At the very tip-top of a Ferris wheel is one of my favorite places to be. I love the euphoric feeling it brings my soul, like warm maple syrup, sticky and sweet, swallowing a stack of pancakes.
It's raining. Part of me, a good ninety-five percent, wants to go lay in the middle of the street. The color of the sky suits the way my insides feel, and I want to know if the rain can just wash me away. Maybe not entirely at once, a slow ebbing would be fine, as long as this all disappears.
It was a year ago, to the day, that I first saw his name light up my phone screen. "Guten Tag Paige. Wie geht es dir?"
Guten Tag Paige. Wie geht es dir? Guten Tag Paige. Wie geht es dir? Guten Tag Paige. Wie geht es dir?
Two sentences, seven words, twenty-five letters. Two weeks ago I thought I'd be spinning those into my own personal fairytale, and now I'm weaving them into what can only be known as a eulogy.
It was all mindless at first, which was great because sometimes my brain is this crazy, chaotic mess — Like a heaping pile of laundry, unsorted and unfolded, that’s been neglected for a month and a half. The investment from my side was paltry and weak. I'd answer his messages when I pleased, with no sense of urgency. Initially they were nothing more than strained, pity answers. I felt obliged to respond out of politeness and a fear of invoking hurt feelings. I barely knew the guy outside of maybe sending him an email once or twice before. (Had I even ever emailed him? He looks at my LinkedIn profile what seems like an abnormal amount of times for a colleague.) I couldn't wrap my mind around why he was reaching out to me in the first place and I figured I could just bide my time before this fizzled out. I could afford to entertain him for a week, maximum, until he grew bored of my self-appointed title of "least interesting and/or untalented conversationalist." But he didn't. He persisted. Day after day after day another message. Strangely, I began to long for his messages. Mundane as they may have been, I was developing an addiction.
I saw pictures of his house, his parents’ house, and his travels. I knew what he had for dinner. I learned that he loves Thai and Indian food. He made lentil soup once. He would become sad when the weather was dull, because he wished to go for hike or take his bicycle out for a ride. He would be sleepy because he stayed up too late the evening before, nose buried, lost inside of a book. His grandmother made him a Black Forest cake. His favorite fruit is the raspberry. He hates social media. He likes dry red wine. He plays soccer with the small kids from the floor below his apartment. I began to learn every single silly detail that was Elias, and I was falling in love with him.
I remember him telling me he loved the way I said hi on the telephone. It's one of those memories that stitches itself onto your heart and your head, like a cow that's been branded. Everything about me mattered. He would ask about my day, my weekend plans. The most trivial and things, he genuinely cared about and for them. They were exceedingly average, plain intrusions, but nobody else ever made them. I got good mornings and good nights. He remembered me on my birthday, Mother's Day, International Women's Day. We spoke of politics, things that made us laugh, longed to travel to each other and meet face to face. Oh, did we want to meet. Maybe in Philadelphia, perhaps in Freiburg. We'd have an adventure, a marvelous adventure, just the two of us. We didn't want to wait. We would moan about the torture that time and distance were when they were keeping us apart from one another. Then, four months in, I sat down in the middle of an aisle at a Wal-Mart, my face pressed hard against my palms, tears like white-hot fire burning my cheeks. Elias had found himself a girlfriend, and she was not me.
I was wondering why he'd been so scarce the past few weeks. He promised to write while he traveled on his several-week holiday. He promised me pictures of all of the pretty things. He promised. Now I knew. I knew and I hated it. My stomach was melting itself and my heart was trying to claw its way out of my chest from behind my ribcage. I became overwhelmed with a sense of rage I didn't even know I was possible of churning up. How could he do this to me? Why wasn't I enough? I thought we had something special? I thought we were something special, or at the very least something in general. What the fuck, Elias? I told him for the very first time I didn't wish to hear from him again. I was lying. I wanted to hear from him every single second of every single day, but under different, single-or-belonging-to-me-Elias circumstances. Until then, I wanted space and darkness and to be woken up immediately from this newfound nightmare I was wrapped up in.
Weeks passed, nothing. Maybe I was being dramatic. You can't possibly love someone you've gotten to know so briefly, and never in person. Relax, looney toon. You have a penchant for feeling too much, too soon. I was, successfully, tricking my heart and brain into believing that I was a complete psychotic basket-case and very much healing myself along the way. It's amazing how you can teach yourself to invalidate and remove any or all justification of what you may or may not be feeling. And then it happened: New message from Elias.
I stopped writing. It's been days since I've traced my fingers over these keys. I could keep going. I could tell you how everything fell right back into place and Elias and I kept talking and dreaming and romancing, all without a shred of respect to his girlfriend. (He still has her, by the way. She's beautiful.) I could tell you all about how he met me in Zürich. How we walked all around the lake I used to joke that I'd push him into. You would read that he made all of the first moves, intertwining fingers and that under the table hand on the knee thing people do. I'd reminisce about him kissing me fast and hard, leaving no space between us, pressed against a train that would take him home, a train that I'd watch as my face flooded with hot, salty tears, one hand on my hip and another over my mouth as I stood frozen and torn open watching it until it disappeared. I could whip up magical words about how we spent the next days seesawing between googly-eyed sentiments and feeling like our hearts were ripped in halves. I could go into every finite detail about him surprising me in Munich for my birthday, kisses on the train, seeing the whole city from 17 stories up, spending over half the night tangled and giggling and reeling in disbelief that I could ever enjoy something so fucking much. (I could replay that night over and over and over again.)
I didn't cry when he left this time. This is different. He came back.
I was at the airport by 4am, because Emily's flight was earlier. The dread of leaving Germany sat like a cinderblock in both my heart and stomach. I couldn't stop the tears or the hurt. I texted him, imploring him to call because I needed to hear his voice. I told him I missed him already because I did. I boarded the plane, then another, each one accompanied with uncontrollable sobbing, which you do not get charged for. Half of me was 4,000-some miles away and wasn't going to be getting any closer any time soon, and I was learning what it was like to genuinely ache for another human.
Here's the gut-punch: Elias didn't want to be my boyfriend. The very next day, I was on another plane, but it was figurative and it was crashing and burning. This newfound stance he was taking didn't match any of his words or actions and my brain was in a tailspin because it doesn't make sense I didn't (still don't) understand and he wasn't clearing it up. (Still isn't.) Sometimes he writes and sometimes he doesn’t and all of the time when he does everything inside of me falls 100 stories because I still want him. And I want him to want me. And he still doesn’t. And he won’t. And it doesn’t make sense. (Never will.)