But Things Are Different Now

The Story of How I Lost Her

But Things Are Different Now

Things are different now.

It’s like our hearts used to have the same beat, like when you’re on a run in the crisp morning air and a song comes on in your headphones that matches the pulsing of your blood absolutely perfectly. We were like that.

She used to pour out her heart to me, let me see everything about who she was that she was afraid to show anyone else. I used to walk down those sunlit hallways in her heart, listening to her rhythm and watching all the butterflies fly in and out of her secret rooms through beds of flowers.

But things are different now.

I’m not allowed in those secret rooms anymore. She keeps me in the safe place she’s walled up in her heart, barred and isolated, like a man in prison. I can see down the hallways I used to wander — to windows where the sunlight has given way to rain and the butterflies are nowhere to be found. Her flowers are fading and dying.

And it’s my fault.

“I love you.”

Those three words made my eyes open a little wider and my heart beat a little faster every time she said them. They summed up all the passion she felt for me, the unconditional support through a crazy life, the way she looked at me when I kissed her — and how she’d lay her head on my chest and sigh like she was perfectly and absolutely happy... like I made her feel safe.

But things are different now.

“I love you” is now her weary goodbye to me, an ending to another failing interaction. “I love you” somehow sounds like “I hate you” now. There is bitterness in her “I love you,” and every time she says those words it’s a reminder of what a beautiful thing I destroyed, and what those words used to mean.

The months have passed, and I can’t put her back together. I’ve tried, but the thing about her is that she loved so deep and so hard that when it ended she wasn’t sad inside. She was dead. She didn’t break. She shattered.

She once told me “hearts can hurt” and I believe her now. My heart does hurt — there’s a pain in my chest when I sleep at night... like the feeling when someone sits on your lap and you can’t get a breath. My heart only hurts — but I killed hers.

When I went to her house to say my last goodbye before college, there was a box full of my sweaters and photos of us. There was a note attached. She had written, “Here are your things. I just want the memories. We were so beautiful.”

And it’s true, we were.

But things are different now.

I picked up the box and walked to my car, and turning around, I stopped to take one last look at a house I knew I would never see again.

And my heart died within me.

I blinked away the tears that were trying to start, and found myself laughing a little. I don't know why. Maybe I was laughing at how utterly cruel this life is. Maybe I was laughing to keep myself from crying, laughing at my own stupidity for losing someone I loved so dearly. I don't know why I laughed, but I laughed all the same.

I started up my car and drove away, and I never did see her again.

When I think of her, I find myself still laughing. I think it's because laughter is all that's between me and the darkness of my empty soul.

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Asa Johnson-Ross

See all posts by Asa Johnson-Ross