A few months later, my girlfriend moved across the country into my one-bedroom apartment. For two years we had lamented, fought, and blamed the distance for our relentless angst. Finally, we would be together. I think we both understood that it would either be our solution or our final undoing.
It didn’t take long. Hysterical fighting across 2,500 miles is a particular kind of torment: Doing it within a 700-square foot apartment is yet another. Like desire, our fights always had an object —money, jealousy, who had suffered or sacrificed more. But these were straw men ablaze with our deeper, less sayable grievances, namely the ways we had expected to be healed or completed by each other, and how absurdly we had failed.
Ending that relationship was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I finally did it. Two months after she moved in, my girlfriend moved out. When I came home from work that first day to my empty home, I sat on the couch for hours, watching the shadows slide across the floor, filled with loneliness and relief.
Amit and I only lived a few blocks apart. In the beginning of our estrangement, I scanned the sidewalk for her every day. It seemed a small miracle that I never saw her.
Then one evening I stood at the back of a crowded reading and spotted my friend, wobbling on tiptoes to see over people’s heads. She had a new haircut and an old, familiar jacket. My heart ached. I considered leaving, but didn’t. Amit didn’t see me until the reading was over. Across the room, our eyes met and we each gave a small wave. The crowd of our mutual friends jostled us closer, until we faced each other. "Hey Peaches," she said.
We both laughed, at first nervously, then for real. We knew each other too well to look away from our situation. As people elbowed by, we began the process of filling each other in on the things we had missed. I knew it would take time for us to rebuild our friendship, and it did. But the fear that I had lost my friend forever, or that that was even possible, disappeared in those first minutes.
Where Amit and I thought it was time for me to be vulnerable, to risk more of myself in love, we were right and we were wrong. So often we mistake the route for the destination, which is always longer and harder than that of our design.
Often the leads of our lives are disguised as supporting characters. This is how the universe tricks us into learning the unexpected.
My worst fear became real. I risked myself in love and became needy beyond any reckoning. I lost the people I least wanted to lose. But through it, I learned that living through your worst fear is sometimes the best thing that can happen to you. How else can you know the strength of your own heart?
In truly intimate relationships, change is inevitable and disappointment guaranteed. As we grow, our loves must also grow or end. And when we let ourselves be seen, we give our imperfections along with our strengths. The people we love might back away.
Amit and I have not loved each other perfectly. But I know that our love is built upon honesty and resilience, a mutual desire to help the other grow into her best and bravest self. These intentions never promise a love without error or pain, but they do leave room for us to transform, to forgive, and to find each other — changed, but not gone. The people to whom we return after a storm passes are the true loves of our lives: our friends, our families, our own selves; softer, braver, stronger than we were, even in the calm.
Melissa Febos is a writer and essayist who penned the critically acclaimed memoir, Whip Smart, in 2010. Her latest collection, Abandon Me, debuts from Bloomsbury on February 28, 2017.