By Kaitlyn Fischer.
I was sitting in my kitchen, my fingers wrapped tightly around the handle of a coffee mug. The steam clouded my glasses as I lifted it to my face, reminding me of the time when I breathed against the inside of your car window one chilly winter’s night and drew my name with the tip of my finger. It was one of the last nights that we spent together, where I wrapped you in my jacket and cupped your cheeks with my hands to warm you up. I pulled away, resisting the coffee from scalding my lips but not resisting the thought of you.
That was the first time that I knew that I was moving on from you.
I knew because when I thought of you, I didn’t shake my head or clench my jaw. I didn’t feel the need to run until I was out of breath or sort through the array of polaroids that I had of us together. I just held my mug close to my lips, breathing in the warmth and admiring how the cream swirled around the inside of the cup like my own personal tornado.
I sat down and stared into the cup, watching as it settled. It reminded me of myself after you; at first, I spun in circles until I finally stood still, ready for whatever came next. It was as though our relationship had been like the ocean, wild and crashing against the shore until finally the waves had evened out and the surface remained undisturbed. It was as if I had finally gasped for air after rising out of the water you had trapped me under.
The second time I noticed myself moving on from you was when I was with one of our friends.
She said that you’d mentioned me during one of our casual conversations, dropping your name like a grenade. If she had said it a week sooner, it would have devastated me. Those seven letters would have reopened the tender wound that you had left on my chest. But it didn’t. I didn’t choke when she said it; I didn’t flinch or wince or close my eyes. I took a deep breath and said that I was glad that you were doing well, even if you didn’t wish the same for me. I gave you a bit of the forgiveness that I told myself that I owed you, only to find out that I really owed it to myself. I owed it to myself to move on. I didn’t deserve to linger on something that I no longer had for you.
After a while, hearing your name became easier. Living without you became easier as well. I no longer raced up and down grocery store aisles swearing to myself that I could hear your voice. I stopped waiting for you to drive by our hold hangout or send me an insincere apology text. I no longer asked our friends about you or if you’d spoken about me. I stopped craving your presence and you felt more like a memory and less like a ghost. I let go.
Moving on, I’ve realized, can be truly freeing. I’ve been told that moving on is a bittersweet ending to a lost love, but the truth is that love doesn’t just end overnight. I knew that it was ending for months before you told me that it had. I knew that it was over when you stopped looking me in the eye, asking me about my day and began nervously circling your palm with your finger whenever I asked if everything was okay. If I had looked hard enough, I would have seen the rest of the signs; the forced smile that had replaced your toothy grin, the dark circles that had replaced the freckles beneath your eyes. It was obvious to me, even if I refused to see it. I held onto you so tightly in the end that I had begun to suffocate us both.
I saw you one day after everything occurred. You were getting ice cream from our favorite shop. I turned away, afraid of seeing you and looking into the same eyes that didn’t look into mine when you told me that you were giving up. To me, saying that you were giving up seemed unfair; I kept asking myself how I could be too much for you to handle, too much to care for, too much to love. I knew that it wasn’t my fault deep down, but I couldn’t help but blame myself in that moment. It was as if seeing you suddenly shifted how I thought of myself, my mind repeating that you were probably fine and that I was probably still shaken because I was the one that had disturbed the silence that you had left me isolated in. But that just wasn’t true.
I told myself that you would always hold a piece of me as an excuse to let you. I wanted a reason for you to come back, even when you weren’t good for me. But I’ve since taken that piece back and used it to repair the same heart that you tore apart.
I have moved on.