Intro: this is one of my recent attempts at fictional writing. Comments and feedback are welcome. Enjoy.
I met him on a Monday five years ago. It was the first day of orientation for the new intake at our university and I was swamped dealing with a million little things. Between registration, getting my student card, finding my way around the campus, identifying my group for tutorials and attending the mandatory lunch seminar and evening social mixer scheduled for the first year students, I barely had time to think. Yet in all the busyness of that day, he caught my eye.
His name was Ben as I would find out later. He was standing at the board where our tutorial group assignations were displayed when I got there. The first thing I noticed about him was his complete calm while everyone else was radiating nervous energy and making endless unfounded projections about the experience we were about to dive into. He seemed to be taking everything in his stride and that really impressed me, so much so that when he suggested we head to the evening event together I did not hesitate for a moment in accepting his offer. I had not thought much past attending the party but it was obvious by the end of the night that this was a person I would not be walking away from soon.
Orientation week turned into the start of classes and as the weeks flew by we spent practically every spare moment in each other’s company. All the initial challenges of settling into a new environment were tackled together. We attended classes together, made friends together, studied together and even did our laundry and shopping together. I had not come to university looking for something serious but without even trying, I had found what felt like the perfect relationship. All our friends agreed that we made a great match. We couldn’t wait to get out of the student lifestyle into making a real life together and before we knew it, the years at university came to an end.
Everything was set to go smoothly after graduation. We had both secured good jobs, at least for our level of experience in a tight economy. We had planned on picking out a place together after a few months so that we could be closer to each other and our work locations. We had a settled circle of friends and an active social calendar. If this were a fairy tale, this would be the part where the narrator ends the story with us living happily ever after. But that is not how things happened.
About three months after we started work, he started to pull back from me. We had always tried to take our meals together at school and even though I knew that would change a bit with work, I was still surprised at the frequency with which he cancelled our plans. It started slowly but I soon realized that us sharing meals was becoming the exception rather than the rule. Before I knew it, our weekends were going the same way. There was always something or someone else he had to take care of before he could turn his attention to me. Unsurprisingly, the topic of sharing a place stopped coming up too. At first, I didn’t express my displeasure at the turn of events. I was being reasonable or so I thought, and I hoped that things would settle down when he got into a groove at work. Except that the groove never did come and I started to lose my patience.
I was working equally hard and could not understand why it was so impossible for him to make time for us if I could do it. He had been a focused person for as long as I had known him. He could squeeze water out of a stone if he decided that was what he wanted to do. So I could only conclude that the change in his attitude was because his heart was perhaps no longer in it. I started to feel alone but I was determined to hold on. I wasn’t going to walk away from us just like that but it seemed that the more I did to bring us together, the more it annoyed him. He felt I was becoming clingy and that I needed to expand my life outside of him. I think he was subconsciously preparing me for the end.
It finally came, seven months after we had posed happily for pictures in our hats and gowns. It was one of those rare evenings when we actually managed to catch up with each other. I was so excited to go out to dinner that Monday after not seeing much of him over the weekend. I still remember the care I put into every detail of my appearance that night. My outfit, hair and makeup were so elaborate you would have thought I was going out for a big Saturday night thing. I was buzzing with anticipation but I couldn’t shake the thought in the back of my mind that the evening was going to go differently than I was planning. And did it ever.
He told me over the main course that he felt we were no longer connecting like before and I agreed with him. I expected that like me, he was ready to turn the page on that chapter of us but what he came out with next shocked me. He said he was ready to move on, that he thought our lives were going down different paths. We were becoming different people from who we had been at school and he thought that was a good thing. In fact, he didn’t want to hold me back from growing as a person. And oh, by the way, he was falling in love with someone else.
I was stunned. I had felt the growing distance between us but had not for a moment imagined there being anyone else. He said that nothing had happened between them yet but he wanted it to and he thought it was only fair to let me go first. She was one of his colleagues from the States, apparently smart, confident and sophisticated, all the things I felt I wasn’t. I watched the dreamy look on his face as he talked about her and I knew he was gone.
My shock turned to sadness then to anger at him and at myself. I felt foolish for not seeing it coming. Foolish for trying so hard to make him stay when he couldn’t wait to bolt in the other direction. I was angry with him for not loving me enough to make us work and angry with myself for being so passive even when I could see that things weren’t working. That was five months ago. One year after my graduation, I feel like I’m starting again from scratch. All the plans and dreams I had turned to dust. Now I have to make new ones.
I saw them last week. Him and his American girl that is. I was at a conference for work and they were there together for their company. She is everything he described and more. I couldn’t stop looking at her, looking for one thing to be wrong with her but I couldn’t find anything. Instead, they looked so good together – talking, laughing and working the room like pros. I couldn’t take it anymore and eventually had to leave early, claiming the sudden onset of a migraine. I cried my heart out when I got home.
I met him on a Monday. He left me on a Monday. Since Ben, my Mondays have never been the same. I try not to cry anymore but I still cannot forget. Maybe one day I will.