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Hindsight is always 20/20

20/20: A Diary of Our Relationship from the Finish Line

Carolyn Soto

Day 1:

You were perfect. You were everything I ever needed. I didn’t want to hurt anymore; I didn’t want to feel the pain of heartbreak, the sting of rejection. I just wanted to be happy, simply and irrevocably happy. You were going to provide that for me. You were uncomplicated and you made me laugh like I hadn’t been able to do in months. I was going to use you to erase the past couple of weeks from my memory. I was going to be happy – no matter what it took.

Day 5:

Today I became yours. It’s funny as I look back on it now how pure and innocent we were at that time. How happy we made each other, how simple our lives once were. You took my hand, looked me in the eye, and asked. I couldn’t do anything but smile and nod because my words were stunted by my joy. Today it begins – everything that I had been hoping for.

Days 6-85

Everything was going well.

Everything was going well except for me. I was terrified of you but not because of you (not yet anyway). I’ve never been able to commit. I blame him for that – for scarring my heart beyond repair. You were beyond happy to be with me and I – I was falling out of love with you. It was simply a precaution on my part. I leave before being left and the time was coming for me to make my departure. I fought to keep you for as long as I could but my head was spinning out of control and I couldn’t put a stop to it.

Day 94:

I did it.

Today I did it. I called you on the phone (like I did every night) and I did it. I told you that I just couldn’t be with you anymore. That it wasn’t about you. That I was scared – too scared to stay involved with someone. I wished you well and I hung up the phone. I cried myself to sleep. I was crushed. But I’d rather break my own heart than have someone else do the job.

Day 100:

You can barely look at me. You avoid my gaze in the hall like the plague. You’ve slowly returned all of our stuff, all the pictures, all of the memories. I never understood why it was always my job to hang on to our memories when all you ever wanted to do was get rid of them?

Our friends have become your friends. You have everyone and I have no one. A part of my heart twinges every time I see your face. I face I love(d).

Day 156:

Today was your birthday. I wrote you a poem that I’ll never give you.

She gave you a card.

I was stupid to think you wouldn’t move on. Why would you hang on to something that wasn’t going to hang on to you? But her? Why couldn’t you have chosen someone else…someone who wasn’t my best and only friend? Today was the day I realized I had been stupid and careless and immature. Today was the day that I realized I had to get you back.

Day 134:

For the first time I was angry with you. Today was the first day that I will ever be pissed off when it comes to something you’ve said. You allowed me to spend time with our (used to be) best friends. You gave me permission like I was some sort of child. I almost declined the offer to spend time at the beach with everyone (your friends).

But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I missed you and your stupid jokes.

All I wanted to do was laugh and be happy again.

Day 138:

Today was my birthday.

You got me a card and a present. You gave it to me with a small, childlike smile on your face and told me ‘Happy Birthday.’ It was a stuffed animal pig – my favorite animal – and card which you signed with your adolescent scrawl. I treasured it. I went home and placed it on my dresser so that I could look at it every day.

I was smiling.

I was laughing.

I was happy again.

Day 145:

Today was the first day that you’ve ever truly hurt me. It was the first day you ever ripped my heart out of my chest and stepped on it. You were supposed to leave tomorrow morning but the bombs got in the way. Literally. That’s the (not-so) funny thing about spending a month of your summer in the Middle East – you can’t really do it when the airport has been bombed. So plans were rearranged – I’d simply give you the care package I was going to send halfway across the world.

Until you said what you said.

You called me a bitch, said I was fickle and flaky and that you were tired of my bullshit. What’s (not-so) funny about it? You never meant to send it to me. You were talking to my best friend and said to me what you were going to say to her – about me. My heart stopped beating as I read the words that had appeared on my computer screen. I was breathing shakily as I typed my response.

Your electronic apology was bullshit.

Day 146:

I dropped the care package off on your doorstep. I wanted to set it on fire. You called when I was five minutes down the road. You told me it was sweet. I told you it was nothing (Lies. I spent days making that stupid box, hours writing the letters that I had placed inside of it) and hung up on you.

I called back.

Ten minutes later. So I could apologize for being a bitch and to tell you that I still loved you.

Today was the day I made the biggest mistake of my life.

Day 148:

We were back together. I came over to your house to spend time with you and you asked me. You grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye and asked.

I nodded and smiled.

I was unimpressed with your originality but I couldn’t complain. Everything I had wanted the last couple of months was mine again.

I just didn’t realize how much you’d changed.

Day 152:

Today was our first big fight. You grilled me about what had happened when we were apart. I told you the truth. You got angry. You called me names. I left your house. I cried all the way back to my own.

I vowed never to make you angry again.

