I Left My Heart In San Fransisco

(This is a memoir I wrote for a class awhile back. It took place when I was 19, and is a reflection of my thoughts and feelings at that point in my life.)

I remember when I saw him again, years after our first parting. It was a windy, cloudy day in San Francisco, and I had been waiting for an hour, leaning against one of the fat, metal pillars in the Bart station. He was unique in his normality, tall and gangly, with a thin face that matched his sharp wit. He looked a-typically nerdy, but otherwise ordinary. It was his voice that had captured my attention, and it enthralled me again that day. It was deep, but not too rich, and words drifted from his mouth in just the right way. His southern accent was slight and sweet. When he approached me and said hello I ducked behind the pillar to hide my smile and my sudden fear of not being what he expected, of no longer being good enough. This fear was quickly allayed by him moving around to catch me on the other side and kiss me. We had been “dating” for awhile by that time, through long distance phone calls and internet activities. Before that, we had been friends for many years.

It’s funny how I thought that seeing him would solve all of the problems we’d had over the last nine months. Nonetheless, I honestly believed it would, and everything seemed to be going well at first. Perhaps I was just unwilling to see the truth. In the past he had repeatedly ignored my phone calls and we spent successively less and less time speaking. But I was so madly, comprehensively in love with him that I chose to ignore these things. He was my purpose in life, my reason for living. In those days it felt as though every breath I took was a breath not worth taking had he not been mine, and I his. I was so blinded by my love that I had no idea he didn’t feel the same. He would say, “I love you,” and I would have sworn that he meant it how I did: undying, unyielding, unconditionally, and forever. I was a fool. For love. For him.

What started out as amazing quickly turned into a nightmare. We were walking back from dinner in China Town and, although I can no longer remember the entire context of the conversation, I remember telling him I loved him. He replied half heartedly and glanced away. I asked him what was wrong incessantly, until he finally told me that he didn’t think he had the same feelings for me as I did for him. I was stunned into silence. I could feel the tears swimming behind my blinking eyelids. I looked past him briefly, then turned sharply away to stare at the church we were standing by, and said thickly, “let’s get back to the hotel,” marching purposefully forward without waiting for him to respond.

Once we arrived back I went directly to the bathroom and slammed the door shut, but he followed me in. I stared down at the marble floor in a meager attempt to hide how I was feeling. He said, “are you okay?” I barely got out “are you sure? Why can’t you love me?” Then my heart fell to the floor and I fell with it. I could feel the cool marble against my palms, the intricate burgundy and cream patterns swirling in and out of focus as I sobbed uncontrollably. I split and tore apart, the edges of my being frayed. I could feel my heart and my stomach trying to escape my body as though he was reaching his hands inside of me and yanking them out. We cried and fell apart together. Him, over his harrowing guilt for my grief, and I, for a love unrequited. He sunk down beside me and put my head in his lap. I can still feel the way he softly brushed my hair as he whispered, “I’m sorry, so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you.”

He killed me so sweetly there, with a charm and innocence that alluded to hope for the best, when the worst was overcoming me in waves. I was cut open for him, exposed and willingly laid before him, for his every whim and will, and made to suffer endlessly from his rejection. He was all that I had ever known and wanted. I couldn’t possibly spend the rest of my life carding through the pale comparisons left in his wake. If there was one person in the world that could have died of a broken heart, I believed that I would have died in those minutes; died in waiting, yearning and hoping, for a reciprocal love that his heart just couldn’t dare to give me.

The rest of our time blurs together in my mind. I remember walking along the pier and laughing with a frivolity that was nowhere to be found inside me. I remember lying side by side on the grass in a nameless park, watching the leaves rustle above me, and wishing I could hold onto any single moment where I felt less than this all consuming emptiness. I remember constantly holding back tears and trying to make the best of what I could only assume to be the worst situation of my entire being. I remember the words he said to me while I was sitting on the fire escape smoking a cigarette. The wind was playing with my hair and blowing the smoke away; the sounds of traffic and sirens that never cease in the city could be heard quite clearly. “You shouldn’t do that, it’s bad for you.” I eyed him hollowly, then curtly replied that I didn’t care, feeling that the choice to smoke was a choice that was entirely mine, that this was one thing he could not affect in any way. But really, he was showing me he cared the only way he knew how. He only gave me a knowing glance in return to my spite.

