“Where are you? I thought you said we’d meet at 2pm”, was his text.
“Yeah, well, I didn’t go to the gym. Got too lazy, yet again. I didn’t know you were already there, I thought you were going to text me first. I’m really sorry. I’m on my way now.”
Even on our last day together, I was late. Well, it wasn’t really our last day. We broke up three weeks before that. But that day was going to be the day that I gave a definitive answer. He wanted us to get back together, I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I asked him to give me some time to sort myself out, he complied.
I wasn’t yet sure about what I was going to say. I thought I had made up my mind that I would end things, but as I was walking to the mall I realized I still haven’t really decided yet. I deliberately took small steps, trying to stall and think things over one last time.
“I’m here at the entrance”, I texted him when I finally got there. I stood rooted, every part of me uneasy. Then he came out, charming as ever in his jeans and white shirt. He smiled at me, I smiled back, and all the anxiety was gone. We were boyfriends, at the mall, all set for a date.
We spent the day together like we used to. We ate lunch. After that we went to a different mall to get a haircut. When I asked him if my new hair looked good, he just laughed and said I looked like a chicken. When he noticed that I was wearing new shoes, he said that they looked like something dads would wear. We went to different stores to look at clothes and he commented on my weird taste. When I wanted to try some of the shirts that I thought looked nice, he said that my flabs will just show. And whenever he noticed that I was getting disheartened, he’d say, “I was just kidding. The truth is you don’t have to ask me, you look good in anything”.
It felt good being with him again. I haven’t felt that happy in a while. But there was something different. The occasional moments of silence were foreboding. We tried to ignore it, we both tried to stall, but we knew what we were there for. And the gradual hours reminded us that we had to deal with it.
“So what’s your plan now?” I asked while we sat at one of the common chairs at the back of the mall. I took a long puff on my cigarette and readied myself for his answer.
“My plan?” he asked me with his brow raised. “My plan depends on what you’re going to say today.”
I looked at him, tried to say something, but I couldn’t. I was not brave enough. I wanted to plead to him to decide for me, but I knew I couldn’t do that. The burden was on me, and rightfully so. I was the one who asked for this, I made him wait. It was my turn to do something.
I invited him over to my place since it was already late. I was worried my housemates wouldn’t let him stay, but thankfully they understood. I led him to the terrace. We talked about many random things. I was smoking stick after stick, hoping to get a hold of my nerves. “Just one more then I’ll tell him”, I thought as I lit another stick.
Six cigarettes later, I finally built enough courage to talk.
“Hey, thanks for those two years and ten months,” I said quietly. Then I looked at him and smiled weakly. “And I’m sorry we had to end up like this because of me.”
He smiled back. “Hey, don’t worry about those months we spent together. We had good times, you and me. I just wish you just told me so I didn’t have to find out like that. I haven’t even started to heal yet from the first time you cheated on me. Then you did it again just a few weeks later. That really hurt,” he said as he frowned at me.
I was surprised at how strong his voice sounded. There wasn’t a hint of sadness, he sounded completely calm, casual even. I felt a pinch at my heart as it dawned on me.
He knew. And he was ready to move on.
I looked at him for the longest time, and then I averted my eyes, too ashamed to talk to him. I took a long puff at my cigarette. “I’m really sorry, I did a really stupid thing. I hope you can forgive me someday.”
“I was never angry at you,” he said in the comforting voice he had whenever he knew I was sad. “I don’t think it’s possible for me to be angry at you.”
I looked at him. He was smiling. That sweet smile of his that was full of love. Love that I did not deserve. Once again, I felt a pang of shame.
“So what’s your plan now?” I asked again.
He sighed. “Continue on living. That’s the only thing we can do really.”
“Are we still friends?” I asked. My heart almost stopped as I waited for his answer. I loved this man for the longest time. Heck, I still loved with him. Even though I knew he had every right to hate me for what I did to him, I still couldn’t bear the thought of it.
“How can we be friends if I’m still in love with you?” he asked. For the first time that night, I heard a hint of sadness in his voice. He smiled again. “Someday though, we will be friends. We’ve shared too many good times together for me to end up hating you.”
Even at the last moment, he had nothing but love for me.
The next day, we rode the bus together. I was going to work, he was going home. Just as I was about to get to my stop, he held my hand. I looked at him.
“I love you,” he said. “I just wanted to say it while I still felt it. I might never get to say that to you again.”
I was taken aback. I wondered how he could still have said those words after everything. Then I remembered that that was what made me fall for him in the first place. He was brave. He’s not scared to lay down everything and leave himself completely vulnerable. I wanted to kiss him right then and there, to feel his lips on mine and to wrap his fragile body in my arms one last time, but I knew it wouldn’t be right. He was no longer mine. With that last “I love you”, he had let me go.