TW: sentimental af.
This is a will they won't they story (spoiler alert: they won't).
When I was eight years old I met somebody perfect. ('Emi, people aren't perfect.' 'Yeah, I know. He wasn't perfect, but also, he was.') I had thought, before then, that I was just one paper person laid out on the crafts table of life, but then God unfolded me and there was another one just like me whose hand was fixed to mine. My concertina comrade! Another little paper person who was on the surface so different to me and yet in the heart, just exactly the same. I had yellow scribbled on me in felt-tip and he had purple, but underneath we were both paper. He was silly and loving and shy and kind and he cared more about people and animals than money or school or toys or sports. I loved him. I guess... I love him.
His life was bursting with imagination and wonder and we played in it! We played in it in each school photograph every year as we looked older and older and taller and taller. But then we grew up. I hurt him and then he hurt me and on and on without either of us really realising it. We were never even 'together', but we both knew deep down that we wanted to be. I think we were just scared to try. When he got into a serious relationship and our friendship dissolved it fucking destroyed me. It had way more impact on me than any break-up had before. I spent years just thinking about that friendship and getting shipwrecked on why it disappeared. I found myself in writing workshops for work creating the same damn character every time... a shy boy with a brave smile who was the best friend in the world. Listening to our songs without really realising why...
Nearly two years ago, we slept together (a bit). I was in a relationship with somebody I loved but wasn't right for me, and I cheated on him with this person... another man I love but isn't right for me. And in that horrible horrible whirlpool of personal malmanagment, I scuppered whatever might have been with my best friend. The infidelity ended the relationship (and thankfully transformed it into a wonderful platonic relationship that I treasure to this day), but it also took my paper person and cut his hand from mine with blunt safety scissors that made a brutal mess of both of us. Why? Because I couldn't chose him... because as an adult, I didn't know him anymore. I couldn't risk hurting him even more than I already had by giving it a go and then realising we weren't right for each other. If I wasn't 100% sure it would work, his perfect paper heart wasn't worth the risk of tearing any more...and to be honest, neither was mine.
When all that chaos went down nearly 2 years ago I was drinking too much and he was smoking too much (of the funky jazz cabbage and personally I don't fuck with that). I needed a relationship that was sober. Sure, a few giggly wine nights and some wild weekends, but sprinkled across a largely PG13, personal growth, cuddles and cups of tea kind of vibe. And then there's the big life things... I want to be a mum one day and he doesn't (he doesn't want to be a dad, that is, not he doesn't want to be a mum) and what about everything else? I don't know how we'd deal with conflict together, how we would express love, what problems we'd face... I knew him completely but also, I didn't know him at all.
All this sentimentality has bitten me on the arse today because he has started his new life across the wonderful world (in the place we always talked about living) with another woman who I hope with all my heart is as brilliant as him. I'm sure she is. I think I did the right thing, and I am feeling so much profound joy that this incredible man is out there being happy... but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't feeling a little wistful too...
The truth is, I understand now that all our concertinas unfold further, and just as he is dancing off into the life of his dreams with the paper person who was hiding folding up behind him, I'm sure one of these days God will unfold another person for me, and another after that, and another, and anoth.... This world is bursting full of perfectly imperfect people, and I can't wait to meet them all. I'll end this story with a quote from the poem this post is dedicated to, a nod to J G Whittier (because people have been fucking up their love lives for literal centuries...) Bumble Bee, wherever you are, I'm raising a glass to you. Go live your adventure, you gave my life so much magic. I'm rooting for you.
God, pity them both and pity us all who vainly the dreams of youth recall. For of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these... 'it might have been'.