Truth 8: “Everybody Plays The Fool: An Ode To The One That Got Away-“
So here you are, right?
Rehab Week 3- Day 2–
And you’re sitting around the upstairs rec room watching Lilly comb her fingers through her hair while you eat a sanctioned 2:00pm snack.
My hair’s falling out, she muses- looking at her hands.
No it’s not, you say, peeling the wrapper down your granola bar- It just probably was before and you weren’t noticing.
Swear to God it is, Lilly says- Look at this- She holds up loose strands of hair with her fingers. Look at that Lindsey- no way you can’t tell me it’s not.
You nod- I mean I get it- my bathroom looks like Chewbacca shed his coat.
Dude yeah- Lilly says. Your roommate’s hair is falling out too- have you noticed?
Yeah, you admit. But like usually she’s pretty good about throwing it away- that or she just leaves in on the shower wall.
You hear Kenzie clomp up the stairs.
Yo- she says when she sits down next to you. I’ll take Almonds, she tells the counselor- God I had to move, she says. Some bitch is crying downstairs about her boyfriend.
I dunno her name- the one from Canada.
You’ve been here for 2 months- how do you not know everyone’s name?
Lilly bites her cheek. Her boyfriend’s been a dick since she got here.
You nod- he sounded like a douche when she told me about him.
He is, Lilly says. I mean I don’t know him obviously but I heard her on the phone with him.
That’s why you get the upper hand first, Kenzie says. Or you’ll never have it.
You shrug- Everyone has that person though–
You see Kenzie look at you. Doesn’t yours live halfway across the world?
You grin- Yeah.
I don’t get it, she says- shaking her head. Why talk to someone you know you’re never gonna be with– Why even be with them in the first place?
God, I’d never date you– Lilly says. You’d drive me bat-shit crazy.
Agreed, you say.
Well I wouldn’t date you either, she pauses. Or you– and she looks at Lilly. You two would be all clingy and shit.
Yeah-huh, she says to you. Your ex left forever ago and you’re still bitching about it.
Cause she’s human, Lilly says- defending you as she gets up to go downstairs.
People bitch about everything, Kenzie mutters. That’s all we do here is bitch about shit we can’t change.
Eat your food, you say– watching her try to sneak almonds into her binder.
She makes a face. I can’t stand snacks.
Kenz, you say– Eat your food.
She rolls her eyes- Maybe I’ll lose weight and get kicked out, she pauses. Then I could go back to LA.
Like you’d make it there– you say. Look at you– shaking and shit.
I miss it, she says– I was a good model.
You were a junkie.
A “junkie?” she grins. Okay Texas–is that what your parents called it?
It was fun, she says again. I had a good guy there too– until my dad made me come here.
What happened with the guy?
She shrugs– I don’t know where he is.
You didn’t tell him?
Why would I? We don’t all pine away for our exes like you do.
Yeah you do, she says. I saw your journal.
You mean you read it?
Of course, she says– casually. What else is there to do around here? She pushes her hair behind her shoulders–grabs an almond.
You should tell that person– by the way.
Tell them what?
Whatever you wrote– she says. You should just tell them, she pauses. Or at least let them know so you’ll stop moaning about it.
You flick a piece of granola at her.
And now here you are again– talking about it on the couch as Kenzie predicted–
Because it’s true what people say–that there’s two sides to every person–
And no matter how many people you date
You will always have the one-
(That left you)
That one that got away–
So this person, your therapist says. your Achilles Heel; Tell me about them.
No– you’ve told me what happened -not what happened.
You shrug. Met them when I was young- you say- shifting in your chair. And I just had that feeling. Like I saw them- And I knew you know?
Where were you?
A party- you say. We were in the backyard and this person put their drink on a table and it shattered– you grin. The whole table just shattered and everyone was staring.
I don’t know what happened after that, you pause– I just remember seeing his face– I looked over from where I was and he was standing there with this shattered table- looking so pathetic– I wanted to help– had this really weird maternal feeling. I remember my boyfriend at the time grabbing my arm and being like ‘You don’t have to go over there– he’s fine,’ you say. But something about him you know– I wanted to know this person– wanted to talk to them–
Okay, she says–So how’d you end up dating?
Took awhile, you say. Took a lot of time– He wasn’t the type of person to warm up easily– All foreign and everything, you smile. But then one night he called, sitting in my room doing my homework– you say. We talked till 5am and everything changed after that–
She nods. And how did it end?
He left– you say– He had to; his visa was up. He had to go back.
You think about that night.
2 in the morning–
Legs entangled on a chair.
His hands holding your face
What do I do, you’re saying- What am I supposed to do?
Hey, he whispers- running his fingers under your eyelids. No tears, he says- No tears, okay? I’ll come back–
Sitting there- hands cupping your cheeks- His fingers on your jaw.
