The biggest regret

When people talk about their biggest regrets, it’s usually met with something contrite like “I don’t believe in regrets” and “everything happens for a reason”, and sure, I’ll bite. I’ve told myself that many a time to get through all my wrongs. But no part of me believes all that much in ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’, or that there’s some grand plan for all of us. Maybe once upon a time I did, before somewhere along the way this hopeless romantic got struck down, knees scuffed up by cynicism. And, by some cruel twist of… not fate, but careless actions and falsely placed trust, my biggest regret happened. Or, rather, he walked away.

There are words lying around here in old, dusty posts vaguely talking about being unhappy, about giving up too soon — about how I didn’t and don’t deserve nice things. My most painful almost. The first sits primly in March 2014, not two months after I pushed away a boy I still to this day, three and a half years on, think I could have very easily fallen in love with. It’s a big regret of mine. Actually, it’s humungous. It’s this gigantic, hollow, echoey hole in my chest that still — still — hasn’t been filled in your wake. Three years is a long time to still care, longer than even the most stubborn, resilient teenage hearts. Because, oh boy, did I tumble in and out of (something that sure felt like) love hard when I was young and fearless, thinking my heartache would never end. But the broken hearts mended. Far quicker than the three years and six months I’ve accumulated of this.

Regret. That’s what it is, that’s all there is. R e g r e t.

So here it is. An explanation. Because I guess there’s a good chance you, who I’m talking about, could very well find yourself reading this. But first, our story. It deserves to be written down after it suffered such a short expiration date.

I met a boy on New Year’s Eve. But, no, wait. That’s not completely true. We’d met before 2013 faded into 2014. We worked in the same shop. I worked with your Grandma (who I, much to the delight of my, yep, still hurting heart not two years ago, stumbled into and we got talking, mostly about you). She was the one to introduce us and it was awkward. You mentioned how you always saw me walking to work, how you’d actually seen me that day in the rain and told me I should have taken you up on a lift. Something that still stumps me to this day, because we hadn’t met yet, so why would I? Perhaps in my dreams, because, here’s a thing you didn’t already know: My eyes were already on you long before.

Spoiler alert. Turns out I fancied the pants off of you. (And definitely did some serious Facebook stalking.) In fact, I used to spend most of my Saturday shifts positioning myself and my stock just so, so that I could oggle you down the aisles, trying desperately to catch your eye, waiting for your double take, your second glance to confirm we were meant to be. And I think maybe we were for a time (because at this point I was still fully on board the hopeless romantic, idealistic train). But, for the next few months, you lived only in my desperate ploys to bring you up constantly in conversation with your Grandma, asking about A Levels and if you wanted to go to uni. She said you were thinking about Biology, but less than a year later I would find out you changed your mind.

So New Years Eve. It’ll sound made up. Like the kind of meet cute made up in the head of someone completely and utterly infatuated by love stories. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this isn’t just how I remember it three years down the line. This is the play by play I gave each and every one of my excitable friends for days after when I explained those bruises on my neck. Oh, and if I haven’t thanked you enough for that, thanks so much. Hiding that was fun.

The club spanned across three floors and the likelihood of us being on the same one doesn’t seem that astronomical. When I glanced up and our eyes locked across the room instantly, though. That kinda, definitely was. All our stars and planets aligned. Honestly, it sounds fake, like something I’ve weaved together to counteract everything I said about fate. But it happened just like that, one of many lit matches. I carried on dancing and laughing with my friends and, every now and then, kept checking in with you, time and time again shocked and a little thrilled to find you still looking.

The alcohol in my system led me to you and I’m not even sure we registered any kind of “hello” before we were kissing. To this day, I don’t have the slightest clue how long we were tangled up in each other for, though the faint memory of a distant countdown and cheers as we kissed and kissed and kissed gives a somewhat clearer indication. I wish I’d asked what was going through your head leading up to and in that moment. Whether it felt like this colossal merge of a dream and our reality, and just how laughably rom-com textbook it was.

