Old Loves Are Awful
They are the loves that we don’t remember existed until one day we’re shocked with their presence. The loves who have been gone for too long and we've left on a shelf for some time. The ones whose names we struggle to remember at first years later when we find them in old photos. Their arms around us, our hands interlocked. They collect dust and get hidden behind the shiny, new romances that glow from the honeymoon phase. But then the new, glow-y relationship cracks and shatters and all of sudden the dust settles and you’re reminded of what was once yours.
But somehow, since they have been tucked away for so long, they don’t belong to you anymore. The writing on the pages of their letters is dimmed and you can’t seem to read it no matter how hard you squint. They don’t fit like your favourite jumper anymore; and the voice that once upon a time you could have picked out in a crowded stadium is now faint, distant, and unrecognisable.
They aren't your person, your love, anything remotely yours. And it’s awful.
But simply acknowledging that you know they aren't a part of your life doesn't make them go away. They hang out in the corners of your life like ghosts, ready to scare you when you least expect it. You know they aren't real, you know they aren't there, but if you close your eyes tight enough you’d swear they were. You can feel their lips grazing the backs of your shoulders and remember how big their hands were as they cupped your cheeks and got lost in your tangled, 3 AM hair.
You loved them, and you lost them.
That’s the reality of the situation. You were once hand in hand, side by side. And now you’re not. They were once snuggled up next to your chest and spilling their soul to you at 1 AM, and now you’re in bed alone. They used to sing along to your favourite songs and now all there is is silence.
Again: it’s awful. So you try to wrap it up and conceal it. You bury it so deep you’ll never have to deal with it again. If you deny, deny, deny: it never was. You never loved them because, simply, they never existed.
But try as you might to put them on the highest shelf where you’ll never have to face them, they will come back.
It might be days, it might be months, it might take years. They won’t have crossed your mind in seemingly forever but then there they are, standing in front of you looking exactly as they left. You see their work getting praised in the paper, and go to send a text a realise the number has long since been disconnected. You swear if you reached out you’d be able to touch them, be able to breath in that oh-too-familiar scent of their washing powder and cigarettes. But then you snap out of it and recognize that you’re just hoping, just wishing. That as much as you tried to get rid of them, they’re there. You can feel them, and as much as you SWEAR they’re within arm’s length, realistically they’re still gone.
They’re the ones whose names sit on the back of our tongues and we taste unexpectedly. The names that try to break free from our chests and declare to the world, “Once I was theirs!” no matter how hard we have tried to keep them under wraps. They’re the loves we tip toe around just certain that if we step too hard they’ll wake with vengeance and we’ll be forced to break all over again. It's awful.
Breaking is scary; remembering something that is now forever unobtainable is even scarier. But that’s not what should be taken away from lost loves.
As scary as it is to face them, to confront them, running and tip toeing from them for the rest of your life is even scarier.
And if nothing else:
Just remember that you loved them.
What we should take away from lost loves is just that: the love. We need to hold it close and tender and promise to do our best to treasure it. We’ll take the memories and put them away in a special place just for us. We will acknowledge the pain that comes with knowing we may never love them again but appreciate the fact that we got to love them in the first place.
Always keep loving, always keep trying, always keep reaching.
Photo © Laura Stevens