To Have and to Hold.. and to Let Go

Below is a narrative I wrote while dealing with my broken engagement. So, so much has changed since then but here is snap shot of who I was in August of 2016. I’ve heard that some cultures use melted gold to put broken pottery back together and make it even more beautiful than it was unbroken. The sad, broken girl you’ll see below is now a woman held together by seams of gold. 

To Have and to Hold.. and to Let Go

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I remember my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Downey, asking the class to write down where we saw ourselves in 10 years. Without a second thought, I quickly scribbled: A college degree, a good job, married with a white picket fence. At thirteen, I knew what I wanted for my future, and I had a time-specific plan on how to make it all happen. As silent tears stream down my face, I can’t help but think what an incredible fool thirteen-year-old me was.

Things were rocky between us; they had been for a while. But I thought that if I just tried a little harder and forced on a happy face, everything would work out. After all, I had my degree, a great job, and a sparkly engagement ring on my left ring finger. But that was all before we took the road trip to his best friend’s wedding.

The trip up to Pennsylvania was awkward. I could tell something was off with him. The feeling nagged at me, rubbing me raw like new shoes blistering soft feet. I shoved the feeling down, deep as I could manage, creating something sour low in my stomach. After dating for five years, I thought I knew him and thought I could make it all better. I told him I would take the first driving shift so he could rest. It was 8 pm already, and he looked so tired.

He must be going through something at work, I thought. I should be supportive; he’ll talk when he’s ready.

The first lie slithered into truth around Dumfries. He wasn’t going to graduate…again. For the third year in a row, he failed all of his classes. I forgave him a while ago for not graduating with me from CNU, but this was new. He was blacklisted for an entire semester while the university decided if he was allowed to attend classes again. He hid this from me for four whole months.

Four months.

Why didn’t he tell me? I could’ve helped. At the very least, I would’ve been there to listen.

I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything at all. I swallowed the pain, pushing it down deep into my sour stomach. I shook off the initial sting and forced my frowning lips to spread into a reassuring smile. “Everything will be fine! You can work this semester and save money for the wedding. It’s kind of lucky, actually, if you think about it.” He smiled and nodded, but something wasn’t right. As he turned to look at the passing trees, an inscrutable reflection distorted the window.

There’s something more going on. Why won’t he tell me? Why won’t he let me in?

Every time we take a trip, a fight seems to erupt. After so many years together, I learned when to see one coming. This one was festering low between us, not quite ready to break through. I was determined to stop it. We needed to be able to relax right now and enjoy this time away from stressful jobs and nagging bills. I fiddled with the radio until Pharrell’s Happy filled the car, pushing away the awkward silence. I started singing, loudly and purposely off-key, trying to break down his wall and make him laugh. He shot me a pity smile before turning back to the window.

Have I done something? Something I still need to apologize for? Think.

Nothing I did seemed to matter. At the wedding he was kind and charming, the man I fell in love with. But the act quickly dropped whenever we were away from other guests. He didn’t want to dance, and I didn’t want to sit, so we said our goodbyes and left. We drove straight to his dad’s house in New York, an hour drive. I fell asleep against the window with damp eyes and a breaking heart.

It’s 80 degrees outside, but it’s so cold inside this car. I wish I were home.

The king-sized bed afforded some distance between us, space I still feel guilty for appreciating. The next morning was awkward, to say the least. I wanted to get on the road as soon as possible. We had a long, 9-hour drive ahead of us and I wanted it to be over before it began. But my Momma raised a courteous daughter, so I accepted my almost-father-in-law’s offer for breakfast. I smiled, made polite conversation, and cleared my plate as quickly as I could without feeling rude. He was polite and charming throughout breakfast, so I thought today would be different. I should’ve known; he was always so good at acting.

We have a long drive ahead, but maybe we can use it as time to talk. We’ll get through this rough patch, we always do. I love him…and he loves me too. Doesn’t he?

We started off ok. We made small talk about the wedding and his upcoming job interviews. I mentioned our pets, two goofy pups and a complaisant cat, who were anxiously waiting for us in Virginia and got a heartfelt smile. I sang along to the radio, and he tapped out the beat on the steering wheel. Things were going to be ok. Just when I thought the volcano was dormant, it erupted full force as we reached the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

I’m shell-shocked. I can’t even remember now what triggered it. Maybe it was asking him to let a car in when the traffic stalled. Maybe it was Uptown Funk playing on the radio, one of my favorite songs that he refused to dance to at the wedding. Whatever it was, molten lava exploded all over the car. All the lies he was hiding fueled the fire, all the pain I shoved down made it roar. I couldn’t take it anymore. I tried to stop it, but the scream hurdled out of me, “WHAT MORE CAN I DO TO MAKE YOU LOVE ME?” The ring on my hand started to tighten and burn. I couldn’t take it. It was killing me, and I wanted to survive. I yanked the beautiful, sparkly lie off my left finger and hurled it towards the floorboard. Shock spread across his face, but he was silent. The car slowly came to a stop at the side of the road, but I hardly noticed. A waterfall of tears streamed down my face. Heart- wrenching sobs poured out of my burning lungs. I was broken.

I am broken.

He quietly got out of the car, gingerly picked up the ring of the floor mat, and walked away. I suddenly became frantic. How am I going to get home? I noticed the keys left purposely on the driver’s seat. I saw him, a few meters away, walking towards a bus stop. He was leaving me the car. He turned around, just for a second, and saw me. In that moment, we saw each other clearly for the first time in a long time. He saw me, broken and crying, and slowly walked back to the car. “Can I get in?” I felt paralyzed, but I nodded. He started the car, and we drove home. I don’t remember much of the trip back. Catatonic, I watched the trees speeding by and passed out.

… It was dark when I woke up. We were pulling into the apartment complex. I was finally home, but as I walked up the steps and opened the front door, everything seemed empty. I dropped my suitcase on the floor as I walked past our smiling faces on the wall. The love that was here was gone. I’m not even sure if that’s what you could call it.

I never got my answer. I’m still unsure of what I needed to do or whom I needed to be to make our relationship work, but I am slowly starting to realize that it doesn’t matter. I tried for so many years to be the perfect girlfriend, and then the perfect fiancée this year. But that’s the point, isn’t it? We were both trying to be something we’re not. Two fake halves trying to make a whole.

As a firm believer in God and in Fate, I am sure there is a bigger picture I will eventually see. I will be somewhere unexpected, shopping for groceries or something equally mundane, and the epiphany of why we had to go through all of that will be clear. This grand, life-changing clarity will make it all better. After all, when you go through something that completely shatters everything you have always wanted and longed for, there should be reason.

For now, I try to pick up and polish a broken piece each day. I try to figure out where it goes and put myself back together. Those silent tears still stream down my face, as they are now, whenever I think of him. I try to send him love and light every day and pray that he reaches his epiphany too. I still love him, and I am sure a part of me always will. But love isn’t always enough to make everything all better; sometimes things are meant to be broken. And I pray that one day I will learn why I had to break and that all the answers will be clear. I pray that one day these broken pieces become fuel for something greater.

All of this pain has to be for something greater.

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