I thought that would be it. I wasn’t lucky enough for it to surge into the rest of my sober life. You had me eating my words, though. A friends request came and then messages, ones that broke my heart because you were too nervous to admit you remembered what happened in that club on New Years Eve, perhaps because you thought I might not. But I still had the marks to prove it — and the heart thrumming memories.

We went on two dates and I was petrified, because I hadn’t done anything like this before. I had never experienced someone so transparent about the way they felt about me, let alone that he didn’t want him to be him and me to be me anymore. He wanted an ‘us’ and it was as exhilarating as it was terrifying, because I’d never walked the relationship line and I was conscious of getting it wrong. Turns out I did. There’s the premature punchline, along with the fact I still can’t watch or finish ‘The Hobbit’ film trilogy because of you. Or think about that night without cringing because your car broke down on our drive and my dad had to help you before he got to know you. And how sucky is it that he never actually did?

Not two weeks after we’d ‘met’ again, I had to go back to university and I was a little devastated, but also confident we were going to continue to see where this thing went. You were so steady with me that thinking about it now makes everything in me ache, because how lucky was I? Especially when, every night in my tiny box room, I counted down the minutes until 10pm came and went and you would finish work and pop up on my screen. I’d watch you grow sleepy as we FaceTimed and you’d be anxious of me going to bed so late with lectures in the morning. You’d tease me about spotting my Winnie the Pooh in the corner of the screen and there’d be moments of quiet where I was kind of just… flummoxed by you, to be honest. You didn’t feel real to me.

And then you came to visit me and the ease we’d found in texts and video calls seemed to escape me. I was gawky and awkward and I never felt like I was playing the part right. But you calmed my mind by initiating kisses and knowing the lines better when we watched ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’. It ended up pouring with rain that day, but I wish we’d gone out. I wish I’d done more with that day, because maybe it would’ve put all the worries that came later to rest, not that you seemed to care what we did as long as you were with me. How mad is that?

Saying goodbye to you that night was difficult. We even half joked about you staying because the thunder and lighting was bad. More than anything I wish we could have remained snuggled up in my room, watching more films with the packet of mini eggs you brought for me — we’d known each other this way less than a month and you already had the way to my heart down — and you could have pushed all my insecurities away for longer just by being there. But you left, hoping to get home in time for football practice, and I’ll always remember the kiss and the cuddle before you went. I was in my flannel pyjama bottoms and you were so tall that you had to squat down to reach me. I remember laughing and finding it so incredibly endearing. And then you were gone, out into the rain with that crinkly-nosed smile of yours and your phone that had a screenshot of a Snapchat I’d sent you as your lockscreen in tow.

And that was the last time I saw you, or, at least, the last time I saw you when we were both still in our bubble and we weren’t making excruciating small talk; you weren’t with somebody else, fully committed like you were with me. The funny thing with that is I knew you would never hurt me or betray me like that, by straying, even though we would have been long distance from the get go if we’d become official. But the thing is, I had people dripping poison in my ears, forcing their bad experiences onto me so that they became my own. Mixed with my lacking self-esteem, I started to ask myself, “Well, why wouldn’t he cheat? Who would want to be with me? He’s so out of my league.” And all my fears of being inexperienced, the one’s you’d put to rest by being so kind and considerate with me, came back with a vengeance.

I crumbled and I pushed you away. Even then, you were willing to wait, to give me space and time, but I told you no, because every text you sent me being the normal, wonderful you made me feel sick with guilt. So I kept building up walls until it all eventually stopped, and then you were gone… And now you’re gone. Still gone.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that you found someone else and that that’s worked out so much better. It would have been hard work for us, wouldn’t it? But I am sad and full of regret, as you can see, because… I’ve never met anyone else, any other boy quite like you. You were magic and I guess that’s why it’ll continue to hurt.

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