Zebra, Mule, and I stood abreast, as always, and studied the newcomer. Sea Horse reared up from his pale green tentacle of a tail. His upper half resembled the cavalry horses behind us, complete ... [+]
Your before and after chose you and it doesn't hurt. I thought it would hurt but it's the opposite. Something has been taken away, the part of you I didn’t realize I still thought was mine. Or maybe I did realize it, because now every fantasy, every dream, every “what if” has disappeared completely. When you had crushes I could pretend you only liked them for distraction, but now you’re willing to put effort into someone. Someone who's not me and I don't resent that in itself - I’m trying not to resent her - but you showed me the texts you sent her and you’re using our words, my words, the words we learned together: to be careful, to go slow, to keep the friendship alive at any cost. I have to remind myself that you should be allowed to use those words because they’re good words, they’re the right words, they’re words that will help so why can’t I let you have the parts of Us that were good, even if it leaves me with only the parts that were bad? What was Us for then if not to help you now?
I can’t text you anymore without caring if I’m annoying you. I know I'm a friend but there's no chance anymore that I'm your best friend. Because while this Always lasts she will be your Always and I will just be in the background. I’ll be a shoulder to cry on; to rely on; always there, so carefully that you stop noticing me. And I could try to walk away, to get distance the way you’re getting distance but I don't want to and I don't think I can yet because even with the people I've found here, I'm always asking, “But do they do this like you did?” “Will they say things that you did?” “Are they going to love me like only you ever have?” But then I have to ask, “Did you love me or did you love that I loved you?” “Did we ever have an Always?”
No, we had infinitely but temporarily. You were a lesson, not a commitment. Now she is your commitment, one I will have to help you make, and I don't know if that's by choice. Could I walk away if I wanted to? Or will I never want to? I want to care, to be there, because I miss you. All the times I ever said I was done and over you were lies and I knew that. Maybe I no longer love you infinitely but finite love exists. So though the infinite was temporary the finite seems like an Always. But Always don't always last.
I know I can't think like that. I have to keep pretending, keep telling myself that this is it, that I don't care and maybe the void she put in me will kill the finite and maybe I’ll be able to walk away and leave you with her...
...but what if that’s worse for you than me? See how well she puts your thoughts into words and says good night in made up languages and reminds you to explain forwards not backwards. But look. Even in walking away I'm leaving bitterness and jealousy and I can't do that to you. Maybe I could, if I could walk away for real, but I know I can't, not from friendship. I can’t walk away from only part of you; leaving you behind means leaving friendship too. Because the friendship was part of the Always and while we have that I will cling to it even as the finite thread frays and threatens to break. But is friendship finite?
No, because I can love the moths, my always best friends, infinitely and eternally so I can love you like I love the moths. But I have to be more careful. I am a moth but you will not be a flame. You are a butterfly. You are more beautiful than me but we are almost the same. Not quite the same but counterparts: not a moth to a flame but one friend to another, a sister to a brother. And I can let her void consume the finite and replace it with an infinite that I don't have to run from.
Though as much as I want this, I know her void is just another void, the same as every heartbreak and heartfracture and heartbruise and it won't go away or replace anything: it will just take up space until I need space for something else. So maybe being honest with myself isn't the answer like it was last time. Maybe this time I keep telling myself I don't love you even though it feels like it'll never be true and certainly isn’t now, and I keep looking for others I can love infinitely, not because they are you, but because they are infinite. I still don’t have to care if I annoy you because my love is an Always, not just for you, but for everyone who ever was infinite and eternal and for anyone who ever will be. Because even if we were only temporary I was always infinite; my love for you was infinite and while our Always lasted, you were infinite too. So the Always won’t be eternal and the love will not be infinite, but I can learn to live with finite.
You’re with the girl you had a crush on before me; the same girl you got a crush on after. It doesn't hurt. I knew I would be okay with it once I wrote everything out. Something has been taken away, but now I realize that even when we loved each other infinitely, you weren’t mine. You have always only ever been yours, and though you were part of our relationship, that relationship didn’t have to last to mean something. Even though it’s been over a year since we were together, we can still share the lessons we helped each other learn. Sharing won’t leave me with only the bad parts of our relationship, and maybe they’ll help you with your new one. We can be friends like we’re meant to be; I'll be here to annoy you and be annoyed, a shoulder to cry on and a shoulder to make you stand up straight. I will learn from our lessons that whatever you do, I cannot let me stop you.