A little more than a year ago, I was emailing and phone-calling and chatting online with the woman that I would later ask to marry me. A little more than a month ago, we finished a breakup that started a little more than a month after I asked her to marry me. I asked in June, she gave the ring back in July, we broke up in September with a commitment to talk again in December. We talked. We went out. We talked again. And then in February, we had our last conversation.
The week before, she had said she had things to talk about, but that she didn't want to do anything rash. It was the same thing she had said just before she gave the ring back. I promised I would support whatever decision she made.
I asked, "So, you don't want to keep going?"
"I just don't think it's a good idea."
"So, now what? I don't want to not be friends, but I'm not sure I could keep talking or emailing you without falling, or staying, in love with you."
"I don't know if I'll be able to stay in touch at all. I don't know how to stay friends."
"I don't know either."
I asked her if she wanted to stay in touch, if she wanted to email or talk anymore.
She answered, "I don't know what the point would be."
I told her that I would need some time, that if she wanted to talk later, she could email me, but I might respond by saying I wasn't ready. I'm not sure now that I'll ever be ready, but I'm not sure what hurts worse: talking with her, knowing that it hasn't worked out and won't; or never talking with her again, and trying my best to erase her from my past. I have deleted any photos that she was in from my computer. I gave away the mini chess set she had given me -- "playing a game of chess" was our euphemism for making out. All I have left is the engagement ring and a file where I kept the letters she sent me and letters that I wrote but never sent while we weren't talking last year. None of it has helped. I'm not saying I think about her 24/7, but she's certainly still there in my head.
"So," I asked, "do you want to just hang up now?"
"Neither do I. What do you want to talk about?"
"I don't know."
We talked for two more hours. And suddenly, we could talk, like when she and I used to talk. It was laying on the couch and settling in to the pillows with the phone propped up against my ear. Her cell phone dropped the call three or four times and each time we called back. Just before this, she had emailed me asking if I thought it was right that we should have to work so hard just to "keep our heads above the water." That was exactly what it felt like when we weren't talking, or when things were going badly--Like I was treading water. You know, how you never get a full breath? But this time, it was like I was lying on the beach, taking my first full breaths after weeks of treading water.
It seems so unfair, that the connection that I had been looking to have back, that deep breath, only came when it was already too late. And that was what we talked about. About how unfair it was, and how she laughed so much more easily, and how neither of us could stand to hang up the phone.
But we did. Eventually. I had changed into my pajamas and ran down the batteries on my cell phone. And on the cordless. I was laying on my bed with the phone propped up against a pillow when she said she thought it was probably time to hang up. I said, "ok." But it wasn't ok.
Then I said, "I love you," and I meant it.
"I love you too." Did she mean it?
And then we both said goodbye and hung up.