It Goes On
It wasn’t easy for Kaylee to keep staring at her screen, waiting for it to light with a notification. And part of her was torn. Torn between wanting to see his name flash at her, and wanting to bury it deep. It had only been three days, but it felt like eternity. And no message, no matter what she forced herself to believe, would ever mend the wounds.
All of it had happened so fast. She still couldn’t wrap her head around why or how… These were all questions he had left her to decipher on her own. Everything had been going so well, or so she told herself, and she had never been happier. But his message—the last message she had received from him—took all the happiness she had built up over the last four years and shattered it. It was as if she were starting over. But this time, more broken than before.
Alex was everything she ever wanted in a partner. He had a sense of humor, had interest in all the same things, and he loved her. Loved her for who she was without judgement. Something that Kaylee never believed she would ever find. He expressed it deeply every day: messages from the moment he woke up until he fell asleep, take out and movie nights, and utmost praise to everyone he met. They were all the other spoke about, thought of, and all they ever wanted. Or so, that’s what Kaylee had convinced herself all those years. It felt real. It had to have been real… at least once.
Maybe it was the day he proposed to her. In a crowded room, he got down on his knee and asked for her hand. Without hesitation, she said yes, and the deal was sealed. Though the count down to the wedding planning was still over a year away due to their financial state, Kaylee never complained. To her, the ring on her finger was as good enough as marriage. They were in love—and that was all that mattered.
But maybe that’s why it was so hard for her to grasp the truth. Maybe that’s why she was so deep in denial. Maybe that’s why, when his text came through—“I can’t be with you anymore… I’m sorry” – she couldn’t bring herself to cry. She felt nothing. Numbed from head to toe, the words circling in her mind as she asked herself, and then him, why? Alex, why? Please… But no answer ever came.
Had someone told her it was because he had fallen in love with another, she never would have believed them. Had someone told her that other was one of her closest friends, she’d probably have laughed. But the truth was a pill even too big for her to swallow. And even though deep inside she could see the signs, no matter how faint, she didn’t want to believe it. She couldn’t believe it. She loved him. And he loved her. Once… Perhaps a long time ago.
She asked herself repeatedly, what happened to those days? What happened to the man she used to know? In the beginning, when they first met and slowly began to fall in love, Alex was lighthearted and full of smiles and laughter. He never raised his voice and Kaylee was always on his mind and by his side. But, with each passing year, though she fell more and more in love with him, he was drifting away. His laughter was seldom and his smiles only came in the quiet hours. His words weren’t as soft, and thorns would grow between them with any trace of disagreement. And he would text her—the one he left with—over dinner, with Kaylee watching in curiosity. Too naïve to see the truth. To see the words that were going on behind his screen. Words she seldom heard since his heart began to change.
And she couldn’t understand why he didn’t feel the same. Only four months prior, he had asked her to marry him. Four months felt like only yesterday, though she knew the next four going forward would be an eternity. It had only been three days… She kept trying to remind herself that.
She wanted to know so badly, what it was that made him stop loving her. Or, she tried to convince herself, maybe he did still love her. Maybe deep inside he still felt the same way he had before, but he was afraid of the feelings he was developing for their mutual friend. Someone close to both of them. But why run away? Why cut contact? Kaylee didn’t want to think him a coward, but in doing so, led herself to believe she had done something wrong. Done something so terrible that he wanted nothing to do with her from that point forward. But we were fine… We were just at the fair the night before. He told me he loved me. Held my hand. Kissed me. It was real… I know it was real.
Kaylee’s phone lit up and she quickly turned, her heart pounding against her chest. Only a game notification… She slid the phone closer to herself and kept her eyes on it. All she needed was one message. One call. An explanation. But she knew in her heart it would never come. Maybe he really was a coward. Or maybe he really didn’t know himself.
As much as she wanted to remove the ring from her finger, she couldn’t bear it. Instead, she sat on her couch, waiting, and twirling it against her knuckle. She had never planned on taking it off, not even for a moment. But now she knew there was no point in wearing it. It was so heavy—heavy with guilt and questions—but something kept her from tugging it free. Letting go of the burden. It weighed her down. Held her back. She couldn’t let it go. Not just yet. Perhaps not forever…
At night, when she was alone, she would find herself lost to tears. In her private silence, she mourned Alex’s absence. There hadn’t been a night in all those years that he wasn’t beside her. To simulate his presence, she built a wall of pillows to lay against, feeling their warmth and pretending it was him. It had always been him. But, it would never be him again. When the stillness only brought on the confirmation of her being alone, Kaylee cried herself to sleep. Her gentle sobs were enough to break the silence of the air, and give voice to the walls that trapped her. Haunted her. These walls were once his, too.