I’m sorry- he’s whispering– I’m so sorry.
Don’t leave- you say
Don’t go– even though you know it’s silly- Just stay.
Stay and it’ll be okay-
With the leaves falling on the ground
From the tree that hung over the roof
You sit there all night–
You don’t notice the day break-
The morning light on your skin- Through the window.
I love you-you said, the words falling out of your mouth. I’m sorry-
I just love you–
You look at your therapist now– we’ve stayed in each other’s lives all these years since then- you say. Through everything. Through Bradley’s death. Through moves and choices. I feel like if things had been different-
They weren’t, she interrupts.
Right, you say. But I think about it.
Everyone does- everyone wonders how something goes wrong when it worked before– And oftentimes it’s in retrospect you realize it was never going to work at all.
But I don’t know, you say. I think it could eventually, when we’re older.
No, not in theory. We talked about it- You sigh. I mean I don’t understand how you get over someone that you never had a chance to get tired of.
What do you mean?
I mean our relationship didn’t end, you pause. Life ended it. Distance ended it- everything else. We had to keep going– keep existing– and years went by before I realized that this person was moving on from me and I wasn’t.
She nods her head. How did he tell you?
He didn’t have to, you say. We weren’t in the same place- we weren’t together–we saw each other when we could, but we knew there was no point at 18 years old. He never had to tell me it was over, he just started dating someone else.
But you still went back and saw him and his family? She asks, her brow furrowed.
Yeah, you say. I don’t know why- I loved his family. I thought I could get him back- or just make him remember, you cringe. Seems pathetic in retrospect.
And obviously that didn’t happen?
You almost laugh- No. It was a disaster. His gf cried the whole time and everyone was miserable, you pause. But I guess a part of me still thought he’d come back after school was over and all that ended up happening was he moved to Thailand for a year.
How’d you handle that?
How I always do- you say, sinking into the couch. I said nothing. Drank- cried- dated- stalked- binged, you pause. Read Thought Catalog pieces.
I used all of it as a reason to get sicker, you admit. I thought if I looked perfect- if I tried harder- He’d just realize on his own.
Time just kept going though, you say. And he never came back. Moved to Austria. Went to Grad school. And yet I still come crawling back every time he calls.
Why do you think that is?
I don’t know, you say. I think even now I still believe he’ll realize it in a few years time, you say. That maybe he’ll wake up and think ‘Oh shit, this girl. That’s my best friend– it’s been 8 years and I need her,’ you pause. We joke about it, you know? Finding each other down the road– how we know we’d never sit in a room together and not wonder.
Alright, she says. But if what you’re telling me here is true– the two of you are never going to want the same things.
I don’t know, you say. There’s hope of it changing.
You mean, hopes of you changing? She asks. Cause that’s what I’m hearing- that if this person came and begged you, you’d go running off to wherever he was.
I wouldn’t now, you say defensively. I mean back then it seemed more realistic– I always adjusted well to different places and I liked his life and-
Lindsey, she says- pointedly. Do you hear your bullshit?
You make a face.
Do you realize you’ve sat in here with me for weeks now talking about how much you need your family- how much you need your friends– how you ultimately want your version of stability- and yet you’re telling me you really think you would’ve been happy leaving all of that to go be with someone halfway across the world that you believed didn’t love you as much as you loved them?
Okay look– I know that, you say. But once you’re in something– you’re in it and how do you know when it’s over?
So have you told him this now? She asks. I’m just curious– In all these years, have you ever once said any of this so you know where you stand?
No– you say, indignant. How horrifically pathetic to go on telling someone you love them if they don’t say it back.
Why talk to him then? She asks. Why keep him this close?
I don’t know, you sigh. It’s been 8 years. I’ve tried not to– It’s just when–
You want to make sure you still have some part of him-
Alright- well explain to me how you think that’s fair to anyone you’re with in the future?
It’s not, you admit. But I don’t know why things have to be final. You can’t just put a stamp on something.
But I don’t think that’s what your problem is, she says. I think you’re scared– Scared because you know if you did say it then it’d probably be done– you wouldn’t have the option of hoping anymore.
Well, that hurts– you say– flattened.
I don’t mean to hurt you.
I know, you say. It’s just that this person’s out there- living their life, you know- this person gets up on the left side of the bed every morning- watches BBC when they get dressed– drinks Diet Coke from the can- you pause. I can hear this person in my head– Can hear their response to something I do.
I know it’s painful, she says.
I think it’s just surreal mostly–That you can know the moles of someone else, and then are meant to wander around the earth with this useless knowledge of one person – you pause. It’s hard for me- because it all seems sad doesn’t it? Letting go-You never love someone half as much as you miss them- and I think that’s the real tragedy- maybe the saddest part of all.
