You know, I almost married the girl.
It was a whirlwind romance, born in summer, gestated in fall, and tested in a harsh winter, followed by an even harsher spring. We met, we wooed, we made exchange of vows (of the future marriage kind, not of the marriage itself kind), and I even spent the holidays with her and her family. But it was never meant to be.
I’ll never forget the last time we spoke. It was brutal, knowing that we had once been so close, yet feeling so formal that it hurt. To almost share the same skin and then to be so distant, it nearly ripped my heart in two. On the outside it was neat, too, the separation as tidy as dominoes in a line. But inside my soul was roiling, burned from the inside out by a love that seemed so perfect but ended lukewarm.
That was 16 years ago almost to the day. I’ll always remember walking away from that campus for the final time, while the tiny snowflakes danced all around, getting caught in my hair and then vanishing from sight, leaving me wishing for bitter cold to hold me in its icy embrace. I thought my life was over then, and the life I had imagined with her actually was. Others told me that she might reconsider, that what we had was precious enough to save, but I knew her as well as I knew myself. The decision she made was not an easy one for her, and there was no going back from it.
And I was filled with a harsh regret that I hadn’t done more, that we had come so close just to end up so far apart. She was my first in so many ways, the person who grounded me when my feet had begun to float off the ground and yearn for cloud 9. It was all of my own doing, too, so I had no one to blame but myself. So I kept walking down that road to the train station, to pick up the pieces of a life I felt wasn’t worth it anymore.
I could never have imagined the future that close call would have created for me had it gone all the way, and now, looking back on it, I don’t want to imagine it. Things happen for a reason, and no matter how close we seemed then, I wasn’t meant to live my life with her. It took perspective, and time, to look back on it and see how good it was, but also see how it had to end. Like a phoenix consumed by flame and rising from its own ashes. First love paved the way for eternal love, and for that I will always be grateful, to her I will always be grateful.