The Letter I’ll Never Send

Relationships have always been a difficult thing for me. I suppose that’s a truism for a lot of people, but it’s easy to get caught up in a self-centered pattern of thought where you believe no one else suffers from a similar malady. Most of us do at some point. It’s just life. It’s natural.

No one enjoys it when someone airs dirty laundry, so unless you’re into personal gossip, I’d recommend skipping this post. I haven’t been posting very often in years, partially for reasons that will be made clear in this post, but if you are into juicy gossip then you’re in for a bit of a ride. Bear in mind that what I write here is obviously rather one-sided. The individual in question will never be one I identify publicly. She knows who she is.

This post will also not be tagged or categorized. I don’t think that’s appropriate. I do want to get this off my chest, and posting it here seems to be a reasonable course of action. If it is eventually retracted, then I apologize, but take solace in the fact that such a retraction will be of my own volition as there is no information in this post that might lead to the identification of the person in question outside my social circle.

Some ten years ago, in the middle of 2010, I was struggling with a woman whom I’ve been in a relationship in more or less since. It was a time when I discovered she’d lied to me about a number of things–important things–that presented a significant emotional challenge for a couple of years. But, I did something far stupider than this, and I hope this tale is one that gives those of you who are likewise single pause for thought.

I forgave her. More importantly, I elected to continue the relationship. It became something of a long distance one, which added to the difficulty, given her schooling and the likes. I did what I could to be there with her, but I never quite knew where she’d end up moving to, and because of my own personal issues, I didn’t want to drop everything I was doing here to follow her around the US. I have to wonder how much the start of our relationship held a bearing on its eventual trajectory, but I’d like to believe that we came out of it stronger because of my willingness–and forgiveness–to work with her to make things right.

When she was in school, I’d answer her calls in the middle of the night no matter how often something went wrong: The apartment alarms woke her up in a start, or she was feeling down from the stress of classes. It was difficult because I couldn’t be there physically with her, but I tried to make up for it by flying her out here to spend time together.

I’ll always look back on those times we were together with a great deal of fondness. Holding her, kissing her. Enjoying her company. The things two people in love usually enjoy. The specter of distance always loomed–and the unknown–because I knew that would present a challenge that would inevitably prove insurmountable.

She eventually went to obtain her DVM, and continued at a university in a far away land for another 4 years. That’s when things started to change.

I felt a sense of remorsefulness in her voice at times. Maybe even a tinge of resentment or regret. Was she disappointed in us? I’ll never know. Yet, because of my continued lack of trust from a continuation of events I shouldn’t go into here, she seemed to slowly transform into someone I didn’t recognize. I tried to persist, stupidly perhaps, by constantly telling her how much she meant to me, and that I wished I could one day show her such that we could be together at long last. But she’d always bring up the fact I hadn’t moved out there.

True enough, of course. I hadn’t. I should have. There’s always going to be regret in my mind over this. She had a point: Past performance predicts future results.

But the truly unforgivable and unthinkable happened just this morning.

I spent much of the night pining over her, wistfully thinking about what things would have been like if we were together again. So I texted her. This was my first mistake. I told her that I still loved her, and that I wished we could be together again. Then I tried to get back to sleep.

Morning came with not a word spoken. I asked her if we were still on speaking terms, since we were supposed to be friends after all, and the reply was immediate. Yes, but she was busy with work, and family, and the COVID-19 disaster. She’d been meaning to set aside more time to spend with me. Then came my next mistake. Blissful, and somewhat hopefully I could rekindle a sensation lost since last September when she’d told me she couldn’t keep doing this without me there, I texted her back, again repeating how much I missed her and wanted to see her again.

Then a figurative atomic bomb went off just seconds later. A reply came from someone identifying himself as her “current boyfriend,” instructing me that it’s fine if her and I stay friends, but that the rest of my pining is something I should understand was “not OK.”

This came to me as a complete surprise. I was blindsided by this, because I had no idea she was in a different relationship. It must’ve happened rather quickly, because only a short time before we’d lamented being unable to see each other. She echoed my sentiments that we missed each other despite the events toward the end of last year only a month or so ago. The “end” felt open-ended and certainly not something that would have resulted in this.

