That Saturday afternoon at the beach was breezy, but not cold. I didn’t bring a sweater, but I winded up with his. We walked along the pier, looked at dolphins, and I thought “This is it, this is when he’ll ask me.” But he didn’t. So I sent my friends to talk to him. But he kissed me beneath the pier that night, a smug smile as if asking me to be his girlfriend was his own idea, as if I hadn’t just sent several of my friends to tell him to just do it.
It was 2006. October 21, 2006.
Then many years later, I remember standing beneath that same pier while I forced myself to deal with the conflicting feelings. I had so many other memories here, but the ones of him and the day he asked me out often took over. I wrote a poem, a poem to whoever got the chance to be with me one day.
That relationship would wind up defining much of my life for almost a decade after. Official for about 1 year and 4 months. A weird “thing” for another 1 year and 8 months. In and out of each other lives we weaved. Two years after these three years, I’d realize that the final act was one of massive pain for both of us and therapy began. And now here I am, processing that the last time I said “yes” to a guy asking me to be his girlfriend was over a decade ago. Not that I get asked often, of course. But still.
Life is weird and life is hard. As Glennon Doyle Melton says, life isn’t hard because we are doing something wrong – life is hard because it’s made that way. Because when it’s hard, we need each other. I can’t count the number of times people have told me that I was taking too long to work through the final act of this guy, who was now married and far past moved on. “It’s been two years” was a silly statement because it took me two years to call something “sexual assault” and “legally a form of rape”. You can go two years and not process a thing. You can go two years full of flashbacks and triggers while you imagine that you are experience these painful memories as a punishment from God for not staying pure, instead of symptoms of a survivor’s PTSD. You can go two years of repeating your pastor’s words in your head: “this is your fault too. you let him into your house. did you really think he just wanted to hang out?” So you can go two more years of processing and circling through the relationship, changing through feelings of hatred and love and forgiveness and fury. And then three more years will pass by and you’re OK, but people think you’re broken because you’re still single. But maybe you just need to do some stuff on your own first. Maybe forever. You aren’t sure. Gretchen Rubin says “the days are long but the years are short” and I think about how short seven years can feel sometimes (and also so long.)
The moments are true
And so were you
I thought, we thought
How could we have been so confused?
Did you think I’d be the one
Who sits alone on Thursday night
And write you a poem 10 years late
Of the way you caused my world much fright
But I’m not alone, or next to you
My world was chaos, but now it’s blue
I drink cheap wine and write the moon
There’s stories here that are for you
Who am I now, that I’m not you
My long brown hair no longer pure
Green eyes, still observing the world
Better now, but broken still
I remember how you felt when he left
The world was ending, and so was life
But you survived, in fact you thrived
Life did not pass you by
You’d go on to miss out on dating scenes
But that’s OK: you’re mine to keep
No pictures to delete, memories to erase
Stand true, stand tall, the world will hurt
So now you’re gone, but still you live
Inside of me, a memory these days
But I still want to please the world
And my tender thoughts towards you I feel
You were a child, for awhile you both were
You would later become me, but first, a fight
I hold you still, I hold you close
Don’t give them a second thought
So tonight I wrote a poem to myself instead.