Late last Friday night, I was trying to fall asleep. By then it was around midnight, and I wanted to get up fairly early on Saturday morning. Then a a memory came back to me like a punch in the gut. I have no idea where it came from, other than the general low mood I’d had that day and the couple of days preceding it. The memory was from when I was at university, 10 years ago to this month. Since then, I’ve been sitting on this blog post, wondering what to do with it. I still don’t know if it’s a good idea, and I might delete it later or tomorrow or whatever. But here’s the story. And I think it goes some way to explaining who I am, and the experiences I’ve had in life.
Once upon a time, there was a third year university student who was in love with one of her closest friends. She told him how she felt, and this is where the story ends.
Towards the end of my third year, our third year, I’d decided to tell him how I felt. It was about time, it had gone on long enough. I knew nothing good would come of it, he’d had enough time to ask me out, and I wanted to try and move on. It was the night of the university’s graduation ball (even though we we weren’t in our final year yet, he’d gone with friends); and for whatever reason, my logic in the days running up to it was to tell him late that night when he was at the event. I probably thought that the alcohol he would have consumed would have made it easier for him. I phoned him, ‘I’ve got something I need to tell you’ I told him. I still remember my tone of voice, the feeling of resignation, the dread in the pit of my stomach. He couldn’t hear me. So I sent him a text.
I didn’t hear anything from him that night. Or the following day. Or during the following weeks. It was as if he’d disappeared off the face of the earth. The graduation ball was only a few days away from the end of term, and the end of the academic year. I packed up my stuff, and went back to Wales with a broken heart.
That summer, the one before the start of our final year, we all had to go abroad for a certain amount of time, depending on our degree courses. I had to go to Italy for a month, and had chosen to go to a language school in Pisa. I still remember seeing his Facebook statuses during that summer, and photos of his time in both France and Italy. It was like a stab in the heart, he was no longer telling me these things directly, even though we’d been so close in the past.
One of the clearest memories I have from that month in Pisa, very nearly 10 years on, is seeing this song by an Italian artist, and this song by a British band on MTV and crying my heart out. Even now, looking back to that summer, the memories I have of Pisa and the experiences I had during that month are still tinged with sadness.
In the month and a half I had after coming back home from Pisa before the start of the final year, I went on a diet. Your typical heartbroken reaction, right? I got down to a size 10, the smallest I’d been up to that point, and I was so proud of myself. I remember wearing a new stripey jumper and black jeans on the first day of term at a meeting for all the final year students in the Italian department. I was sat on the end of a row of chairs, and he was somewhere behind me. Before the meeting actually started, he said something to me, that I looked well, or something along those lines. The first words I’d heard from him in over three months. But that was it, things were icy. Communication between us during that first term was minimal, nothing like how inseparable we had been in lectures during our first year. I also purposely distanced myself, hoping that seeing him less would be better for me. I purposely chose language classes he wasn’t in – due to the amount of students in our year, language and translation classes were held at different times – but there was one I couldn’t avoid taking because of other clashes with my timetable. I remember the feeling of some of those lessons, like there was an elephant in the room. We were sat at opposite ends, or far away, not saying a word to each other.
Our friendship had completely changed. Even now, I keep thinking, how much did people notice? When I eventually told some of my closest friends that I’d been in love with someone of our wider group of friends from our year, they said they didn’t know. But I find it difficult to believe that they didn’t have some kind of inkling.
Things only thawed after one Saturday night out at the beginning of December. I texted him asking if we could be friends, and he said that it’d be a ‘good idea’, and we arranged to meet. Even though I’d tried to distance myself from him, I missed him. I missed his company as a friend, I missed talking to him. So we met up, a couple of days later, if I remember correctly. It wasn’t quite as awkward as I thought it would be, but it just wasn’t the same. I could tell he wasn’t comfortable, and I wasn’t either.
After that, my life at university very much changed. In the time I’d distanced myself from him, I’d got to know my other friends better and spent more time with them. I socialised more, I went out more, and even though my finals were looming, I had so much fun. I just wish I’d done it sooner, instead of fixating on someone that could never have been more than a friend to me.
I never asked why he didn’t reply to the text I’d sent him, I just couldn’t face bringing it up; and he didn’t offer any explanation, either. And every time I saw him afterwards it was at the back of my mind. The proof that he wasn’t such a good person, after all. I remember having a certain feeling of wariness when I spent time with him during the last few months of our final year, as if I was waiting for him to snap at me or insult me. But he never did. It was as if it he were a different person to the one who disappeared for months.
That was the most difficult heartbreak I’ve been through, and I’ve been through more than my fair share of harsh rejections in life. It’s difficult to be always optimistic when you’ve spent nearly your entire life single. Right now it feels like I don’t even have the faintest glimmer of hope shining off in the distance. It’s easy to relive past disappointments, and wonder what – if anything – you could’ve done differently, better. To imagine a life in an alternative universe. Yes, it wasn’t meant to be, I can see that. He treated me in such a disrespectful way because I’d dared to develop feelings for him. But still, sometimes I wish that he’d just given me a chance. I was constantly trying to show him my best side, that I was worthy, but it didn’t work. And knowing that has left a scar that might never truly heal. But saying that, it doesn’t hurt anymore, it was 10 years ago, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. But it’s still sad that it happened. It’s sad that, even though we were good friends, my physical appearance or my personality or whatever it was, well, repulsed him, it seems. Experiences like this can have a profound impact on your personality and your way of seeing yourself – if you let them, and especially if you have a string of them. And I let this one.