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Dear Ex Lover,

September 19, 2022 Dear Ex Lover,

Last night I put myself out there. I went out on a limb and laid myself open. It’s been four years. It’s time. This is our second date. I’ve come a long way. For a moment I was witnessing him give a detailed description of Silmarillion, lost in the story, unapologetically unafraid of taking space and time, like men so carelessly are, of performing a long monologue in the midst of a conversation. His curls had a hue of ginger in the dim light of the bar. I ran my hand through them and thought “I could get used to this”. Then, in a flash, everything changed. He didn’t mean it. A wayward comment, an attempt at communication gone awfully awry on the way to me, and as failed attempts at connection tend to do, turning to something nasty mid-journey. In my body an iron gate closed down between us. Not just between me and him. Between me and the world. A world that had mere seconds ago been open and inviting, for the first time in a long, long time, sizzling with a faint, nearly forlorn hope of love. Now I was alone. Cold. Inherently worthless. Just like someone in my past taught me I was.


I stared at the bar wall and tried to form words, but they didn’t come. Tears did, instead. With an avalanche of all my worst friends: Shame. Worthlessness. Loneliness. Insecurity. Hopelessness. A complete and devastating loss of self. I couldn’t stop it. Even when he said “it’s okey” the voice in my head, now louder than it had been in years, using my lips screamed in response “nobody wants this”. Because how could they? How could anyone opt for someone who cries on the second date between Moscow Mules and sticky bar tables? Someone terrified of everything. Someone who, on a recent date freaked out so strongly for kissing someone that they needed to panic-text a friend from the bathroom, ask them to convince that no, this did not mean she would need to do anything she doesn’t want to. No, it did not mean she now was responsible for fucking him. It was just a kiss. Nothing bad had happened.


It feels impossible. It’s impossible to go on dates with strangers and be free and happy and confident and sexy and MYSELF when that moment is always coming. The trauma is always hiding somewhere in the corner, biding its time, waiting for the opportune time, for the second you think you’re done with it, that first glimpse of hope, so it can insert itself in the most innocent comment or gesture, one that has absolutely nothing to do with it, actually, and jump out like the horrible clowns in the boxes, turning it all upside down. Turning a hopeful romantic trying to begin again, to a desperate, disgusting, stupid bitch so fucked up she can’t get through a casual drink without reliving the most shameful, soul crushing experiences of her life. And, while it’s at it, turning a probably lovely man into a devil, a narcissist just aiming to own, use, and distort.


Last night the voices were so loud. They were repeating their awful, familiar loops. “Look at you. Pathetic. Can’t do this, either. You were stupid to think you could. Nobody wants this. They want a better, shinier, lighter version of you. You know this! Yet you couldn’t even do that. No wonder you’re alone. Just give up already and stay home.”


I didn’t sleep, not really, but I met you in a lucid dream. It was like no time had passed, let alone 13 years. You were just like you were. I was just like I am now. And just like back then, you loved me. You loved me. Not a better version. Not a less broken one. Not just what you could get from me. Not just how it looked to have me. You loved me. It was easy. And beautiful. And completely, wonderfully mundane. You reminded me that I was once loved. For me. And this, dear ex lover, is what I’ve wanted to say to you all these years. That whenever I look back, not in regret but in gratitude and warmth, that’s what I see. I see that you loved me for who I was. Enough to let me go and be who I was. I didn’t understand it then, and it broke my heart. But I think you knew I had to leave. And that, I realize now, is real love. You didn’t want to own me. You wanted me to be me. Even if that meant being me outside of your reach. And even if we don’t talk anymore, and even if we don’t know each other as we are now, I see you in my dreams often. I see you on the porch of a house I imagine for you, holding your new baby, walking with him on the grass and smiling at the sun. I see you with your new partner, loving her with the same abandon you once did me, and just like you once did me, I let you go to her, with love, and wish you all the happiness in the world. I see you holding my hand like you did last night, just being with me and reminding me that I have been loved, that I am worthy of being loved, and that perhaps I will be again. It’s hard to believe it. Everyone that came after you broke me in their own ways. Piece by piece, like blocks off a jenga, until I, once fortified by your love, was weak enough for the last one to annihilate. The first one took my trust. The second one took my sense of security. The last one took everything that was left. My dignity. My identity. My sense of self. Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t perfect or innocent in all this. After all, I let them. I’ve built it all up again with sweat, blood and tears. But in moments like yesterday, my treasured castle seems like a hollow shack, barely standing in the storm.


So, my love, thank you. For loving me then. And for visiting my dreams now. Even if you don’t know it, throughout all these years you’ve been with me. And somehow I dare to hope – with every inch of my aching soul – that one day someone will stand on the grass with me, and smile at the sun, willing to face the wind.


Love,

Petra


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