On the very last day we found ourselves back at the Bart station. We had agreed to continue trying because he “thought something might change.” It was dangerously wishful thinking. Later on, he would declare that we needed a break. Later on, I would no longer to be able to claim that love was enough to push through this. However, in that we moment sat hand in hand, waiting for what I consider to be our actual goodbye. We would never actually say it later on. It ended up becoming a sort of unspoken agreement between us, following one last futile and disturbingly disappointing conversation.

It wasn’t the way I thought a goodbye would be, or like any other goodbye I’d had before. I thought for sure that if I had to do it I would cry. That he would be saying the words and everything inside of me would be screaming no. But there it was, such a small, insignificant thing. We stood up to wait for his train. I was thinking about what he had said shortly before we stood – that now that it was time to leave he wanted to stay a little longer. I was silently agreeing through my ardent grip. I wanted to trap myself in that moment forever, but then his train arrived and the moment slipped away. The deck was loaded with people, and though I was afraid he wasn’t going to make it on, I took the time to kiss him anyhow. It was the only kiss that he seemed to mean right back. Then I heard my train being called, and I thought how strange it was that they should both arrive at the same time.

My hand was clasped tightly in his. Although it felt as though he had no intention of letting go, he was moving onto his train and I knew I had to get on mine as well. That was when it happened. I turned away from him and let go. And I knew it within the core of my being. This was the last time I would ever see his face. This was the last time I would ever feel him again. This was the last time I would know him like this. Nothing in my life had ever felt more wrong than letting go of his hand. I almost tried to reach out behind me and grab it once more. My hand felt so bereft, so utterly useless, now that it was free of his grasp. My life felt that way for a long time after.
We had some semblance of an attempt at talking and being together after that. I thought there was nothing in the world that would ever make me stop loving him and I just couldn’t let go. I prayed every night that one day he would find in his heart the peace, passion, and all consuming love that blazed within my soul for him. It was a beautiful agony, this powerful, hazardous love. It consumed me entirely until I couldn’t think straight. I vowed to wait until the end of time. The end of time never came, but the end of our relationship did.

All calls of love and friendship got lost in the wires between our increasingly disconnected lives. Strange to think that wires were the only thing linking us for so long. We had persevered up to that point, and it was enough to keep us united until our juncture. And a few days of reality was all it took to shred apart a six year relationship. The days after our time together passed in a numb and aimless haze until one morning I woke up and realized (much to my mingled relief and chagrin) that I could live without him. That I could move on. Initially this was worse than the heartache because it felt like I was betraying what was in my soul. I specifically remember thinking that the only thing worse than feeling like I couldn’t move on was realizing that I could. But in truth, I had done everything that I could have. I had given of myself entirely to another person in complete trust and profound affection. I felt that I had experienced perdition and lived to tell the tale. I could no longer live my life trammeled in stifling days of waiting for something that I should never even hope to receive from him. All I had to do was figure out how to mourn for something that, in truth, I never had to begin with.

Eventually something inside me shifted from feeling as though nothing was more right than my love for him to feeling that nothing was more wrong. I finally understood that I could be me and live without his affection because it is me that makes me who am; not my love for him, nor his for me. My passion had finally stopped inhibiting my clarity. At last I was able to open my heart to the grief of moving forward, and it brought me a surprising peace of mind and soul. His almost did-it’s, almost called me, almost took the time, almost love was no longer good enough. I was over the lifestyle of letdown and finally ready for something new, something better. I left my heart for him in San Francisco… because that was where it needed to stay.


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