The response floored me, to say the least. I thought better of her. I thought if she’d been seeing someone else, she wouldn’t have told me in February that she missed me and (perhaps half-jokingly, now that I think about it) urged me to buy plane tickets to spend time with her. But to pass her phone over to someone else, to monitor an otherwise private conversation, and to have not the courage to tell me herself that I shouldn’t consider such things after we’d already shared what I felt was a mutual feeling of wishing to see each other again… it was probably the single most outrageous thing that I have ever experienced. (Edit: She later told me that he heard the text message notifications and took it upon himself to unlock her phone, read each of them, and reply to me without her immediate knowledge.)

I suppose you never truly know someone until they’re in a stressful situation, and from her perspective, facing the finality of our relationship’s end was no doubt such a circumstance. But I can’t help myself from thinking that it was a small bit of callousness and carelessness for her to commit such a heinous act after we knew each other for so long. I considered her my best friend for close to a decade. We spoke every day for hours at a time, even when we were separated by distance. When she was out here, we spent virtually all of that time together. I held her, often into the early hours of the morning. I kissed her. Deeply. She’d gaze into my eyes and tell me she loved me, and I her. We called each other soulmates. All the soppy things you’d expect from two people who felt they were meant to be together.

Perhaps that was optimistic. Hindsight has a certain clarity that is void from the moment. I’ll explain.

She told me of a dream she had once where she saw me with my head hung low. She explained that when I looked up at her, I held a sad expression on my face and said something about “us” being over, and that she saw me turn around and walk away into the setting sun. Moments before I faded from her sight, she woke up in a panic and called me. That was years ago, well before our relationship blossomed into what it was for many, many years. It always stuck with me in the back of my mind that perhaps she felt me leave her long before we were together.

I’d long forgotten about this dream of hers and have since remembered it exactly twice. First, when I was holding her for a good chunk of the night. She expressed a sudden feeling of sadness that it would be the last time we’d see each other (ironic, in fact, because it was–the night before her flight back home and the last time we saw each other). Second, when she’d told me the relationship was too difficult for her to continue unless I was out there (via text message, of all things; yes, this became a trend). In retrospect, I believe she had convinced herself as though I was never truly a part of her life–no matter what I tried to the contrary. Also in retrospect, I believe she acted this out. To this day, I don’t think her parents really knew I was her boyfriend. Neither most of her friends. In fact, I think the only other person who knew of me was a friend of hers from veterinary school in whom she confided a great deal.

The greatest irony in all of this came from her alleged boyfriend’s response. He concluded the rather terse text with “I hope you find what you’re looking for in California.” I’m not sure where this came from, considering I’m not from California and have never lived there, but it gave me pause for thought. Was she been honest with him? Did she lie about her past relationship (“he’s just a friend,” or “I don’t know him that well”)? Did he even know that there was a rather complicated circumstance between her and I that had yet to fully resolve? Was she dishonest with everyone?

As an aside, the phrase “I hope you find what you’re looking for” after ending someone else’s relationship is one that I’ll never forget and always disdain with a ferocity reserved only for those who’ve done me immeasurable harm, because it represents to me the height of intellectual laziness, immaturity, and a myopic disregard for a situation presented without contemplating the possibility of missing context. It represents a blatant disregard for privacy, respect, and trust. It shows that one or both parties on the other end of the phone hadn’t communicated an important facet of past misgivings with each other, and it demonstrates a sort of ignorant callousness that has me judging the man who sent it as one who is incredibly shallow and insecure. Shallow, because of his ineptitude to consider more deeply the gravity of the events surrounding my texts to her; insecure, because he must have felt her incapable of handling her own affairs, needed to defend his honor by rubbing my face in the fact he was dating the woman I loved, and needed to delve into her private life presumably without permission. Maybe he didn’t trust her either, and she’s since developed a habit of dating multiple men behind each others’ backs? Or maybe he wants to control everything she does?

Part of me wonders if he instructed her never to talk to me again as long as they’re together… If you truly love me, you won’t ever talk to this friend of yours.

But it’s the part about gleefully rubbing my face in the fact she was his and no longer mine that will leave me bitter about the end. While I’m angry with her for all the things she didn’t say to ease me through this, or to offer up some defense in my absence, I’ve absolutely no respect for her new lover as he demonstrated none for me. To call him the most vile, disgusting, and filthy scum on this Earth would be something of an understatement, and I can think of plenty more colorful adjectives to describe what I think of him that are not appropriate to print here. With the force of a single text message, he managed to condense the entirety of his persona, belief system, values (lack of), and arrogant disregard for anyone but himself so succinctly that I feel I know everything about him. And there is nothing about him I like. It almost disgusts me that he shares my first name (albeit in truncated form, which I’ve always detested–more so now).

