Before 10 days ago, I had only broken up with a boy once.
We were 15, having the relationship everybody wanted to have. We went bowling on weekends with our group of friends, and we all drank fizzy ice slushies whilst the girls tied themselves in knots on the dance machines and the boys tried to win stuffed toys from the grabber machines to prove their masculinity. Some weekends we went to the cinema, for which the seating arrangements took up all the school lunchtimes that week prior. We danced all the time, to the Macarena and 5,6,7,8, drank alcopops until we could persuade ourselves the room was spinning. We’d sneak off into bedrooms or quiet corners, or lonely park benches or empty classrooms, and carefully and nervously learn the curves and dips of a body totally different to our own. Kissing was all we had – a feel on top of layers of clothing perhaps the height of expectation. Occasionally you could lose everyone and begin to discover what being a female with a male meant, but it was child’s play really; no more than the doctors and nurses games that we’d only grown out of a few years before. But we were in love, or maybe lust, and those nights sparked and flickered with the newness of our feelings. At the end of the night, we linked fingers in the back seat of an adult’s car as they drove us to our front doors, an unspoken arrangement amongst parents that they’d take it in turns to deposit their only-just-teenagers back home safe.
When that relationship ended, there was a tangible loss. Battle lines were drawn, sides were chosen. Girls chose between loyalty or their own lust; boys chose the side which their crush chose. The cinema trips and the dance parties stopped overnight. There was fighting, crying, hormonal emotion poured out on myspace and text messages, pumped out through the speakers of school computers as we tried to find songs to give us words to a loss we hadn’t experienced before. It happened on a school bus, on the way home from a school trip, 3 days before my 16th birthday party. In the service station, my friends gathered around, declaring him an arsehole and promising me that he wouldn’t ruin my party.
As it turned out, he didn’t. Because at that party, I had my first dance with the boy I thought I would spend all my dances with.
I can see the grief in that first break up. I can see the loss. It was childish and materialistic, but it was tangible and real, and for my 15 year old self it like totally sucked right? But I cannot see why I am grieving right now.
I am grieving for the wedding we will never get to have. I have spent the last seven years dreaming of that moment where he would turn and see me in my dress and the look in his eyes would be everything I needed to know. I have pictured over and over again the way we would dance our first dance to our song, the speeches our family would make, the way people would tell embarrassing stories about us because it has always been us. I am grieving for the morning after, eating our wedding cake in our PJs in a hotel room, giggling about the night before and talking in whispers about the future ahead of us.
I am grieving for our children that will never be. His DNA and mine will never collide and combine to make entirely unique human beings. Those children cannot exist now. I can no longer picture that moment where his calm exterior, which would have held strong throughout my agonies, crumbles as he meets our first born. The names we have already picked out for them are useless now. They meant something to us, once, but now they are just names, because their meaning is lost when we are not we. I have always pictured the trainsets he would build with them, the facts he would tell them that would bore them silly but might be the fact that sparks the interest in the subject they then study at degree level. I am grieving for the man stood over our sleeping babies’ beds, checking on them as part of his final checks for the night, ensuring our fortress is safe.
I am grieving for the chickens we talked of owning, I am grieving for the places we will not visit hand in hand, I am grieving for the films we will not see, for the jokes we will not share, for the blankets we will not snuggle under and the restaurants we will not visit. I am grieving for everything our life could have been; everything I have worked so hard to make it try to be.
But I am grieving for something that has never existed. He has always known he would not marry me; 7 years is enough time to be sure. Those children would never have existed except by conspiracy or accident; his self-centred life has no space for small humans. He never wants to travel, he never wants to create and develop a home, he never wants to compromise or change or adapt so the above is just a list of everything I would eventually have sacrificed, perhaps piece by piece so that I did not recognise the happiness I was losing.
Perhaps that has already happened.
I am grieving for a relationship with a man who doesn’t exist. It does not exist. And yet it hurts so intensely, because despite every warning signal, flare alert and smoke signal, I had hope that our life I pictured would happen. Now the hope is gone.