You called later that night to apologize. Interestingly enough I apologized too. I apologized for telling you the truth upsetting you everything.

Day 153:

I woke up today a little less myself than yesterday. I frowned.

Day 165:

Another big fight. More name calling. More crying. More apologizing.

I find it odd that no matter how much you yelled at me I was the one always apologizing to you.

Day 166:

I woke up today a little less myself than yesterday. I cried.

Days 174-201

The pattern repeats itself. We argue, you yell, and then I apologize. Every day I wake up and feel less like the person I used to be. I don’t really remember when it happened or why but I began to change. I started to suppress everything that made me who I was. I started giving up everything about myself to make you happy, to appease you, to make you stay with me.

Day 223:

I used to love acting. It was my passion. But you destroyed it. Senior year – it was my big year. Everything was perfect about it – except that I had to pretend to be in love with someone else. You fought me over it. You thought that I was going to cheat on you, that I was going to leave you again. You thought I was a whore (and I believed you).

You ruined that play for me.

Opening night. I remember it so vividly. I remember it because I couldn’t bear to look at you one single time when I was on that stage. I was afraid to see your face, to see you ashamed of me.

I haven’t set foot on a stage since that play. My love for acting was lost. It was the first thing I gave up for you. The first deeply personal sacrifice I made to keep you happy, to keep you around.

Days 227-300

The friends came next. I had given up acting but my friends were your next demand. I was required to spend my time with you, talking to you, thinking about you and time spent with other people was time wasted. I gave up so many people that deeply cared about me to make you happy, to stop the yelling and the arguments.

I burned more bridges than I knew I had to cross.

Day 312:

Today you crushed me. I didn’t call at the exact time that I said I would and you called me. You got angry, you yelled, you broke up with me. I hung up the phone and cried. For the first time I cried in front of my mother about how terrible our relationship had been. It was admitting that I had been an idiot, that I had been stupid to put my trust in you, to love you, and it was the most painful thing I ever had to do. You controlled me, you ran my life, and in your absence I was going to make things better.

Day 313:

I showed up at school with a present I had bought you (a CD you had really wanted – I was always spending money on you even when you didn’t deserve it).

You showed up expecting me to forgive you instantaneously – you expected a hug.

But I stood up for myself. I told you ‘No’ and gave you your CD. We argued at lunch that day and every day after that for a week and a half. People stared at us as we openly screamed at each other – as you openly insulted me and called me names. I usually left early to cry in the bathroom. Sometimes those tears followed me to class. My teacher asked me if I needed help but I told her no, that I was just upset over the break-up.

I should have said yes.

Day 318:

I met a nice boy. We’re friends. He loves to act. He likes me just the way I am.

And you hate him.

I could see it in your eyes – you hated him.

Well I hated her – your distraction (because let’s face it – all of those people were just distractions of us). I hated her for having you.

Day 335:

Today I confronted you about things you’d said about me. You denied them. I still hear them.

You thought I was fat.

You thought I was a dyke.

You were such a bastard. But I loved you unfortunately unconditionally all the same.

Day 337:

I talked to you yesterday during lunch. I told you that I missed you (I’m a glutton for punishment). You said you’d missed me too but that you couldn’t trust me. So today I sat down in my own bathroom and sobbed. I cried because I needed you so terribly. Without you I had nothing because I had given you everything. I had lost my passions, I had lost my drive, I had lost everything that made me who I was. You – you were my everything.

Day 339:

I called you to come see me during work. We talked for half an hour. We got back together.

There were no words this time – you kissed me and I accepted that we were together again.

It would be different this time. No lies. No arguments.

I was only lying to myself.

Day 345:

Someone spread a rumor about me. They told you I’d slept with someone while we were apart.

It was a lie. You accused me anyway. You put me through my own personal hell before breaking up with me…again.

I cried in my mother’s arms. I sobbed that this time was the last time. I turned off my phone (the only connection between us) and cried myself to sleep as my mother comforted me.

Day 346:

I turned my phone on and saw that you had called four times and left me two messages. You wanted to meet with me to talk. You said to call you back. I called you and told you to meet me at our spot, our park, the place we used to go to escape (my purgatory). I told my mom that I was leaving, that I had to fix things. She let me go.

She followed me to the park. She called my dad who showed up moments later. I felt so violated. I felt so caged, so constricted. I wanted to make my mistakes in private – I wanted to suffer his anger without the intrusion of anyone else. The name calling, the yelling, the accusations weren’t real when I was dealing with it by myself. The second someone else stepped in was the second it felt real, too real, too unbearable.

We got back together…again.

Day 354:

It was the first time you ever got violent with me. We were arguing. You called me ‘bullshit’ and I slapped you. My body had reacted before I could even think to stop it. You grabbed me by the arms. I thought they were going to bruise. I cried and begged you not to leave me.

