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“I’m sure you already know this,” the text message flashed up at me, “but Adam* is engaged?”
I blurrily stared at the screen, trying to comprehend what I was reading through the three vodka sodas and smoky atmosphere of the bar. My best friend had sent me the message twenty-seven minutes earlier, but thanks to my resolution to keep my phone on silent and try to be ~more present,~ I had spent an unnecessary thirty minutes thinking that my ex, my first love, was still in love with me.
I realize how self-obsessed that sounds. Seriously. I know how crazy it seems. He’s moved on. I’ve moved on. There’s no reason for the knowledge that the first person to tell me they loved me, the first person to see me naked, the first person to truly look at me is getting married, should cause my world to stop turning, if only for a second. But if we cut the shit and dig deep into the part of our hearts that hold our secrets, that hold the things we’re too afraid to say out loud, the things we’re too ashamed to admit, you might realize you feel the same. Because for some reason we always assume that the people we once loved will continue to love us forever. We always assume they’ll be there.
I met Adam when I was fifteen years old. A decade ago. A lifetime ago. He sat three seats behind me in sophomore chemistry class at our large, overfull high school. He was in the back row, of course. Aren’t they always? His hood always up, he took naps in class and made me feel like he could see right through me anytime we made eye-contact. You know, one of those guys. I had never paid him much attention because if we’re being brutally honest, Adam was a bad boy and me? I was an ugly duckling. An ugly duckling who didn’t turn into a less-ugly bird until right around my fifteenth birthday. So, when he passed me a note one day in class, asking if I’d like to go to the movies with him, I was completely shocked.
Adam was hot. Adam was experienced. Adam was popular.
Why Adam wanted to go on a date was beyond me. But, as any 15-year-old would do, I assumed it would help me climb the social ladder, so I hastily responded. We texted nonstop for the rest of the week and come Friday, we were making out in the back row of the theatre while Juno ironically played on the big screen.
For the next year and a half-ish, we were inseparable. I wore his ugly, tattered brown jacket everywhere and he gave me my first real
orgasm piece of jewelry. We swore up and down that we were soulmates, laying in the grass with our hands intertwined, promising a lifetime of love to each other. We naively planned our own wedding after he gave me a promise ring, choosing a first dance song and planning our future together. If it were a Lifetime movie, this would be about the point where I got a rare form of cancer. Instead, something just as predictable happened.
It didn’t work out.
We were seventeen when we broke up. We weren’t even seniors yet. We were still babies. He went to a different school, I got more involved with friends, and eventually, as it always happens, our lives started taking us further away from each other. I started dating someone else, so did he, and while we did everything in our power to stay friends and be a part of each other’s lives, it didn’t work. There was too much history. Too many memories. Too much stuff that kept us from moving on together.
For a few years, of course, we tried. We had managed to end on good terms, and we both held such special places in our hearts for the other. We’d touch base every few months, asking about relationships and pretending it didn’t kill us whenever the other fell in love again. We’d meet up after every breakup, crying into the others’ arms and sharing the occasional drunken, nostalgic kiss after one too many “feel better” shots.
And then, we both moved on for real. It didn’t happen all at once. There wasn’t a fight. A switch. A moment when we were handed a document that said we were officially over each other. One day I woke up and realized I hadn’t talked to Adam in over year. And more shocking still, I didn’t really care.
Because while I had moved on (and I knew that Adam had moved on, thanks to the deep social media stalking I did, mere moments later), there was still a part of me that knew things were different with us. No, I wasn’t in love with him. And yes, I had met someone better for me. But that didn’t change the fact that I knew in the 15-year-old part of my heart, that Adam would always love me. That Adam would always sort of be mine. That’s what he had promised, wasn’t it? Back when we said goodbye to each other on my driveway that warm June night almost ten years ago?
And then, I saw the picture. The one where his girlfriend, his fiancé, flashed the beautiful ring to the camera, her eyes shining even brighter than the rock. And there he was, next to her. He didn’t look hesitant. He didn’t look like a part of him was longing for the bitchy girl from high school who made him delete all the girls from his phone and made him wear two condoms (kidding).
He looked like a man totally, completely, 100 percently in love.
It’s a weird feeling, those moments when you realize that life keeps going on around you. While we’re busy moving and changing, growing and evolving, we sort of always assume that the rest of our world will stay the same. That the life we’re leaving behind will still be there, waiting for us. So that if we want to jump back into a time we left, it will be there, preserved for our taking. It will be ready for us the moment we want to come back.
That’s been the hardest part of growing up, for me, at least. Realizing that’s not how things work. Nothing stays the same and nothing lasts forever. One day you come home and the house you grew up in has a sale sign in front of it. Before your eyes, your parents’ hair turns grey, and the love that you thought would last forever comes to an end. But maybe that’s what makes it wonderful. Maybe that’s what makes it hell. Still, maybe that fleetingness is what makes it so special.
And while a part of me will always wonder what could have been, I know that that time, that life, and that love is gone. Because the Adam I loved in high school is no longer here (cue: Taylor Swift flashbacks). The boy who lent me his jacket, carried my books, and made out with me between classes has become someone else. Someone I don’t know. And instead of feeling sad, I feel relieved. Because finally, that part of my life is over. And while it’s bittersweet to let go of the idea of young love working out, it’s nice to know that the person you thought you’d be with forever finally found their happily ever after, even if it’s not with you (and assuming she’s not a gold digging bitch and he doesn’t cheat on her like he did on me with the entire chorus line).
Besides, if this has taught me anything, it’s that my fiancé’s ex has probably stalked the shit out of my social media, only to realize that I have, officially, won. And if there’s any consolation prize in the world, it’s knowing you’ve inflicted complete and total envy on the girl who went to prom with your man..
*Name has obviously been changed because despite popular belief I am not, in fact, a psycho.