I saw hands and I froze.

They looked like his hands. Big. Bigger than normal hands. The hands of a giant really. I couldn’t see the face from across the room but I could see his hands and my heart nearly short circuited.

It’s been two years since A and I officially ended things, two years since my heart was broken. But it’s only been a few months since I last saw him. Last kissed him. Last laid my head on his chest, breathing him in, feeling safe and warm and loved.

And at the same time … not safe. Not warm. Not loved.

I’ve glimpsed him only once in the past couple of months. While walking past his bar, I glanced inside and he looked right back at me and our eyes locked for just a second. No expressions. Just … a moment. We caught eyes and then I was gone, walking down the street littered with memories I’d shared with him. The ghosts of our affair.

To be honest, I don’t ache like I used to. I don’t think about him non-stop. Most days I don’t think about him at all. I’m focused on moving my life forward and it feels good. I feel really good. I have a great job I’m starting to really get the hang of. I have an incredible network of friends who I love. I don’t have a lot of anger like I used to. I don’t replay the moments and beat myself up like before. I don’t sit for hours on end and recount every good moment, every electric kiss and every time we’d stare into each others eyes and feel the weight of our connection. I don’t cry all the time this time. (It helps his social media accounts are private.) I accept where our story ended.

But still … still … my heart froze when I thought I saw his hands from across the room.

Why? Was it because I looked like a hot mess? (I did.) Was it because I’ve gained weight and don’t want him to see? (I have and I don’t.)

Am I terrified he’ll ignore me? Or am I more afraid that he won’t? And I wonder .. is this for always? Or just for now?

I wonder this because the year and a half we spent apart I had many moments like these. I’d see a tall guy with a full beard who resembled him from a distance and my stomach would flip like the way it does when you’re rounding the top of a hill on a rollercoaster and speeding down to the bottom. It would be a mix of excitement, panic, fear and hope.

This was while I was still in the heavy throes of grief and heart-ache. And I was not handling my hurt well at all. I would text him during that time … angry things. I had a right to be angry. I felt bamboozled, blind-sided, beat up. But texting him was not wise and was not the right course of action. It was not fair, to either of us.

This time around I don’t text. Well .. I say that. But sometimes, when I’m that right level of drunk, teetering on the edge of lost consciousness, I think I text. I say ‘think’ because in my stupor I apparently have the wherewithal to delete all records of my contact with him. And so I wake up wondering if I really texted or if it was just a dream. And no memory of what I might’ve sent at all. Just a feeling like … I did something I know I shouldn’t have.

I hope what I shouldn’t have texted was kind this time around. Or at least fair. But I don’t know.

This is the second time we’ve ended things. And it was very messy both times. The first time, however, was much worse. The first cut is the deepest, right? That time I was so … shattered I didn’t know what to do. I could write pages on end about how it felt. How all of a sudden every sad and heartbreaking lyric to every depressing song made sense on a level I hadn’t experienced before. How alcohol and food was my only solace. Oh and men. And karaoke (as odd as that may seem).  How it was hard to talk about it with anyone because everyone just wanted me to move on and forget him because of how bad he was for me and to me … but moving on seemed like a universe away. So far to go.

I felt I had compromised so much to be with him, I had taken so many emotional risks with this naive belief that our love, our connection would defy odds and conquer all. In a way, it was really good to have my heart broken like that. A part of me died … or .. perhaps it didn’t die, perhaps it just went through severe growing pains. And it was a part of me that needed to grow. This part that still held onto this childishly rebellious belief that love can come in any form and it will fix everything. Sigh. I needed to grow and great growth usually involves a great deal of pain.

On this side of the hurt, I look back and tear up remembering how much my heart grieved this loss the first time. I always thought people who lamented lovers that left them were morons. I never wanted to be one of those girls. I never wanted to give anyone that kind of power over my heart and emotions.  But here I was, just the same. Crying over someone who didn’t cry for me, aching for someone who was selfishly able to just move on like I didn’t exist. It is a very humbling experience.

Eventually I did get to a better place. I moved out of the area where he worked, where we met and fell in love, where all our ghosts lived. But still … we found each other again. He pushed for more.  And it was time for a new naive belief to die. The one that thought well, if we’re in each others lives a second time, surely this is for a reason that’s bigger than both of us. Surely we will make it this time.

I was wrong. It was just the same. He was never going to love me. Maybe he never did.

So I chose myself and we ended things and it wasn’t pretty … but I have felt stronger. I have felt more creative and more free than I have in a long, long time.

You know, except for those … low drunken nights with texts I don’t know if I actually sent or not.

I still hurt but not as much. I still miss him but not as greatly. I still wonder if he thinks about me but I don’t hold my breath wishing for that.  I might not ever see him again and that seems … strange and surreal to me, to not see someone who mattered so much, even if it was somewhat toxic for us both. But if that’s the case, then I know it must be the best thing for us both.

I’d really like to say I’m done with this emotional wreck from my past. I wish I were. I thought I was. But then .. I saw hands. What I thought were his hands. And my heart froze. And then raced in terrifying excitement.

Will I ever not feel that? Will I ever be so strong that glimpsing him won’t set me back emotionally? Does this feeling ever leave? I hope so.

I have to believe that day will come. And I know it will. I do. And in a way …. I know when that day comes I will look back on this part of my life with tenderness, fondness even and maybe a different kind of sadness.

The pain is all I have left of him. Of us. Of what we shared. And so maybe, without really fully being aware of this, I have subconsciously held onto the pain because I know when I finally heal, that story will become a faded memory. He will become a faded memory. It’ll still be present but all the details will be blurry. How he smelled, what his hands were like, the words we wrote each other. I won’t feel those things anymore. Whatever we were will finally be gone forever.

I know that’ll be a good day. When the memories finally fade. It’ll be the day I can finally, really move on emotionally. And I’m getting so very close, I know it. It just takes time. More time.

Ahhh the hands of time.

In all truth, most days I don’t think about him. I don’t think about what happened, how bad it got. I don’t think about how good it was either. I don’t cry. I don’t ache.

But some days … some days I see hands or a too tall man from a distance. And my heart remembers what my brain is trying hard to forget … and I am reminded I still have so far to go.

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