This week in the Men Are Not Perfect series, which you can follow here, I describe my role and failure in letting a woman I loved get away (For the fellas who never got over their first (or second and third), I also recommend this article: I Never Got Over My First). As is always the case, there were a myriad of factors that ultimately contributed to our relationship’s untimely demise but the Men Are Not Perfect series focuses on my actions and shortcomings as a man. In this post, I recap one of the many lessons life has taught me. In this instance, pride and prejudice kept me from pursuing the woman I Loved at all costs.
All my exes live in Texas like I’m George Straight
Or they go to Georgia State where
Tuition is handled by some random n***a that live in Atlanta
That she only sees when she feels obligated
Admitted it to me the first time we dated
But she was no angel, and we never waited
And we never talk too much after I blew up
Just only “Hello” or “Happy belated”
And I think I text her and told her I made it
And that’s when she text me and told me she prayed it
– Drake HYFR
She was one of the most beautiful women I had ever come across, but she wasn’t the first. By now, I had learned to temper my instinctive reaction towards beautiful women – fear. The key difference here is she wanted me, too. It was a mutual acceptance of lust at first sight, but the distance between us kept our more immediate primal urges at bay. We had no choice but to get to know each other better. A couple weeks would pass before we could finally meet up. In the meantime, I got to know her as a person and I realized I liked more about her than just her looks. I pushed these feelings aside. I had my heart ripped out of my chest about 9-months earlier and I had no plans on falling in Love again anytime soon, like ever. Regardless, me and her moved fast, literally.
Between the teeth marks embedded in my shoulder and the sweaty strands of hair matted against her face less than an hour into our first face-to-face encounter, I wasn’t sure if we had just made love or had a violent fight that happened to end in O’s. Either way, I wanted more. I returned home at the end of that marathon weekend pretending it was nothing more than great sex, but I was denying the obvious. I was already falling in Love. My heart was simply waiting for my head to get onboard.
Coincidently, her lease was ending in a few more weeks. She had the option to renew but she wanted a change of pace. I had just graduated college and I was starting my first real job. I had a crappy one-bedroom apartment and an even crappier used car. I was broke, in debt, and all I had to offer her of value were promises of a better future together.
I was normally a practical guy. I didn’t take risks where I couldn’t accurately gauge the reward. This is why I wasn’t particularly fond of relationships, which, in my opinion, were filled with inherent risks I habitually avoided like the plague. Although I was still in denial about the potential longevity of any significant undertaking between us – and I can’t remember who volunteered the idea first – I jumped at the idea of us living together. In total, I had known her about 6 weeks. I didn’t care. I wanted her.
Our multi-year relationship would become a passionate undertaking. We fought hard; made up harder; and loved hardest. By now, we had moved into a bigger, newer apartment together, bought two dogs, a big screen TV, furniture and a new(er) car to share. We shared expenses, food, and laughter and Love. Perhaps encompassing the episodic nature of our relationship best, I remember one of our more particularly intense arguments. I was passively paying attention as she yelled at me about a topic I had deemed of minimal importance almost as soon as she had begun while our dogs hid in their crates staring out at me with a look of fear or pity – I wasn’t quite sure. She had strategically moved in front of the TV, so as she busied herself screaming, I busied myself watching the heavy downpour outside of our glass door patio.
I watched as her eyes slowly transitioned from fury, to confusion, to curiosity. Minutes later, I was balancing her against the patio railing as the mist from the rain washed over us from the rooftop. We’d flinch simultaneously, then laugh, as the night sky briefly lit up before thunder rumbled violently around us as if jealously trying to intimidate us back into our home where we belonged. Our relationship was the kind of organized chaos that you read about in Jet magazine 50-year wedding anniversary summaries. I had plans to make her my wife, sooner rather than later. We had already browsed potential engagement ring settings, but then a series of events would quickly unfold that unraveled the fabric of our relationship almost as quickly as it had formed.