It is sad, she says. And you can let it be that– No one’s telling you it’s not. There is value in sitting here right now, being sad– And when you try to minimize pain you’re doing yourself a disservice- You make it worse. But ultimately, at what price are you going to pay to keep yourself 20% attached to someone that isn’t going to want you the same.
You smile. It all seems so trivial though, you say. Someone wanting you or not. There’s so much other pain that matters more.
It’s not about mattering, she says. I think you know that the truth is that no pain is trivial- because it’s real. And no one’s telling you it didn’t matter or that what you’re feeling isn’t ‘right.’ You’re not ready to forget him– the way you see him at least– And that’s okay. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t– Letting go comes when you start changing the definition you place on an event. Looking at the same event with a different meaning- and that can take a long time.
It’s never made sense to me though, you say. Hundreds of messages, thousands of words, and the whole time you think you’re creating this thing- this massive tapestry- and all of a sudden it just unravels from a single frayed thread and falls apart– And you’re left sitting there with a half undone blanket being like ‘What the hell do I do with this now?’
Nothing comes undone in one sitting, she says. It unravels quietly- with one string pulling away from another, she pauses. You’ll see that someday.
You wanna know the truth? You say– pausing. When I lose him, the entire joy of remembering that part of my life will feel like it’s been taken from me– And it’ll feel like losing the memory itself, as if the things I did then are less real- like I’m watching a movie that cuts out before the end.
I get that, she says. But just because your finale didn’t get wrapped up with the credits running doesn’t mean it’s not already over– she pauses. Life happens this way–You know this. It ends and it begins in the middle of a sentence– It’s rare people get the satisfaction of playing out a whole story to its finish– It’s why they end up on Oprah, she says.
And you smile.
You think that everything has to happen perfectly and when you think it’s going to happen– and that’s not how things go- And you’re going to be unable to go on with life until you realize that things don’t happen the way you think they’re going to, she pauses.
You can’t hold onto something that wants to leave- you can only love what you have while you have it.
And you have a ton of love Lindsey- I see a lot of families come in and out of here- Girls in here that don’t have friends, don’t have anybody-
I know– you say.
You do though- she says. You have people that love you whether you’re 95lbs or 115lbs- that love you even after you think you’ve done the most unforgivable thing in the world. You just get so preoccupied trying to make yourself matter to everyone that you misplace what really does.
You make a face–
You, yourself, you matter, she says. And you’ll leave little speckles wherever you roam– but you won’t matter in the way that you’re searching for now–she says. People leave. You can’t stay indebted to everyone– we drift in and out of each other’s lives all the time.
You nod. You know this.
You gotta matter to yourself– she says. So you can stop trying to always matter to everyone else and be a more genuine version of you.
So what do I do with this person, then? With all the years?
Forgive him, she says. Forgive him for not loving you enough– but forgive yourself first- And then forgive both of you together because it’s sad, she pauses. Do it so you can be free to someone else– Figure out how forgiveness feels best for you- And then wait till you matter more to yourself so that when you tell him you forgive him, you don’t need him to tell you the same.
You are going to have to leave, you know– she says. To actually step out of his life- You can’t keep people that don’t want to be in your life as much as you want to be in theirs– You’ll know it, she says. You’ll always know it and you’ll never be happy doing it.
I know, you say– standing up- tying your sweatshirt around your waist. But what if I’m not ready? What if I don’t know how yet?
Then you’re not ready, she shrugs.
Will he be okay? You wonder. Do you think he’ll be okay.
I think he’ll know- she says. I think somehow- he’ll already know- she pauses-
And if he ever loved you- the day that you tell him-
He’ll let you go too.
Weeks go by after this–
You talk about it again before you leave– mull over it in your journal
Debate doing it– Debate not
And it’s funny to you now– looking back as you write this post–
How things unfold when you least expect them–
Weeks later- when you’re home–
Your mom downstairs making dinner– and your dad outside cutting the grass–watching Law & Order in the game room–
You see his call on your screen.
His face on Skype–
Remembering how before you went to treatment he sat on the phone with you in your room– after he’d seen a picture of you on Facebook.
You look awful, he’d said then.
No, he’d said– pragmatic as always. You look sick; Let’s do something about it.
It’s just the picture–
It’s not, he’d said, bringing out a sheet of paper–
You really are a psychologist, you’d laughed then– loving it– because this was the way he’d always been– and it’s comfortable to love something you know.
These are your rules, he’d said when you came to an agreement. No running every day, Rest Days– he’d scribbled. Fish twice a week– No vegan.
You’d smiled– listening to him– happy in a weird way– that he cared- even if you were sick.
Hey you– you say now when you answer–forgetting therapy, forgetting rehab-
Watching his face appear on a screen.
