. It was exhausting keeping the façade up that I was ok because the more time that passed, the more out of control I felt. I was not ok. And something about the comfort of my family, made it impossible to pretend I was anything but a disaster. I knew I was petty. I knew I was frustrating. I knew my family worried and got the brunt of my dysfunction. But even at my basest and my most agonizing, I knew that they would love me through it. It wasn’t fair to them. And I realized it in every moment. But I felt unable to behave kinder. I knew I wasn’t the person they thought I should be. I was someone falling apart who appeared to have it all together.
But days like today made me feel that underneath the stress and frustration I might finish school and be able to be ok. Happy and healthy even. My stress was understandable. I was, after all, in my last year of dental school. But even still, I knew this wasn’t the life I wanted to live. I didn’t want to feel like this. I was trying to change. But sometimes just being alive is all you can do until something more happens.
My family tried to be understanding. But they couldn’t really. No one really could.
But this day made the gap in understanding seem miniscule. It bridged that gap and gave me an inkling that I wouldn’t always feel so broken. Like I might make it back from the destruction I felt inside.
“Cousin,” I whined. “Lets dooo something. Call someone. Something.”
My cousin looked over at me. He was always up for having a good time.
“Well, do you have anyone to call?” I shook my head in response and he continued, “Maybe [what’s his face] is doing something? We could try that?”
I gave a non-committal grunt. I liked [what’s his face], but he lived with Him; Him who was the only guy I’d ever dated that I knew was better than me when he broke up with me. Him, who I’d been unable to forget. Him, who had written me in December to ease my worries that he was out in the world hating me. Him, who I’d written just before this last trip home, to tell him that I admired and appreciated him for helping to inspire my best intentions. That Him who I had run into a week prior, for the first time in a year and half. Sure, he had said we could put things behind us, but I wasn’t sure that that offer included me hanging out at his house. What if he was there? What if he wasn’t?
A small part of me (the part that had poor judgment) had hoped that he would want to spend time with me while I was home. I still cared what he thought of me and held onto the hope that just maybe, he felt the same. But he hadn’t. He hadn't called. We hadn’t run into each other. And I was leaving in one more day.
My cousin looked at me. He knew how broken up I felt about Him and he didn’t want me to be hurt. So he looked over as he called [what’s his face] to make sure I could handle the chance of running into Him. I subtly nodded that I’d be fine.
“[What’s his face] said he’s not up to anything so let go over and see what he’s doing.”
It was so strange walking up that familiar sidewalk to the entrance to his duplex. It had been winter then. But it still looked exactly the same to me and filled me with déjà vu. The cousins didn’t hesitate as they opened the door and shouted their arrival. I followed behind, almost cautiously. I quietly slipped my shoes off and put them neatly beside the other shoes at the door. I looked down the darkened stairway. The door to his room was open and the light on. My breath caught. Maybe he was home. Instead of investigating further, I turned to the staircase going upstairs to join my cousins.
If he was home, I’d find out soon enough.
Upstairs, the boys and [what’s his face] were already settling in, trying to debate what should occupy their attention for the evening. I half-heartedly joined in, trying to appear un-phased by the changes in the living room. The living room where he first kissed me. It looked so different. With different desks and a different configuration of couches. He had more bookshelves. I ran my hands along some of the familiar titles, his different language and psychology books, and took notice of some that I had been wanting to read but couldn’t remember the titles to. I had been wanting to read the book about Amazing Grace but didn’t know what version he had recommended to me so many months previous. And since we weren't on speaking terms, I couldn’t ask. I made a mental note of the title, hoping that I could remember it until I left.
