As a twenty-two and a half year old woman, the outstanding fact that I’ve never had a relationship bothers me. As things go, it’s not a huge issue and I’m aware — painfully aware — that I am not alone in my solo sailing boat, that plenty of my friends and other people my age have yet to resign themselves and latch on to another human being. And I know, yes, I know, that I am ‘still young’; ‘there is time’ and I ‘will meet someone someday’. But, the thing is, in less you’ve dealt with the same kind of levels of self-esteem issues, in less you’ve battled with the insecurities about my body and those that live in my head, telling myself I’m not worth it… Then, piece by piece, build yourself back up and are still left hanging, you won’t get it. And you won’t experience quite how it starts to eat away at all you’ve worked on.
I’ve learnt the hard way not to seek validation in the people you’re falling for. I know that doesn’t work, that the cliché saying of ‘you’ve got to love yourself before you expect anyone else to’ isn’t so completely awful. There’s actually a tragic truth in it that it burns me a little to hear. But, when you’ve begun to reach my age and you’ve seen everyone else, siblings and friends, start their romantic entanglements in their teens, or at the cusp of adulthood, you begin to question whether there is something unloveable about you. Whether anyone will ever see the qualities you admire in yourself, like that you’re a little bit weird in your sense of humour, but you crack some damn good jokes. That you’d never change yourself to fit in or to seem cooler. That you read a lot and you goddamn better believe you read what you like, same goes for music. That you’re a touch dorky and, sure, you’re not blindingly beautiful, but you’re cute and there’s a part of you that can really appreciate those cute odds. And no amount of solid appreciation can be enough in a string of almosts.
Like the near misses spread across a year. Three hundred and sixty-five days and I question how we always narrowly avoided falling for one another. Though it can’t be said that I didn’t end up with scuffed up knees and grazes on my hands when you decidedly dropped me on my way down.
Or almosts. Dressed all in black, facing your demons head on and not flinching away when they got to be too much. I was resilient, but you kept pushing like maybe you didn’t think I had it in me to love back. But perhaps it was all a mirror, shining in my face and offering up a clue of what was to come, because one day I’d be building barriers, too.
But no, maybe it’s this almost that hurts the most, because I’ve got no one to blame but myself. Maybe you were one of the one’s and I somehow lost sight of everything I was, opting for everything i wasn’t. And now I have cruel dreams about you, that are far too sweet to ever be deemed nightmares. And if I’m not dreaming, my mind has a funny way of leading its way back to your face, to our brief moments.
It’s been three years and I’m still bitter about that almost. Almost could have let you in, almost could have loved you. Almost could have kissed you forever, revelled in the way you had to bend to reach me. Almost could have marathoned every ‘Harry Potter’ film, and might as well throw in ‘Lord of the Rings’, too. Almost could have let you be the first and almost narrowly avoided letting someone else touch me instead.
The most annoying thing about almosts is I start to think that my lack of just about anything might be a pattern for my loneliness. But then I remember them, the almosts, and I have to accept that I can’t identify as this solace twenty-two year old. That maybe the nearly but not quite brushes with something are it for me, a painful and self-inflicted kind of solitude.