I grew up in a small town that I loved. I had friends, I had things to do, school was a challenge and I did well. I was in a contest-winning band and was recruited to join the debate team; I was happy. Then, my parents moved me to a small town that I didn’t love. I never felt that I really fit in there, and I never even considered making it my permanent home.
As I got older, I knew one day I would have to escape that place. I had hopes and dreams that could never happen in that small town. The one thing I finally found there that I truly loved with all my heart was a man. My happiest times there were when I was with him. I honestly believed that I would marry him one day.
At 19, it became clear to me that there was no way I could stay, so I told him I needed to get out and see some of the rest of the world. I needed to depend on myself for a while, to see if I could make it on my own; to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. I thought he would give me that space to grow. I thought he would do anything for me. I wasn’t looking for anyone else; he was the only one I wanted. I just had to get out—even if it was only for a little while.
I was stunned when he told me that if I moved away, he was done. He was not going to “do the long-distance thing.” As much as I loved him, I still couldn’t stay. He always knew me so well; I’ve never understood why he didn’t see that I was suffocating in that town, and I could never live there—not even with him. What hurt me most, though, was his decision to let me go without any effort. That, and the fact that he returned everything I had ever written to him.
He might as well have said, “You’re not worth the effort. If it’s not easy for me, I don’t want you.”
He was stubborn and proud, and I never once heard from him after I left. I wonder sometimes if he ever cried for me. I wonder if his heart broke like mine did. If it hadn’t been for the sting of his words, and my belief that he meant them, I would have let him know how much I missed him; how I longed to hear his voice telling me goodnight; how many nights I cried because I wanted him there with me; and how close I came to moving back to that town I never even liked.
If he had ever asked me to, I would have come back—just to be his again.