The most disappointing outcome from this is that it saddens me how I’d rather see him hurt her so she can know the heartbreak I’ve felt first hand than to see him lift her up and adore her. It’s sad that I harbor a secret desire to hear one day that he cheated on her and she had no one to turn to. All of this ill will isn’t healthy, and I’ll eventually forget about it, but at the time of this writing I harbor schadenfreude toward each of these possibilities.

Through all of this, it’s difficult to shake the thought that he’s with her only because of her title, a doctor of veterinary medicine, and feels no true love for her. I can only hope God will forgive me for these thoughts, because He knows how much I cherished her when she should have otherwise meant nothing to me. Yet I forgave her and loved her so much. Perhaps more than I ever should have loved her.

In the end, there are so many questions I have that will remain unanswered. While I regret instructing her to never talk to me again in the heat of the moment (and secretly wish she’d call me one day), I would be lying were I to say I didn’t wish to sit down and ask her, genuinely, what the truth really is.

I’d write my former lover a letter I’d never send, telling her that after all the years we were together, after all the stories and memories we shared, after all the love and kindness, it had to end in the ugliest, shallowest, and most childish manner possible: By having someone else wave the black flag and sink a spear into my heart as a lover’s coup de grĂ¢ce. If it was her objective to devise the worst possible way to hurt me, she did a stellar job.

To her credit, she was always an overachiever.

It also hurt that she never offered an apology for his actions. What I got instead was a non-apology apology matter-of-factly stating how things were and that she couldn’t do anything to take away the pain. Truthfully, taking away or otherwise diminishing the pain isn’t what I wanted from her (or expected)–she was no longer mine, and I suppose none of this was my business–but an apology for what transpired, a genuine apology, that hinted she still held a fondness and respect for all the years we were together would have gone miles to ease the suffering. An indication that she held disdain toward the actions perpetrated against me as someone who gave her so much love and attention is probably too much to ask.

I’m sure there will be a time for reflection and many lessons learned from what essentially amounted to a wasted decade of my life, by foolishly persisting after someone who ultimately shared no respect or consideration for someone she said she loved for so long. The sleepless nights talking to her to calm her after a harrowing day. The patience I expressed at dragging out of her whatever it was that was a bother to give her guidance and a shoulder to rest on.

Perhaps it wasn’t compassion she wanted so much as a domineering man to tell her how things were going to be, rather than one to cooperate with her and help her through how things are.

As I write this, which I confess is somewhat therapeutic (though limited in scope), I recognize that none of these emotions will be things she’ll ever learn I hold. She’s unlikely to read this post unless directed toward it; I’m not even sure she remembers I’ve maintained a blog for more than a decade and a half. I’m sure she knows something has to be going on in my head–she’s a brilliant woman–but I’m not so sure there was ever room enough in her heart for anyone but herself. I always felt she was thoughtful and kind, but I’d catch fleeting glimpses of a reality that existed in her mind that I never fully understood. Whether or not her apparent kindness was genuine or a Pharisaic display of alms-giving intended to appease watchful audiences is largely between her and God.

However, I possess knowledge that she never thanked my mother for all the apartment-warming care packages she was sent when she went off to veterinary school and may have even discarded them completely. Does this mean anything? I don’t know. Perhaps to an outsider looking in this will provide greater clarity than it does to someone in the middle of the weeds.

The most frightening thing about moments like these is that they coerce you into questioning your knowledge. You question everything you were ever told. You question everything about the person you thought you knew. You wonder if they ever truly loved you. You wonder if the mistrust was justified. You question whether they were faithful to you. You quickly journey to a dark place where you spend much of your time gaslighting yourself with unknown answers to questions you once thought never existed.

In fairness, the decision makes perfect sense for her. I hadn’t any interest in traveling across the entire country due to my own circumstances, and rather wished she’d chosen a location somewhat closer (she had the opportunity to attend vet school in Colorado). She needed someone out there. I can’t fault her for that, no matter how much I may fault her for what she did to me.

I conclude this with a word of advice that might be useful to anyone who might read this post in the future. Be cautious if you believe you know someone. Pay careful mind to them when under duress. They might surprise you. Pray that it is pleasant–and run far away if it is not.

***

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