Having spent the last couple of days driving east across the country to Minnesota, I had on my hands a lot of time. Time to read, time to listen to music, time to do crossword puzzles and sing to Manhattan Transfer with my family as we drive, and time to think and dream.
Somewhere in northern Minnesota yesterday morning, after rolling out of Fargo, I was nearly asleep, leaning on the windowsill with my headphones in, not thinking terribly hard, just kind of drifting around, landing on Matt-thoughts every once in a while, when a thought struck me like a fist.
He really loved you, it said.
At first I was incredulous. He did not! Look at how brutally he broke up with me, and how he never considered the relationship permanent! Look at how distant he was, how unwilling he was to open up to me! He didn’t love me!
But I think I’m wrong. As I have been wrong for a while.
Part of forgiveness is accepting that they have done something wrong. I did fine with that. It was no trouble for me to recognize his mistakes, his offenses. In my defense I did manage to forgive them, but I saw them first and foremost.
What I failed to see were his successes. He didn’t actively try not to love me. He didn’t try to sabotage it, he just ended it. It’s easy to forgive someone you thought was out to hurt you. It’s not so easy to realize that they weren’t, necessarily.
It’s not easy to not be angry at him. And to be honest he isn’t the most relationally successful human being I’ve ever known (actually, have I known any of those?).
Patterson tried to explain to me a couple times, as did Hannah, I think, that “Matt is hurting over this too, Erika.” And although I dislike even acknowledging it, perhaps more, because he internalized it more than I did. (Guys do that. So do I. But I’ve been learning not to. I think.)
In the bedtime story that Derek wrote for me the other day he gave an excellent illustration of some of the people who loved me when I needed to be loved. But he left out a handful, like my parents and Montana and Tanner – well, in his defense, I tended to just feel the presence of anyone about me as love. Even though it was Derek and Hannah and Patterson who helped the most, the people who made me laugh, who helped me live outside myself, who helped me keep busy and have things to think about, helped as well.
I’m tangenting. The point is, Matt probably kept it to himself for the most part. I won’t presume to know, but I will presume to assume that he didn’t talk about it very much to very many people.
Anyway, the point is that I did not pay enough attention to the fact that Matt was not a total deadbeat, not a jerk, not any of those things – he’s just a human. I don’t have to ignore the fact that he gave up far too easily; I don’t have to ignore the fact that he got into the relationship for the wrong reasons (though I did too). But while I cannot ignore his mistakes (and don’t, usually), I also cannot ignore his successes. And I cannot deny that, for a little while at least, he tried to love me, too.
Every once in a while on the Internet someone says something again about how your first love deserves no special remembrance for being anything else than first. “Give a big round of applause to your second love,” they say, “for they’re the ones who taught you that love was possible when you thought it never would be again.”
While I don’t believe in putting things in boxes, and first loves can teach anything as can second ones, this is a good point. I was desperate and lonely and sad when Hannah suggested it. I was elated when it happened. Every moment I spent with him was a shining miracle. I can love, I thought. I can be loved. I can in fact do this. What do you know. It was like coming out of the darkness. I was beautifully, unconsciously, ridiculously happy.
Of course, that’s why it was such a letdown when it ended, and I blamed myself for having illusions and thinking that THIS WAS IT. But it wasn’t wrong. It just was. So at least, I suppose, I can thank him (I’m hoping with all of me that I can finally close the Matt-box and stop blogging about it when I get to college), because finally, with him, I got to realize that love was still possible, even if it wasn’t possible for us. I’m not making any sense.
Either way, here we are. And who knows – we may run into each other again. Doors are open. But I won’t presume to presume anything down the road. That was my favorite Steve Earle song throughout North Dakota the other day. If it ain’t here, it’s down the road.
And even if Matt is down the road, something (someone) else is bound to be, too.
So that’s good to know. Funny how an uncertain future can be so reassuring. But that’s a whole other blog post, ya know?