The boys settled on watching Community, and I tried my hardest to appear extra enthusiastic. This had been what I’d wanted, to hang out with people. But I kept waiting for Him to appear. I was filled with such an odd feeling to be hanging out in his house under such different circumstances. It was like I was standing outside of myself, seeing the entire experience from a spectators point of view. I excused myself to use the washroom and walked down the two flights of stairs. I held my breath a little as I passed his open room door. But he wasn’t in there. I paused to look in, suddenly flooded by memories. We had sat on that bed, with that quilt, as he had told me that while he cared for me, he couldn’t date me and continue to succeed in school. Being with me was exhausting and he didn’t have the energy to do it anymore. Most of the guys I had dated in recent years, I had felt in the back of my mind that I was better than them. It was a mean spirited thought. But with him? He was better than me. And knowing that he was more the kind of person I wanted to end up with, and knowing I wasn’t good enough for him, made our break up all the more devastating to me. I had worked so hard over the last year and half to change and better myself, because I never wanted to feel like I wasn’t good enough for someone again. Next time I met someone I could actually see being with, I wanted to be an equal.
I took a deep breath and moved away from the doorframe of his room. He wasn’t home.
I love my cousins. And while essentially we weren't really doing anything, even watching bootlegged episodes of a tv show was fun. We laughed loudly and kept watching episode after episode. So when He appeared, at the top of the stairs, in a suit, I was startled. I had ruled out the possibility of seeing him.
Our eyes met, and with a small smirk he said hello and came and sat beside me on the loveseat.
I felt electric. He started up a conversation about television and when I got excited about a favorite show, he laughed in a charming way and told me that my love of television was an endearing quality. We chatted and laughed and everything about it felt so natural; like nothing had happened. Every time he would get up and leave I’d find myself wishing he would come back just so I could sit near him again. We didn’t even need to be touching, I just wanted to be near.
I glanced at my cousins and could tell that they were getting tired. ‘Don’t be selfish.’ I chided internally to myself. I looked over at Him, laughing and smiling at me. I wanted to stay. But I couldn’t make the boys stay up just for an extra five minutes of conversation. As the episode we were watching ended, I announced, “Boys, it’s getting kinda late… maybe we should go..”
We got up and said our goodbyes around the room. Awkward goodbyes. I didn’t know how to behave. The boys essentially bounded out the door before me. And even though it was such a weird end to the night, I felt such a light happiness settle on me as I went down the stairs and stopped to put on my shoes. It had been such a lovely day.
I glanced back up the stairs, to see him standing in his suit at the top of the stairs, backlit. “You know, its such a beautiful night. Would you perhaps want to go for a walk outside tonight?”
“I have to take the boys home…”
“Of course, after that, you could come back … if its not too late for you…”
I paused for a moment to look at him, “I think I would really like that.”
“See you soon then. Meet back here. Just tap on my window and I’ll come out.”
I tried hard to not speed as I drove the cousins home.
“He asked me to go for a walk tonight.”
“I could tell something was going on,” my cousin admitted. “That’s why I kept saying we should watch another episode, even though I was freaking tired. He was totally flirting with you.”
I could hardly believe it, “He seemed into me?”
“I can tell this sort of thing. He was leaning in as he spoke and touching your arm.”
“Really? Maybe he was just being friendly. He did say he wanted to be friends again.”
“Trust me, Missy. He was into you.”
I said goodbye to the boys and drove back home to drop my car off. My cousin had thought he had seemed interested. But I couldn’t imagine him wanting me again. It seemed much more likely that he just wanted to be friends. Much more realistic. I popped into the house to put some pants on. It was a beautiful night, but I didn’t think a skirt would provide much warmth if it got any colder. Even though I felt so beautiful in my current outfit.
As I walked in the dark, the block to his house, my heart beat much quicker than my current exertion warranted. I was nervous. I knew he wasn’t interested in me. But I wanted to be near him even still. His example, his presence, made me want to be the best version of myself. Not for him, but for myself. He inspired me to dream of a happy future filled with books, television and travel.
I rapped softly on his window and paced in front of the door. Arms loaded with blankets he greeted me with soft hello.
“I thought we could walk into the park and star gaze a little.”
He handed me a blanket and we began to walk, chatting in the cool summer air.
The air was still as we settled in the park. And he asked question after question about me and for once in my life, I didn’t hesitate to open up. I talked, like I had previously thought I was unable to speak. But every time I would ask something about his life, he would hedge and turn the conversation back to me.