On the fourth day, Kaylee couldn’t leave bed. Her stomach churned and her body trembled. Nothing around her felt real. It was almost as though she were transported to a different realm—void of reality and stuck in an endless loop of uneasiness. Something that could only be broken with a trace of the familiar. The light from a phone screen. But, there had still been no message or call from Alex.
She reached out to him once again: Alex, please. Can we talk? Yet, there was no response from the other side. Not even a “read” message at the bottom of the screen. It was as though she were messaging a dead number, one with no one on the other end to receive her pleas. But, there was someone on the other end. She just knew he couldn’t bring himself to face the truth. Face the damage he had done. The damage, quite frankly, they both had done.
Kaylee had been no better. There were days she had become demanding and irate. Days when she was a little too snippy towards Alex. At first, he had taken her behavior and treated it as a here and there thing. A bad day. But when it became frequent, he began to stand up for himself. Get snippy right back. And that’s when the arguments began. When both parties spewed venom from their tongues and lashed out. When the love they had convinced themselves for so long that they had was beginning to crumble. Decay. And the worst of it all, according to Kaylee, was she had told herself to stop. Told herself to take a step back and be mindful of her behavior. To not take everything out on Alex. To not be so mean. But her words to herself were pushed aside. And her temper would get the best of her.
But, all couples argue, right? She had to ask herself that again and again as she laid in her bed, holding her phone tightly in her hands. Surely they did. She remembered her mother and father practically arguing over every mundane thing when she was growing up. Things they would get so aggravated with one another about, only to laugh about it an hour later. Wasn’t that what she and Alex were like? There were times their arguments dragged on and were over things with no meaning at all… but they always made it up to one another. They always apologized. And they always found love to triumph. But this time… Alex gave up the fight. And gave up on me.
She knew that nothing would be the same again. At least, not for a while. She knew that her loneliness would eventually become the norm once again, and that she would find comfort in her solitude. It was just that, right now, after four years of seldom being alone, a day without him was torture. And now, she would have to wait out the rest of her lifetime. She knew that no matter where she went, she would feel that burden. That deep and unforgiving emptiness. There were too many memories around her town. Too many places they would frequent. The streets were filled with nothing but ghosts. Shadows of who they once were, laughing and playing on infinite loops. Trapped forever in happier times. When love was real. And so were the smiles. The strength to face the world again was something she had to rebuild. Brick by brick. And it was something that wasn’t going to come easy. And it wasn’t going to be overnight. It would take days. Weeks. Months…
Kaylee set her phone down with a sigh.
If only the questions stirring in her head would disappear. If only her heart could forget the way it used to beat—for him—and learn to function only for itself again. If only she could accept the truth and find a way to move on. Find a way to return to the happiness that once was there. Once. Long before Alex. And that’s what she tried to say.
Life goes on.
There was life before Alex. And there would be life after him. There would be happiness. There would be laughter. There would be a time when his face is no longer recognizable. When his voice fades and his name is nothing but a memory. A time when the most precious of moments, the ones ripping her apart, are forgotten. When only small fractions of them remain, and she’s left questioning who it was she was with that day. And she knew that was true. She knew that one day, the pain would stop. The days would be easier and the nights not so long. She knew there would be a day she would smile again. When what was left of them withers away and “us” becomes “me” again.
But that takes time. And time was the cruelest of all.
Though the message never came, after failed attempts of reaching out until finally, she stopped trying, Kaylee still held on to the hope that one day, Alex would reply. Would give an explanation. Would tell her he missed her. Would simply say “hi”. But even if he didn’t, Kaylee knew there was no point lingering in the skeletons of the past. The bones laid out of what had been. It was time to move on. Time to leave Alex in the past with all her memories. Her hopes for the future. Her heart.
And so every day, she felt the progress. Slowly. One day at a time. It began with a day she only cried once. And then, not at all. Then in time, somewhere along the way, she stopped thinking about him constantly. He still would find a way to creep in and haunt her, but her walls were stronger now. Better built. And her tears were only momentary.
Yet, even with the passing of time and the strengthening of her heart, the calendar still brought her pain. She could never forget the day he sent her that message—that one, final message. The date would forever stay in her mind. And so, with every day that passed, she found herself counting. Perhaps as a gauge for healing, or a gauge for how long she still found herself hanging on by that one little thread. Still terrified of letting go. Waiting for that call.
Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five.