And every now and again, ebbing and flowing, cycling like the tides, this line of thought keeps running under the surface.
I can’t stop thinking about him.
I couldn’t stop thinking about him. And I couldn’t stop obsessing over what he thought of me. And what would happen if we saw each other again.
If our eyes met through the flashing lights of a dark bar, if he suddenly dropped down next to me, heavy and solid in a subway car, if he strolled past me on the street, in a movie theater, on the bus, in a restaurant, if, if, if.
I couldn’t stop replaying that night, that morning. Still, after all this time— how many months? Trying to find some hint, some definitive, crystalline moment, that would tip the scales between liked me and not liked me.
He loves me, he loves me not.
It was like a weight on thin fabric, that question inside me. Dragging me down and feeling like it would rip through, if I didn’t grab it and pull it out, solve it, before it was (somehow) too late.
And I couldn’t keep dodging the second question, the one sewn to the first one, dragging behind in its shadow:
Had I hurt him too?
I didn’t— don’t— want to admit that there might be consequences to this outside myself, but, more than that. I don’t want him hurt. I don’t want him hurt by me.
And I think I did.
I think he fell for the guy he met on the phone, for the guy I was pretending to be (for the guy I still could be, a part of me insists, he could still like me, he still could). Even afterwards, after meeting me instead of who I was pretending to be, he still brought me into his bed and into his home and told me vulnerable things (did he know they were vulnerable? Did he drop them, like I do, deeply personal moments that have grown calloused, that no longer concern you and just feel like treasures to other people?)
At best he was disappointed. At worst, he’s doing the same thing I am. He loves me, he loves me not, plucked out in dark or empty moments still so many months later.
And then, in a quiet moment, I come to realize.
Even if he liked me, even if he liked me a lot, it didn’t mean he cared about me.
Thinking I’m cute, and funny— even wanting to be around me and wanting to impress me— it doesn’t also mean that he cared about me. That he wanted me to be safe, and happy, and whole. It doesn’t mean he even thought about it.
And that thought helps somehow.
It strips away the veneer of him being everything I ever wanted (hot and muscular and funny). It breaks down the story, the myth I’ve been telling myself: that I blew it, that maybe I ruined the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
And another thought rises from its wake.
I deserve being cared about, not just liked. I deserve being cared for, not just appreciated.
And little by little, a part of me is slowly growing to accept that. Is slowly coming to terms with it. Is slowly starting to feel like I can claim it.
And little by little, some of the pain is starting to fade.