She wanted to live in a bigger city. I wanted her to be happy. I put in a transfer request at my job. We were making plans to move when a unique opportunity came her way as well. A part-time model and amateur, yet talented, photo editor for years, an up and coming photographer – and now internationally known photographer – offered her a chance of a lifetime…a job offer that would take her to the other side of the country if she accepted.
I’d rarely seen the kind of joy that glowed on her face as she shared the details. I wanted to match her enthusiasm, but I couldn’t. I knew she had the type of beauty and a talent that deserved to be shared with people far beyond the reaches of myself, but I also knew I wasn’t the type of man to move across the country without a job. We were at a stalemate.
She pointed out, rightfully so, that she had done the same thing for me only a couple of years earlier. She was right, but I still refused. I couldn’t reconcile the idea of moving across the country with no job and no prospects relying on nothing more than her income and the hope that I would eventually find employment. On the other hand, I didn’t want to stand in the way of her pursuing her dreams. Where I failed us both was in making it seem like I didn’t care if she left, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. I did want her to be happy and have the career she wanted; however, I did not (by choice or inability) communicate how much it would pain me to see her leave. Maybe I underestimated the pain that would result.
She began taking more and more trips to prepare for her final transition. By now, I had made my official job transfer myself. Inevitably, one of her trips “home” to visit me was her last. I remember driving her to the airport for the final time. In my mind, I wanted to beg her to stay. I wanted to plead with her to choose me over her dream, even if I knew it was the selfish and unfair thing to do. But, as we got closer and closer to the airport I chose, for whatever reason, to remain silent.
As we checked her bags and walked through the terminal, it was one of the few times in our relationship where awkward silence filled the air more often than laughter and conversation. Eventually, she had to head through security to a final destination I could no longer follow. As I watched her walk away and slowly lost track of her in the crowd I debated giving chase, but I didn’t know what I’d say if I caught her. Instead, I stood there trapped with my own thoughts and no resolutions. Like that, the woman I Loved was gone…
Apart, we would actually both go on to have a number of individual successes. I would work my way up in my career, eventually making a move across the country myself for a promising job offer at a substantial pay increase. She would share tales and photos of exotic locations she traveled to in and outside of the country, appearing in national magazines and TV outlets viewed by millions the world over. We made a number of grandiose plans to talk “every day” and see each other “all the time,” but they rarely manifested themselves in reality. We’d talk when we could and, even rarer, see each other when we could. Over time, the consistency of our phone calls grew wider in distance and so did the visits, until they ceased all together.
Reminiscing one day, I noticed in the beginning that our phone calls typically ended in brief awkward silences before we hung up. I realized that maybe, just maybe, we each held the phone a little longer before ending the call in the hope that one of those phone calls would end with the other pledging to move to the other’s city or making some unequivocal show of devotion that would render our attempts to remain apart futile. However, neither one of us ever made such a commitment; well, until it was too late.
I recall one candid phone conversation that was dominated with the kind of familiar laughter we used to share during the years we lived together ending with her remarking, “You know you should have never let me go, right?” I didn’t know why at the time but her statement infuriated me. I guess it’s because there are few decisions in my life, even with the clarity of hindsight, I truly regret. I figure all my decisions lead to a designated point in my life that an alternate decision may not have; whether it be an exact point or simply a lesson learned that I could apply to similar situations in the future.
However, even with that glossy life philosophy of mine, I’d realize years later why her statement – despite all my excuses and justifications for why I let her leave – bothered me so much. It was because she was right. I should have never let the woman I Loved walk out of my life. I knew I Loved her and I failed to show her how much. I should have fought to keep her in my life and if that wasn’t enough, I should have done whatever it took, until I settled for nothing short of success. I should have sacrificed for her like she’d sacrificed for me, but I didn’t. All I could do was accept the fact that because of my actions, or lack thereof, she wouldn’t be remembered as the last Love of my life. She would only be remembered as the one that got away.
Do you have a similar story of Love unrequited? Was there someone you loved that you let walk out of your life only to live to regret it? Were you ever able to correct your mistake? If you could, would you do anything differently or do you consider it a lesson learned?