The shoulders slumped as the breath left my lungs. My pride, joy, and stomach seemed to be deflating all at the same time. “Oh no,” my heart exhaled. I sank into the coach when a tingling burn covered my eyes. I breathed, shaking. “It’s okay,” I said to myself. “It’s alright.”
My eyes returned to the show I was watching. I had no idea what was going on anymore. I chuckled, smiled, and rewound. Then, I pressed play, grabbed my phone, and read the text message over again.
She said it. “I’m going to start dating the guy from work.” I was happy for her. She deserved to be happy. She deserved to be with someone who could get serious about her. She deserved someone who could accept her for who she was. I was not that guy, and I had to accept that.
I reminisced on the time we played golf and ate turkey legs. I remembered the time a bug crawled onto the table at my favorite restaurant and we got free food. I recalled the time we talked during her whole trip to another city. I recollected the first time she stayed over.
I looked up and I was back at the part of the show that I didn’t recognize. It had happened again. This time, I did not laugh. This time, I realized what was coming. I didn’t deserve what was coming, but it was coming anyway. I breathed deeply as I lifted myself from the couch. I sat forward onto the strength of my feet and bowed my head. My hands clasped together to catch my head as my arms rested upon my thighs. I should be happy, or, at the very least, unbothered. But, I was sad.
I remembered the first time I sat next to her. I remember the first time I held her hand. I pictured the first time she met my friends. I returned to the time she nut-checked me. All those moments and the fondness associated to them were disappearing. I shook my head and returned to the morbid present.
I rose to my feet. Noticing the time, I did a simple pat-down search of my clothes. My keys, wallet, and headphones were where they usually rested. I sighed, gathered my phone, shirt, water bottle, and jacket, and left.
My breathing felt light and short. I shook my head. This could not happen. I could not allow it. I would not cry over a girl I couldn’t have. One abrupt exhale and I was opening my car.
I wanted to say, “Good for her,” but I didn’t. Instead, I was struggling to go about the routine. I hated it. Why did I need to feel anything but joy for this woman? Yes, we were intimate. Yes, I loved her. Yes, I wanted to be with her. No, that wasn’t enough. Romance doesn’t prevent reality. Love does not overcome truth. Love rejoices in truth!
I asked about kids. I asked about passions. I asked about desires. I asked the questions I needed to ask and the answers didn’t fall in place. It’s okay. That happens in life. “But what is the truth? No one ever made me feel this way before.”
I scoffed and sat down in the car. I needed to get to work. I didn’t have time to think about this. I needed to control what I could control. She was moving on, and I had to keep moving, too. The first step: get to work on time.
I took off, and headed for the street. I was lulled back to the last time we shared a car ride on our way to get some good food. It was the beginning of a struggling day to try and save her birthday. Everything I planned to seemed to fail. She drove, not me. I swam in the pool, not her. She ordered hibachi when I wanted to cook Italian. I couldn’t even tell you what movie I picked, which must’ve meant that it wasn’t that good. That day, I truly felt like a failure, and today felt like a confirmation of that.
I looked forward and realized I was at the front of the complex. “It’s coming.” I began to breathe heavily. I pulled past the exit gate near the edge of the street. I looked towards the oncoming traffic. Water filled my eyes on a sunny day. I blinked several times and focused.
I pulled out into the street and looked ahead towards the light. My mind saw the drives we took down streets filled with mansions, the food we shared with each other, movies we watched in the theater, and dancing. Solid green became a smeared yellow and then a canvas of red.
One final gasp before the heart gripped the body and held it captive. The body retaliated, by halting the breathing, trying to wear the heart out. I had avoided it in the shower, and I avoided it on the edge of the bed where I first read her text. I didn’t start on the couch, and now I had to go to work. I couldn’t afford to weep!
Exhales were short bursts of whimpers while inhales were quick gasps for air. “I can’t hold on!” Quickly, I wiped the teardrops from the corners of my eyes, but just as quick as I had wiped them, they reappeared. My nose clogged up instantly, and my breathing was heavy with short interruptions of shaking. The light turned green and I drove ahead.
My car was quickly flooding with water. I couldn’t breathe. What would the drivers next to me think? Oh, poor, lonely man driving down the street. Poor, broken man who still can’t find his queen. Poor, helpless romantic decades away from his wife. Poor, lost soul unable to find the thing he has always wanted even when looking at her for months.