I begged for you to stay. I apologized for hitting you.

I groveled for ‘us’ like my life depended on it.

Day 365:

Your graduation party. The second time you ever got violent with me. We argued in your driveway because I had to go to another friend’s graduation party. You wanted me to stay at your party but I’d promised to go see my friend (a bridge I’ve since burned beyond repair). I told you I was sorry but that I had to go. You cursed me out. Then you pushed me. Hard. In front of all our friends. In front of your family. I didn’t say anything about it. I just got in my car and left.

My friend later told me that she had been terrified for me. She said, “If he’s willing to push you like that in front of people, then God knows what he would do in private.”

He’d never hit me. But that didn’t stop him from pushing me, from grabbing my arms roughly to make a point, from tearing down my confidence, from destroying who I had worked so hard to become.

But he’d never hit me.

Day 387:

College. It was going to be the death of us. You were going to college in Lebanon (you had to go there because your father refused to pay for school anywhere else) and I was going to Bryn Mawr. We had plans to make it work. But there were rules. I couldn’t be friends with boys and I couldn’t go to parties or drink. Those things would turn me into a whore.

Your exact words.

I was nothing in your eyes but a cheap slut.

And I saw me the way you saw me. I was trash. I deserved to be talked to like that. I deserved to be controlled.

I just didn’t want to be alone.

Day 403:

I had been at school for a week and we’d already argued on the phone every day. It was my duty to call you every single fucking day and tell you about my life. To tell you that I hadn’t met any boys, that I hadn’t been to any parties, that I was sitting in my room missing you like my life depended on it.

But I realized something (it was especially poignant when I was sitting in my room listening to the people who I should be bonding with were bonding without me) I realized that I was different. I realized that I was holding myself back, that I was hiding myself from everyone, that I was a puppet controlled by the man that I loved. I told him I wasn’t sure we’d last but that he should come visit me anyway. He told me he didn’t want that visit to be the last time I saw him. I almost told him not to come.

Day 410:

I broke it off. I called you and told you that it was over. I was tired of being controlled. I was tired of being talked down to all the time. I was tired of being a shell of my former self. I was tired of crying, lying, feeling ashamed for being who I was, and most of all I was tired of apologizing for your insane jealousy and anger.

Day 411:

Today I woke up and felt a little bit like my old self. I smiled.

My life resumed. But it was never the same. I was never the same. Our happy memories have been tainted by the terrible ones. My joy is marred by my anger, sadness, regret. I wrote you something once – months after we’d broken up for the final time. I never showed it to you and I never planned on it. I leave it here in an attempt to finalize the cathartic process that has consumed the last couple of years. I wasted almost three years on our relationship and its fallout. But now it’s time. I’m tired of disappointing myself by being disappointed in you.

For the first time I can see myself with my own eyes.

Dear ______,

The strive for perfection. It drove me mad. It consumed me. It destroyed me. My life became routine, predictable, monotonous, like a mathematical-

but I was never any good at math

-equation (different numbers went in but the same numbers came out). All I ever wanted was your approval, your praise, your love. It was the hardest test I ever took. But I strove for it. I studied hard, I made sacrifices, I gave you everything, all of me every day (and you never gave any of it back). I put everything into making you stay, I dug my heels into the dirt and pulled.

But you left…

You left anyway. And you took everything with you. Every word, every gesture, every small and insignificant moment – was yours. I hold on to you (your things) like they’ll bring you back to me. I still look at all of our pictures, listen to all of our songs, tell all of our jokes, thinking that the constant reminder will be enough to find you. It isn’t.

You left me like a shell. Pretty on the outside, a little bit worn but worthy none the less, completely hollow on the inside. I go through the motions of everyday life, motions that I learned under your tutelage. You demanded a certain amount of perfection, an amount that I fought tooth and nail to exhibit. There are rules, and expectations, do’s and do not’s. The list became exhaustive, I began to forget. I slipped up once or twice. I made you angry with me. I never did it again. I hide my imperfections behind a wall. My emotions, my expectations, and my dreams went with them.

I did what I had to.

I did what I had to so that you would stay.

I did what was needed.

I did what was needed of me to keep you by my side.

I did it all.

I did it all for you.

The easiest way to avoid mistakes was to be in your shoes. To look at myself as you saw me, as you imagined me, as you expected me to be. But what I saw disappointed me. I never appeared strong enough, pretty enough, good enough. I was weak, I was ugly, I wasn’t what you wanted me to be.

After you left I pushed harder. I fought harder. I begged. I pleaded.

I needed you to be me. I need your eyes to see myself.

I was pathetic. You left me a shell and I grew into a machine.