To The One That Got Away

Letters section lead by Jen Faulkner

This week’s letter needs no introduction, its writer simply said it’s best enjoyed with a glass of Pinot in hand, and Adele’s ‘Someone like you’ playing in the background…

To The One That Got Away,

You found me in the most unromantic of places: a dating app for gay men predominantly used for late-night hook-ups. Yet, against the odds, there we were instantly building a rapport. Messages bounced back and forth over an entire day before you asked me for my number, to which I happily obliged with a Cheshire cat grin.

The ensuing days were a stream of texted conversation. We learned the fundamental basics about each other. You learned I love the colour green, prefer dogs to cats, coffee to tea, and that my favourite food is pasta with an ample dose of grated parmesan. I learned that you love the colour orange, drink herbal teas and have an unfounded adoration of all kinds of bears, whilst your favourite food is salmon in a coconut and lime marinade. Most importantly, in those infant messages, we shared personal truths about our difficulties with self-esteem, and in trusting others and letting them in. We made promises to always treat each other with respect and care; being upfront and honest so as to never hurt one another.

Our messaging went on for days; it was surely some kind of world record! Then, after a week, I inadvertently called you whilst unlocking my front door. Knowing you hated telephone conversations, I promised I’d only stay on the line for a few minutes. That turned into eight hours. I cooked dinner; you did laundry, while we enjoyed a non-stop conversation telling stories of our lives. There were things I shared that night which haven’t left my head in years; stories not even my best friends know. You told me tales of life in your homeland, about heartbreak and your family’s discomfort of your sexual orientation. In between those truths, I learned so many other things; little, humanising things which made me fall for you even harder; like the way I heard the smile in your voice when you talked about your Mum and the way you got adorably sarcastic when embarrassed.We met for our first date the following day. It was spontaneous and unplanned and half an hour into a Saturday morning when I met you outside a nightclub. I felt not a single nerve, already knowing how well we got along. We had the perfect first date: we walked through Clifton, got take-out coffees from an all-night café, shared our first kiss on the Suspension Bridge, strolled hand-in-hand along the harbour. When we got to my car, we drove singing along to songs on the radio, getting greasy burgers from a diner, and eating them under the stars. I dropped you home at 7am, and by the time I got home myself; you’d already texted to tell me how you felt. Smitten. I felt the same. I felt myself, for possibly the first time in a decade, truly falling for someone, and for the first time in my entire life, it was abundantly clear that the feeling was mutual.

In the following weeks we enjoyed more dates and more conversation. We built up cutesy habits, like the first one awake always texting the other to wish them good morning. We talked about our futures: of ambitions and marriage and children. We made ridiculous, romanticised plans to tour the world together. It was completely clear that we were both heading towards the same goal.

A Saturday after it had barely begun, you were out with your friends, sending me drunken selfies with hashtags proclaiming ‘wish you were here.’ At 4am, you woke me with a drunken phone call, slurring your love of my smile and telling me you were off to a gay bar, but not to worry, “because the guy I’m into is on the phone with me and tucked up in bed!” I melted into my pillow, and awoke in the morning to a text telling me you’d be a “good boy” and couldn’t wait to speak to me later.

And you never spoke to me again.

My reply, wishing you well with your hangover, sat ignored for hours. When you didn’t reply that day, I brushed it aside, hoping you’d been too worse-for-wear to manage communication. But when you didn’t reply the following day, or the day after that, I knew that we were over.

At first, I felt confusion and sadness and disappointment. We weren’t boyfriends. Our relationship wasn’t remotely long-term. But we had promised to be honest and not hurt one another, yet here I was, left feeling unclear, confused and hurt. I found myself checking my phone, hoping you’d finally got in contact. I chastised myself for every time I’d teased you or told you something too personal. I re-read messages, played back conversations, desperately searching for the answer to my question: what did I do wrong?

After a week of beating myself up, I gave in and texted you. I was honest and hopeful. I asked you to tell me what had happened. I asked if there was any way to repair the damage. And when you didn’t reply to that message either, it finally hit me: you’re actually an asshole.

For others, that realisation might have be the closure they needed, and it certainly helped motivate me to delete your messages, block you on dating apps and remove you from my Facebook feed.

But whilst this helped me achieve these small victories, I’ve found it isn’t enough to deal with the continuing battles you’ve left behind. No matter how many times I call you names, it doesn’t relieve me of the self-doubt I now feel about myself. Having worked so hard to get myself into a place where I was ready to begin dating again, you’ve managed to completely unravel all the good I’d done. I now can’t face the idea of meeting another new person, in fear that they too will tire of me; discarding me and my feelings the way you so readily did. Your absence has reinforced the notion that I am obviously a completely worthless person.

In a perfect world, I could despise you and wish you misery, but despite everything, I’ll always be ridiculously fond of you, and wish nothing more than for you to find your happiness…you a**hole.

Yours, The One That Was Left Behind.

Keep sending your letter to Jen Faulkner by email

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