“Did I make the right choice?” “Why didn’t I see how much she meant to me?” “Am I an idiot?” “Do I deserve to cry?” “Why can’t you just be happy for her?” “You had your chance.” “Why do you cry? Did you really care for her?” “What would God think of you crying this way?” “Was this love or was this selfishness?” “Was this heartache or was this a tantrum?”
I kept telling myself it was okay and that I’d be fine, and that I was happy for her. All of the gentle hopes led me to the highway. I entered the highway and found myself crying uncontrollably. I hadn’t felt such a confusing sorrow in my life. Of course, she was leaving. She didn’t have to, nor did she deserve to, stick around and wait for me to change my mind. My foresight could not see a good end. It was right of me to let go. Yet, here I was, driving, crying, and speeding.
I cried out, “God, help me,” barely able to function as I was driving. “Please,” I begged him. I desperately needed to get control. For the safety of those around me and for the protection of my privacy.
As if waiting beside me, I felt the presence of God instantly. My breath stilled to gentle shakes. The well of tears from my eyes dried up. Each breath felt more relaxing than the last. A steady wave of peace poured over me. The distress was gone, and I was able to drive smoothly. I breathed slowly, deeply, and calmly. I felt Him calling. “Talk to Me. Tell Me what’s hurting.”
As I drove, I admitted that she had become more to me than I ever thought she would be. She made me feel loved, wanted, and like my true self. For years, I had considered myself to be a husband without a wife. I remembered lying in her bed thinking, “I could do this for the rest of my life.” I knew she would if I only pressed, but the pit of sorrow between us required the sacrifice of fatherhood. What woman was ever worth my children? Logically, I said none, but the heart wept nonetheless.
I didn’t want to go back to having no one to be interested in. I didn’t want to go back to meeting someone new for the first time. I didn’t want to go back to anything. When a man has walked through the desert for years, you’d have to forgive him for wanting to stay at the oasis he stumbles upon in the sand. You’d have to understand if he didn’t realize it wasn’t an oasis at all, but the ocean, lake, or, river he had longed for. She was the place I could build a village from, but I was too accustomed to the life of a nomad – a nomad who rarely stopped to speak with others.
After being so surefooted about every woman I’ve dealt with, the feeling of discombobulation was both refreshing and troubling. Was this the risk everyone else took when they found love? Who else came to this crossed road when their heart shouted, “Leap!”, or, “Turn back!”?
I thought about a former coworker of mine from a long time ago. He was taller than me and much gentler. I’d dare say he was the first gentle giant I had ever met. He showed me pictures of his family. He had a wife and two children, and the children were not from his seed. He made that choice, and he seemed happy with his decision. Could I be that man? I just didn’t know.
Like a friend who knows He needed to say nothing, God merely lingered in the car with me as I shuffled from thought to thought. I wasn’t sniffing anymore, but the snot was still there. I wasn’t crying anymore, but my eyes were still red. Was this the first stage of acceptance, or was I doing as all men do and burying my feelings?
Still upset, still blinking frequently, and still observing my breathing, I pulled into the parking lot. I hid my face from my coworkers as I contemplated how to go forward. It shouldn’t feel like I was losing everything but it felt like I was losing everything. I was filled with sorrow.
Still, I said, “Thank You.”
I was drowning in sorrow, and the Lord, as He had always done, comforted me. It didn’t occur to me that this had become an easy thing for us. I would run to Him quickly, and He would comfort me quickly. I no longer doubted that He could or would. I fully expected it. That, was the saving grace of the day.
I opened the car door, wiping my eyes one final time. It was time to “man up” as they say. Thus, I threw my jacket over my shoulder, locked my car, and walked to work. I held all the pain I felt inside and put on a brave enough face to have no questions asked of me. I was in mourning.
She told me I was easy to love. She walked beside me, ready to be a helpmeet. I was emboldened by her strength and inspired by her perseverance. I was challenged by the things God showed her. She had done more for me in a half a year than what others had done for me in years. If there ever was such a thing as regret, I’d imagine it felt like that. I cried three more times that day, and each time, the Lord was right there to comfort me. Sorrow dries a full heart like the desert dries the mouth of a man leaving the oasis.