i found you in a box today. a picture of you as a child. and i remember when you gave me that picture. so that i would always remember you. some sort of token that, yes, indeed, our paths crossed. that it meant something more than a chemical reaction, spontaneous combustion. i remember our first kiss, that moment right before. i remember what the air smelled like and how nervous i was that maybe it would be a disappointment. later, the regret that it wasn't. you know what i mean.
i remember thinking you were the one. back when i believed that feelings meant everything. rules didn't apply. that the idea of 'the one' was something to strive for, whatever the cost. i made bad decisions with you, for you, to spite you. i hurt your feelings on purpose and i pretended not to care. i saved every single piece of paper you wrote something on, proof. i filed away little tokens, romantic notions of past lives and crossed paths and broken hearts fueled by the idea that no one could possibly understand the way my breath held itself upside down when you walked across the room.
it took lifetimes to rid myself of you. to not physically feel pain when i found you creeping around the corners of my subconscious while i slept. i knew you had the same dreams. i also knew you wished you hadn't. that you forced yourself to stop doing it. you moved on. long before i did. just so you know, i felt it when you did it. i knew.
long ago, i let you go, too. i wonder sometimes if you felt it, too. that moment when i did it. it was freeing. to let go of something i never really had in the first place. to surrender the screenplay of the type of love story that only really works on paper, where real people don't live. because the flawed characters like us? there's really nothing romantic about it.
i fell in love, completely, with another man. something i never thought i would do when i used to think about you. and i kept the box of you filed away still. i did not keep it because i wanted to hold onto you. truth be told, i wanted to remember the girl i once was with you. that silly naive girl. because i had to be her to get to here. i honor her. she made all my mistakes for me so that i could finally be this girl, the one who finds a box in the back of the hall closet and doesn't feel the need to keep it anymore. the one who thanks you for telling her you loved her without following through. the one who thanks you for not choosing her.
because i wouldn't be me without you. and i wouldn't be me with you.