How strange and sad it is that over the years, you taught me to love myself enough to leave you.
You enter the room and the music begins. Holding my hand in yours as the other rests just around my waist, we dance. There’s a rhythm to us, and I no longer know if we told the music to dance with us or if the music set us to pace. With each turn about the floor, we move with ever-increasing ease.
There is trust and confidence—there is familiarity. Soon we are comfortable; smiling and laughing to one another and to ourselves. I know your step. I trust your lead. You know I will not stumble. And so we dance and learn the little nuances that reveal in an instant, with the slightest movement of muscle, what step, what turn, what challenge comes next.
And yet the music always ends. For us, the song doesn’t last forever.
While we danced to our tune, you cared for me, no doubt—my friendship, my companionship, my touch and my tongue. You and I shared everything but that which cannot be defined or bought or negotiated. And there is no slight in that. No anger or judgment or blame. There is no injustice in treating someone well, but falling short of loving them. If there is, I stand guilty myself several times over for past transgressions. Great sadness lies there, but also a glimpse of more.
How tragically ironic that a glimpse of what could be is what opened my eyes to what was missing. I’d hardly dared to look for it from you. But there it was—magic. In your eyes and your voice and your touch, in the way you held me effortlessly as we followed the music. It was all there.
I see it now in romantic memories running behind my closed eyes and through my thoughts. Strolling down the sidewalk to a little café for dinner, feeling admired in my dress and still in awe to look upon you after all these years. Walking around a bookstore excited about completely different things, and having the best time sharing what had each of us digging for a particular subject or author. Endless stories to be shared. Driving to the movies as we weaved in and out of traffic and you reach for my hand and my heart stretches out a little more. Ever more.
I wanted the magic to stay. I don’t know for how long, but longer. Maybe forever. I’m not sure. I only know what forever looks like when I look in the mirror.
But what came only in a glimpse made clear all that was missing. There was nothing that stands out about the moment I knew. We were fine. And maybe I could have held on to you longer out of selfishness. But that’s not who we are to one another. Now the truth was a presence in our once sacred space.
I knew to let you go the way I knew I loved you: in an instant. There was no breath I took without its presence; to deny it would be a lie. And you and I don’t lie.
How often does love miss its mark for the wanting heart? And how often do we get lost in the self-judgment and doubt and insecurity when that mark is missed? Praying to whatever we cast our heart’s hope upon that we could be more or less of what is measurable so that we would fit the equation that equals love. But, as Yates said, there isn’t any equation to solve for emotion.
It takes time to identify when nothing is wrong except that something isn’t right. So when I see that I am your friend and confidante and lover, but not your love, I break not with you but for you.
You should have a life loving someone as I love you. All that you have shared with me gives me strength to leave you. And you, without ever truly loving me, taught me the love I needed to walk away.
With each song I learned to stand on my own, embraced and guided by you, but of my own strength—independent and united.
And should you ever find your heart leading you back to me, I will welcome you as my friend and companion and whatever else I am able to offer. And if the energy of this world sparks a flame and we find magic after all this time, I will welcome it.
But if not with me, I will pray you find your song as I pray to find mine. Because you are worthy of the dance. As am I.
Author: Cristy Courtney
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Jean Gerber/Unsplash