You don’t know me but we’ve met. We’ve met hundreds of times before. Not just through your story but I’ve met you through mine as well. I was just 19 when I stumbled upon your story. Call it naivety but I couldn’t quite understand or appreciate the truss sentiment that it was. Your proclamation that you were not a fulfilling concept for anyone confused me for that’s what I thought love was all about. My first instinct, as a boy was to hate you for what you did to Joel and then I vowed to never see you again. Little did I know, that like most, this will not be a solemn vow. Tune the dial 7 years hence and here I was, on the precipice of insanity, much like Joel, unable to understand what was happening around me. I was bewildered, by the sudden realization that the person to whom I thought I gave my heart and soul to, did not want it anymore. That the moment in which I was happy had already passed and that there was to be no goodbye.
Everything was gone, like a click of a button and I was to accept it and move on. I refused, naturally. I cried, wailed, and spent countless nights pondering over every moment of the past, scrutinizing every tiny bit for a sign that would tell me where precisely I had gone wrong. Where in those innumerable moments did I falter so badly that I ended up deserving this agony? Did I not give it my best? Was I not loyal? Did I not celebrate birthdays and relationship anniversaries in the unique ways my pea-sized intellect could muster? Or was it because I cared too much? That just like Joel, I ended up falling in love with someone who seemed like the antithesis of a concept but who I wanted to be one, just for me? Was I mistaken in my belief that the threads of promises and undying vows of love with which we stitched this relationship together will be enough to make it last?
Was I not supposed to be inspired by the sheer force of love?
There came a point where I began to feel that I was wasting away. Determined to piece myself back together, I ironically turned to things I loved. Food, movies, people, books, you name it. I hid traces of her presence from my life because I was too weak to remove them completely. I hid her pictures on my hard disk and deleted her shadow from my online presence. Heck! I even signed up on Tinder. But Clementine, it just didn’t work. Every morsel I ate reminded me of one of the countless meals we’d had together. Every other movie had something that made me realize how badly I missed her. Words popped out of text and tugged at me taking me back to where I was happy, where I felt complete.
I was tired and distraught and hurt but there are other things that one needs to live for and I did the same.
Then, you came back.
I decided to visit you, or was it the other way around, on an impulse. But this time, it was different. I was not watching Joel. I was watching myself. I sat through our meeting the entire time, trying to curse you, for you were not you this time. I wanted to loathe you with a severity unknown even to me, hurl abuses at you, wail at the top of my vocal chords and rupture them and just get back at you in some way.
But I couldn’t. I found myself at a loss of words or expression. There was anger, yes. There was also the sense of being betrayed that gnawed at me from within but Clementine, this time, it became clear that this was to happen. It was strange for me to look at you like that. You had looked happy before. Happy with a secret, as you said. The secret unfolded when I realized that you were a reminder. A reminder for me to be happy again. A sign that, in no uncertain terms anymore, implored me to live for myself, just like you did. You took my hand down the wasteland that was now my memories, sat me down on a flight of ramshackle steps and asked me to not just let go but also to remember what it was like then. But more importantly, you told me to remember that like you, this state of mine too was the result of a choice. A choice that was not made by me, sure but which shaped my reality now nevertheless. It was difficult to let go but I had to, for it had come to an end. I had to stop being the mess of sadness that I had lately become and explore my life, once again. This was necessary for me to open my eyes, get back up and be who I was. And I listened to you this time. I knew that for me to go back to living the way I used to, I had to let go. It was time for me to choose myself. However painful it may seem to be, I had to do it. I had to be the eraser of my pain.
I just wanted to tell you that I am down that road again. Just like you asked Joel too, I have pretended a goodbye. I too walked on that beach in Montauk and ran by the kaleidoscope of my memories knowing fully well that they’ll always be there but vowed that I will not visit them with such disdain, ever again. Will I hurt? Yes, absolutely. But then that would be me, just being me, remembering:
“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.”