People say, “Time heals all wounds.” My grandmother used to say it. My mom has said it to me. I’ve seen it on the internet, and I’ve heard it, once or twice, from friends. It’s such a common phrase that there are people who accept it as fact. I used to be one of them, but it’s not true. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to feel better about our pain.
In high school, I had one boyfriend. Yes, only one. We started dating within the first month of our 9th grade year, and our relationship didn’t come to an end until midway through the summer after our senior year. I thought that I loved him. Maybe I did. It’s more likely it was just limerence, born of our high school hormones and my need to be needed by someone.
Kyle was not the most attractive guy in the school, but to me, he was. He wasn’t the kindest, either, but I didn’t care, because he was kind enough. He wasn’t good at sports or games or a musical instrument, and he only did average in school. I didn’t care. He told me he loved me, and that was enough. I cringe to say it now, but I would have given my life for him, or at least said that I would, when we were together.
If I ever have a daughter, I would tell her not to get into a relationship like mine. It was too serious for high school. Yes, it’s important to learn about social interactions and the politics of relations with others in high school, but I feel like I missed out on a lot. I dedicated way too much time and thought to spending my whole life with Kyle. He wasn’t worth that, and I wish I could have seen so at the time.
We were happy enough together. Well, I was happy. I was utterly enamored with him, and it didn’t really matter what he did or whether it should have contented me, I still wanted to be with him. When he told me, the first week of our sophomore year, that I’d gained too much weight over the summer and that he was embarrassed by it, I put in a huge effort to slim down. When he told me, after I got a new, short haircut that I thought made me look really cute, that I looked too much like a boy, I grew my hair back out again and berated myself day after day in the mirror for making such an awful mistake.
Was Kyle happy? It’s hard to say. I don’t mean that I don’t know for certain, which is what that phrase usually means. I mean that it’s literally hard for me to talk about, because it makes me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I believe two things: Yes, there were times when his relationship with me brought him joy, especially in the beginning; and no, overall, he was not happy, which is why our relationship ended.
We went on a lot of dates, the first two years. We went to movies. We hung out at the park. Kyle came over to my house for dinner, or I went over to his. We played video games together, or I just sat and watched him play online, since I wasn’t good enough to play as competitively as he liked. He came to my family events, like Thanksgiving and our family reunion. My grandmother thought he was hilarious and sweet.
During our junior year, we began to get together less. We still went on dates, and he still came over, but the time we spent together suffered a noticeable reduction. That was okay. Even at that age, I knew that a bright flame will eventually dim. I thought that it would settle down to a steady burn, and not peter out entirely. I was incorrect.
During our senior year, I began to feel like I barely saw him at all. If we hung out, it was at my insistence. I was the one who instigated all of our dates. He missed Thanksgiving at my house that year. I remember crying in my bedroom while my cousin tried to console me, though she was five years younger than me and she didn’t really understand why I was upset.
I found out, in the spring, that some of the time we weren’t spending together was time that Kyle had decided to spend with other people. It wasn’t that he was cheating on me. As far as I know, he never did. He was literally just spending time with friends of his, male and female alike, who weren’t me. This made me unreasonably jealous, because if he was somewhere enjoying himself, I was supposed to be there. That was how it had “always” been. I wanted it to continue.
I begged him to spend more time with me. I actually asked him to stop spending time with other people, so that he could make more room for me. It was pathetic. I could see it written on his face: he didn’t love me anymore. I annoyed him. If he felt anything for me, it was disgust, not love.
Some of how I was sure he felt was just highschool angst, but there was at least some kernel of truth to my thoughts, because that summer, he broke up with me. I can’t string together the whole conversation, but I remember shards of it.
“You’re just too much for me right now.”
“I want to be able to see other people.”
“I feel like I need to broaden my experiences, you know?”
“I just don’t feel like I love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.”
That last one, I could have gone without. I wish he hadn’t said it. It seems so cruel, even now, for someone to say those words to a person who had fallen so hard for them. It hurt more than anything else I’d felt up to that point, and it opened a wound inside me which has yet to heal.
Time doesn’t heal all wounds. It’s been twenty years, and the wound he tore into my heart is still open. It will probably never heal, but I don’t care. I hardly feel it anymore. Time doesn’t heal wounds, but it does numb them.
I saw Kyle at our highschool reunion. I thought that I would hate him, but I don’t. He’s just a guy that I used to love. We had a conversation about our spouses and our kids. It went fine. The whole time we spoke, I was aware of that wound in my chest, but I didn’t feel it. I just sort of knew it was there, like a missing limb. It will never recover, but at least it doesn’t hurt anymore.