We sat in the park and at first kept our physical distance. But as it got colder out, we got closer together. I told myself, that he was just being friendly. He just wanted to be friends and I tried to aid him by keeping things very platonic. I was determined to be un-phased by our physical proximity.
I asked again about his future plans and he paused for a moment. I expected him to dodge the question again but instead he opened up.
“I actually just told my brother and dad the other day. You three are now the only people who know my plans.”
His words hung in the air.
Why would he tell me? It was a secret and something so personal and he was telling me.
Quietly, I posed the question to him, “Why would you tell me? We haven't exactly spoken for a year and a half because we weren't on good terms… it seems odd that you would share such a secret with me when you haven’t even told all of your family…”
“I don’t mind telling you things.”
It was such a simple reply but it meant so much to me.
It was a strange night. It felt like the first time we had hung out and like our horrendous break up had never occurred. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to be with him, even after all this time. And I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed and smiled so much. I felt light headed from laughing and my cheeks burned and ached. We talked and laughed all night, and as the sky lightened, I knew that we should leave. But this time, I didn’t have the will power to end the evening, especially when he seemed so content to stay next to me until the sun rose fully in the sky. I had forgotten what a joy his company could be.
The sky continued to lighten, and dog walkers began to appear. We slowly began to sit up. We sat cross legged, knee to knee, still sharing a blanket, our arms partially wrapped around each other.
“You know, this night has been perfect and deserves a perfect end,” He looked down at me and put the slightest amount of pressure on my lower back as I looked deeply into his brown eyes, trying to comprehend his meaning.
I felt so ill-prepared for this moment. He just wanted to be friends with me. Didn’t he? I stiffened against his leading pressure, not allowing it to direct me forward towards him.
“Really?” He pouted.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to kiss him again. But now that the moment was upon me, I was scared. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t risk it.
“Poor Boston, if this is all it can get from you,” he playfully teased.
I frowned slightly, “This is more than Boston gets.”
He looked kindly down at me and pulled me into a tight embrace.
Snuggled into his shoulder I asked what I had been wondering all night, “Why did you ask me to hang out? It was such a chance encounter that we ran into each other tonight. Why did you ask me to come for a walk?”
I felt the pressure of his arms tighten briefly. “It has been very hard for me to not contact you since we broke up. I haven't been able to get you out of my head. I couldn’t stay away. That’s part of why I wrote to you in December. When we broke up, I always planned on writing to you again. Of contacting you.”
I pulled back just enough so that I could see his face. He looked so sincere.
“Whats changed though?” It broke my heart to ask it, but as much as I would have liked to say I was better than when we broke up, I wasn’t sure if the differences were even measurable to anyone besides myself. “You were quite clear in that last email from our breakup. Has anything really changed since then?”
“Oh, Melissa,” he cooed softly. “You misunderstood my meaning. Nothing has changed for me. You are still awesome and possess so many qualities I admire.”
He leaned his forehead to mine.
“Do you think you’ve changed since then?”
Of course I had felt some changes within myself. But none that would warrant his sudden interest in me again. Time had changed me, but I was still basically the same person. Still the flawed version of myself from 2009. Still a mess so much of the time. And yes, when I’m cheerful, people seemed to overlook those flaws. But they aren't as easy to overlook when I’m having a hard day. My lows are equally as forceful as my highs.
He leaned back to look me in the eyes, settling his hands on my arms, almost like he was holding me at arms length to really see me.
“I don’t know what the future holds in store Melissa, but I want you to know that no matter what happens, I really, and truly think you are so special.” When I cringed at his use of the word special he continued. “You are special. You don’t give yourself enough credit. You’re fun and charming and amazing. There is no one like you. And I don’t want you to forget that. You are someone to know.”
We stared for a moment into each others eyes, and this time, when his slight pressure urged me forward, I didn’t fight him, but closed my eyes and let him kiss me softly.
The perfect end to a perfect day.