My friend tells me a story about the girl he likes. He’s angry, talking fast, stumbling over his words and I fight the urge to look out the window behind him, watch the sunset paint its pastel colors across the sky.
It’s not that I don’t care—I do. I just find it hard to watch people transition from filled with love, to suddenly removed. It’s hard to wrap my head around the idea that people are guarded, or afraid of falling, or can quickly turn their backs the second someone hesitates, or questions, or changes.
He’s flailing his arms wildly, going on about how she told him she liked him and then pulled away. I get it. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there—watching the person we like shift before our eyes. It’s not necessarily our faults when something like this happens, but it’s not necessarily theirs either.
Love is a scary, beautiful thing and sometimes we’re just not ready for it. Sometimes we think we want to be with someone, when the truth is we’re still searching for ourselves.
“This isn’t a reflection on you,” I say, focusing back in on our conversation, trying to summon the most support that I can. “I know you cared, still care. And that isn’t a bad thing.”
He runs his fingers through his hair, leans back. I give him a half-smile. I know that he’s hurting right now, but the pain is only temporary. He’s a strong guy, one of the strongest I know, and that won’t change because of a girl too naïve to believe in something bigger with him.
His heart won’t be shattered because of someone else’s inability to love.
It hurts, and it will hurt for a little while. But then he will gather the pieces of himself, put them back together, realize he was never any less than whole—before, or even after her absence—and find someone else to share his world with.
This is the way love goes.
This is what we so often forget.
His phone buzzes and he glances down. I study the concentrated expression on his face. I wonder if she texted him, if she’s still holding on, toying with his emotions. I wonder what she’s thinking in her little corner of the world—if she’s happy, if she’s lonely, if she’s in the process of moving on.
I want to tell him to put his phone down, to stop worrying about what she, or everyone else is saying and just focus on himself. I want to tell him that this is just a minor blip in the road, that she was just a crush, not a lover, and that will make this easier, even though it doesn’t feel like it right now.
I want to tell him that there is, perhaps, a reason—maybe she wasn’t prepared to be loyal, maybe she was planning on running back to an ex, maybe the two of them really weren’t compatible and God had been watching over the connection the entire time.
I want to tell him that love is one of those things that ebbs and flows, and when you find the right person you both will choose and fight for one another, even as things change.
I want to tell him that he can’t pull away or stop believing in love right now because even though he’s broken, he won’t always be. No matter where he wanders or what happens, love will reach him. And he can’t give up on that truth.
“Don’t quit,” I say, gesturing to the sky, “Not on love, not on the possibility, not on everything you have going for you right now.”
He looks up and nods, puts his phone face down on the table and makes direct eye contact. I will myself to be patient, to hold his gaze. Love has a funny way of changing people from who they are into who they believe they should be—timid, guarded, cold, afraid—and I don’t want to lose him to those negative emotions.
I want him to stay right here, hurting, but beginning to heal.
“I’ll be okay,” he says to no one in particular, looking beyond me to the people passing by, to the cars rolling down the street, to the seagulls fluttering, scanning for stray French friends.
I don’t respond, letting his words hang like in the air, both an inner and outer mantra of truth. He will survive, we all will. We’ll all fall in, and out, and down, and towards, and one day discover that every setback and broken heart led us to the person we were meant to spend forever with.
And what a shame it would have been if somewhere along the way we had given up.