Such a lovely person you are-
Past your bedtime, isn’t it?
He nods his head– but he was thinking of you.
And you want to be thought about by this person- So you talk-
Talk to hear him talk back.
He asks how you are– How was rehab?
You start to tell him– to tell him about the girls.
About your life– about all the times you swore you couldn’t do it and did.
About the night with Bradley–
And your mom–
About your counselor–
But you stop-
You never called– you say tonight- surprising yourself. When I was gone– You never wrote–
I’m sorry, he says. I was busy.
And he makes a joke.
Busy? you say–Feeling something wince– like you’ve felt before–
And never said.
You had 2 months–
You- you say- You had 2 months to call.
You could’ve called- Feeling something defiant come out of you-
You could’ve said anything-
Jesus you could’ve just written.
Lindsey- he says. I’m not like you, you know that.
Not like me? You say. God, you just had to call- you missed all of it.
You missed the whole thing-
I’m sorry- he says.
You’ll really never be there- You say- almost laughing now- and it feels strange hearing it– because you’re not sure you mean it and you’re not sure if you’re manic.
Or that you want to mean it.
Unsure whether you’re mad or whether you’re sad.
God, you really just don’t love me.
This person closes their eyes.
I cannot do this– you say. Look at me– look at me when I’m talking to you- you say their name.
You- I’m so tired of you.
He puts his head down–
You don’t love me- You say- But I’ve always loved you– I have always loved you.
Hey– he’s whispering now.
Like they did all those years ago-
Holding you on a chair.
All these years– you say- feeling your throat close.
So many, you smile. And You- You’ve got to let me go.
Hey you- you say again-
You have to let me go.
And he’s looking at you now-
Pulling his hat off his head
4 hours goes by–
On the couch in your game room
You tell him to listen.
You tell him you love him-
You tell him you always have
And then you tell him you have to find your life without him.
Tears running down your face–
You get it, don’t you? You say. You have to get it-
Tears in his eyelids.
I’m sorry- he says.
You hang up the phone–
Let me go, you whisper-
And he does.
Months go by quietly after that–
For awhile you ache to hear from him– and don’t.
You finish treatment– move back to NY– you get a job.
You think of him.
Want to tell him– want him to know.
You get a message one day–
I’m happy for you, he says– when you’re walking from lunch– I don’t know what you’re up to, don’t know how you’re doing-
It kills me-
But I want you to know I’m so proud of you Lindsey.
You keep reading.
I’m happy you went back– and I’m happy you’re healthy.
You want to message him back then– standing on the sidewalk with your phone in your hand– your Whole Food lunch in the other.
You want to message him because he messaged you. You want to tell him you are happier and be smug when you say it– want to ask them how his job is– How’s your mother?
Did you ever get surgery on that shoulder?
But you don’t.
Months go by again–
You publish your blog.
You publish this blog.
You get a message:
Can’t help but notice the story looks familiar–
And you smile– It should.
It hurts, he says. Reading it– I never meant to hurt you.
I know, you say. Goodnight little one-
Goodnight, he says.
And you’re sad tonight that you’re unable to have the chance to tell him what you’re feeling now–
Sitting in a car–
Holding someone else’s hand.
Forgetting to see your life with theirs–
Forgetting to miss him when something happens–
Forgetting to check his pictures–
Changing your music– before The Cure, and James, and The Smiths–
You’re holding someone else’s hand–
And you’re not thinking about how one summer when you went to visit, and held the others in the center of the counsel–
Teach me to drive stick, you’d said– 11 at night- all that time ago– the lights from the street lamps hitting your faces when the car passed under them.
Now? He’d smiled.
Now, you’d said.
And he’d driven you to an empty parking lot–
Quiet- with the leaves fluttering from the trees
The breeze–colder than you expected
This person’s hoodie pulled over their head– switching spots with you in the car
In the vacant parking– on a street 4 blocks from their home–
Circling around each other to the other side.
Drive slow, he’d said– when you buckled your seat belt– his fingers over yours. I’ll tell you when.
And you’d listened–
No– you’re not thinking of that now–
Sitting in a car with someone else–
Looking at their hand– at a scar on their finger
Holding it with your other one out the window–
Cupping the wind with your palm–
Watching them take a sip of their drink–noticing the way their mouth moves when they sip.
You wonder what it is that you feel for this new person– what you could feel in time–
It’s midnight now and you hear the highway– the noise the car makes when they press on the gas-
You’re happy being there–
And you’re happy because you chose it
And you think this person is choosing too.
And it’s nice to choose something with someone– together.
So to you, beautiful person:
Here’s to all the places we went– All the places we’ll go.
And for a crooked little heart
That will always hold love for you–
This is Rehab: Truth 8