The Myth I Believe
When people find out you’ve broken up with someone, responses tend to be reductive. It’s the natural reaction to belittle everything from healing: “It just takes time;” to the ex: “He’s just an asshole;” to the relationship itself: “It just wasn’t meant to be.” Even when we try to defend lost love, saying, “It means something,” and “It was more than just…” it’s easier to give in. Maybe it did mean something before, but it certainly doesn’t anymore. After all, love that’s lost but still means something is just a broken heart, right?
I was the authority on love in high school. Always in a relationship (or at least on the hunt for one), my friends came to me for advice. I had standards. I knew how to flirt and how to dress for a first date. At any given time, my boyfriend and I were the picture in the dictionary next to the word “love.” And when we broke up? Well, after just enough crying, I knew the cure was more picture-perfect love. Watch enough romantic movies and listen to the right songs until they become you.
Just as I couldn’t help falling in love, I couldn’t help falling into the trap of reduction. I knew what love was, though my definition had a tendency to change. It became disillusioned, and I didn’t have a definition anymore.
I won’t deny that our love is romantic. We met on a double date during our first “real” relationships, but stayed friends after respective breakups. Undeniably attractive and just the right amount of older than me, he quietly saw me through my series of relationships. Every time I dated someone new, he would say, “He’s not right for you,” and every time I would ignore him. Every time I broke up with them, I would hear his slightly accented voice echoing, “I told you so.”
One day I asked him, if he was such an expert, what did he think of the guy I was hanging out with at that very moment. “Bad idea,” he said, and kissed me. “The worst,” I replied.
We’ve never dated, but he’s broken my heart multiple times and though he is hard-pressed to show it, I’m sure I’ve broken his. He told me to get out of his life two weeks after he first kissed me. He wanted to date this girl, and I couldn’t get in the way. Less than a month later, I heard from him again. His relationship was coming along smoothly, but he’d worn a sweatshirt I’d borrowed and it still smelled like me.
We go back and forth being friends until our chemistry heats up enough that he feels guilty about his girlfriend and excommunicates me from his life for the next few weeks. One night, about a month after he’d picked me up from my most recent breakup, he told me he loved me. Three days later, I met up with my ex for lunch, and it drove us apart again.
Over the summer, we had another falling out. Only this time, he made me believe it was goodbye forever, and I suppose that was when my heart broke irreparably. I felt I let him down and let him go, but he hasn’t been off my mind for the last three months. I would dial his phone number, but never call. I have a stack of letters I’ve never mailed. I’ve hated myself for deleting his pictures, for trying to reduce what I have with him down to something I can understand.
He came back into my life a few weeks ago, and I still don’t understand. I know he still has a girlfriend. I know that when he misses me, he visits the table at a diner where I once sat with him. I know that he wears the same sweatshirt I once borrowed to remember me. I know that I don’t understand what is between us, and I know that I wish I did.
When I do try to understand, I arrive at this conclusion: love is a myth. Myths may not make factual sense, and you may not believe in them, but whether you understand them or not, myths have power. The myth of love is prevalent in society, and it’s what drives me to dial the number I won’t call and write the letters I won’t send. It’s what drives him to wear that specific sweatshirt and return to that specific table at that specific diner. The myth of love draws us back together time and again, our hearts still aching, no matter how many movies we watch or songs we listen to.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be in a relationship with him, I don’t know why he chooses to stay with his girlfriend, and I don’t know if I’ll ever love someone else like I love him. I like to think I won’t, that there’s either a way for us to be together or that I’ll find someone I love differently, and better.
But I don’t know, and this is how I know it’s true love. True love is a myth, but that doesn’t make it any less real. And maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s not just one thing, maybe not just one person. True love is a myth, and I believe in it.