I have closure with most of the men I’ve loved… except R because I never got to tell him yes, I did love him. Yes, he was exquisite. Yes, I would have given up everything he asked me to all those years ago if I’d just had another chance to tell him yes. That’s why I try to end every love story with a chapter full of “yesses”.
I try to remember that not all goodbyes are temporary. Not all goodbyes end in separation. Sometimes, they end in death. Sometimes, it’s suicide. Sometimes, it’s a grand job offer on the other side of the world. I’ve lost people to all of those things, and the only way I ever made those losses tolerable was by making sure they knew they were cherished.
R was my royal failure. I kept my feelings about him trapped in a cardboard box somewhere inside me where miracles never happened. The day he left, I knew we’d never see each other again. I was right—too damned right to forgive myself for my years of silence.
My mother died the long death: she had two years of it, and so I got years to say goodbye. The pre-emptive grief felt intolerable, but I will always be thankful for it now that she’s gone because I got to use every single word I had for her. I got to spoil her. I got to hear the answers to all my unresolvable questions.
Goodbye is a luxury we hardly ever get. Loss doesn’t carry a flair gun. It doesn’t come at the end of a well-marked path. Loss leaps out of nowhere and sucks out every drop of joy until you become a black hole of regret. Guilt soon follows, and it will turn toxins into necrosis before your dead loved one finds their place among the worms.
If I could choose one gift, it would be the ability to love perfectly, but that’s not a talent they dish out at birthday parties. You must learn it anew with every loss. Every single death has taught me a new failure, and so I slowly try to figure out how to make my treasured people feel loved. Maybe that’s the only way any of us learn it. Maybe R knew that. Maybe he even knew about every “yes”.