We broke up, and he moved all of his stuff out of the apartment. He was kind to me and let me be the one to stay, at least for a little while. He knew I was changing jobs, and things were already complicated. He didn’t want me to have to deal with packing up and leaving on top of everything else. When he stood in the doorway, taking his keys off the ring to hand them to me, we couldn’t meet each other’s eyes. We knew we would cry if we did. And when he closed the door, I sat on the floor of my kitchen and cried for hours, until I fell asleep, next to the refrigerator.
It wasn’t working. We had tried and tried for more than a year, ignoring our fundamental differences, assuming that love would conquer all. And when we finally accepted that it wouldn’t work, it felt almost like a relief for a moment, to know that we had made a decision.
But as soon as he was gone, I regretted every bit of it. The apartment felt big and empty, and every surface burned with the memories we had there together. A day would be going normally, and then a wonderful, awful memory would surface, and the wind would be knocked out of me. Sometimes sitting at my desk at work was too much, and I just had to go to the bathroom and cry. I still loved him. I still needed him, and the thought of him slowly rebuilding his life tore at me inch by inch, like someone pulling on the loose thread of a sweater.
I couldn’t let him go, even though he was already gone.
“Hi,” I texted him. It was a Thursday at lunch time, and I was sitting at my usual salad bar, mindlessly flipping through my usual magazine. I don’t know what made me choose that time, but I reached out.
“Hi,” he said back. Two letters I read over and over again, looking for meaning.
“How are you? How is your new apartment.”
“It sucks, haha… how is the old one? :)”
Our old one, he meant. We spent the rest of the afternoon small talking via text message, saying nothing of importance, but saying everything we needed to know. We talked, and never addressed the inherent awkwardness in me reaching out again. We just let a conversation melt into something easy and consistent, because we both wanted it to happen.
When someone still loves you, they will always respond. They will take the little invitations to talk, and run with them. The point is to remain an open invitation, without seeming desperate. It can end in both parties being too scared to talk, but all it takes is a single “hi” to know whether or not they are still in love. They will be warm and kind, and ask only the easy questions at first, because they don’t want to scare you away. Then they will put their hand closer to the fire.
“Have you been seeing anyone?” He asked me, later that night, after twenty or so text messages about the weather and the apartments and the new job.
“No,” I responded, after a long, deliberate pause, “I haven’t.”
“Good,” he wrote.
“Will you come over?” I asked, blinking away tears as they fell on the screen of my phone.
And he did. And I cried still, but in his arms.