Written by Anya Ryan
Illustrated by The Sketch Room
“When will I see you?” I asked him through a face full of tears, “er, I don’t know, probably never, I guess”.
As I watched him walk away for the final time from my bedroom window, the intense pain of him leaving my life forever almost didn’t feel true. After nearly six years could this really be the end? He’d always said we’d never desert each other. That somehow, whatever happened between us, we would find a way through.
We were the kind of couple that people had faith in. The kind you’d never assume would end up with anyone else, and whose wedding you’d definitely be invited to in five years because it wasn’t possible to find anyone more suited to us than each other.
From the day he stayed in my single bed after trying and failing to sleep with me after our first course night out at University, there was something about him that made me feel comfortable. We started as friends. I let him confide in me about the girl he liked on our course, while secretly hoping that he’d wake up and realise that maybe we were the ones who actually belonged together. And after what felt like months of constant texting, talking and watching a lot of repeats of Geordie Shore while eating supermarket pizzas, he did, and I fell hard.
For a while, it was everything. He was the perfect companion. The type who would stay up all night with me and hold my hands as I cried on the toilet with a urine infection. Who would surprise me with a banoffee pie if I’d had a bad day because he knew it was my favourite dessert. Who would tell me I looked beautiful especially in the mornings when we’d just woken up. Who would get on the bus he didn’t need to so we could keep talking for just that little bit longer. I’d struck gold and everyone knew it.
My friends try to remind me that I’m only remembering the good times. That not every day was like this fairy tale and one day all this pain will be a distant memory. But it certainly doesn’t feel like that now, because right now, he is everywhere. He’s there in the memory of our joint order as I look for a takeaway to accompany me as I watch yet another episode of Sex and the City. He’s there as my phone refuses to vibrate with texts from him no matter how much I will it to. He’s there in the empty space in my bed as I cry myself to sleep.
I stalk his social media for signs that he’s missing me. Hints that maybe, just maybe, he’ll decide, that this is all one big mistake and we should give it another go. Hoping that he’s still got the photo I took of him on our holiday last year as his profile picture because it means he remains bound to me somehow. Praying that the same picture isn’t being used on dating apps to lure strangers into what was once our bed. I wonder if he still thinks about me. If he, too, is still writing out long texts filled with love declarations then frantically pressing delete.
There are days when I think everything is going to be okay. Days when I think that I wouldn’t want to be with someone who could rip out and stamp on my heart with such ease anyway. But mostly, I just think about all the time we’ve missed. If he’s still wearing the shirt we called the ‘going out one’ every time he leaves the house past 9pm? If he’s asking someone else for advice on what he really wants to eat? Whether he’s repeating our in-jokes as if they were his sole creation?
When the reality of losing the person you’ve loved for so long hits you, your memories of them become inescapable.
The time he laughed so much he cried at my dad’s outward disappointment with my restaurant dessert order. The way he’d give me a personal fashion show whenever he’d buy new clothes. All the Sundays spent curled up, intertwined, hungover, watching episode after episode of Four in a Bed. The feeling of the first ‘I love you’ which he accidentally texted to me, drunk. How he could never iron his shirts properly. All the times we lay beside each other and said we’d never want anyone else.
Forgetting someone you gave yourself to, isn’t just difficult, it’s near impossible. But that doesn’t mean the pain will never pass. When you have your heartbroken, the deep cracks left open are stitched together with positivity from those around you.
Messages from your school friends saying that they’ll visit you to keep you company at the weekends. Rom-Com recommendations so you can really let yourself indulge. Wine filled sleepovers, where you’ll get too drunk, cry, and wake up with a headache. Long phone calls, check-ins, and reminders that being single isn’t, actually, going to lead you to an early grave.
Learning to enjoy your own company is a readjustment, but it’s also a privilege. I’ve read more books than I’ve ever read, watched films I’ve always wanted to see, I’ve tried painting, baking, writing – I’ve even tried to restyle some of my old clothes, though I won’t be doing that again. And while it’s all still very raw and fresh, I’m still taking little steps towards progress, so I know that very soon, it’s all going to be okay.
Anya is a television researcher from Birmingham who has relocated to London. She has an interest in all things culture and enjoys reading and writing in her spare time.
Edited by Stephanie Kleanthous