About a year and a half after the breakup I saw him with another girl. They didn’t see me. I wanted to run across the street and chase after them, pull her hand from his and take her somewhere, somewhere away from him, just to ask, “Is everything alright?” If someone had asked my younger self, the person I was when I was with him, that question, the answer would have been no, but that girl, because on most days I can not, will not, accept her as me, would have smiled and said yes.
The worst men buy the nicest flowers. That’s something the years have thought me. Overblown romantic gestures are a good distraction tactic, especially when you’re young, shy and insecure, and can’t quite believe you even have a boyfriend at all, let alone one who buys you flowers, like in films. You get infatuated with the colour of a rose or the taste of expensive chocolate and you forget to properly scrutinise the character of the man who gave it to you. You forget that you are worth more than flowers and chocolate, and that if you’re going to share your life with someone, you need more in exchange than a budget for Cadburys and the local florist.
That girl, the one who got so distracted by pretty flowers and dark chocolate that she stayed with a man who physically and emotionally abused her, is almost a stranger to me . The woman I am now wouldn’t allow herself to be treated like that, even once, but that girl stayed with him a year. I just don’t understand her, because she gladly accepted what to me is unacceptable. I don’t want to hate her but I can’t help it. I want to forgive her but I can’t. “How could you stay with him? How could you have been so stupid?” I want to shake and slap her and at the same time, I want to hug her and tell her I’m sorry. Because if I’d grown out of her and into me sooner, I would have pulled her out from that relationship before he managed to damage her so much.
The girl who is my past and the woman I am now have to reconcile our differences, for the sake of the woman who is our shared future. We’ve started to talk again. She was very together for her age, but not when it came to relationships. He was, after all, her first boyfriend, and sometimes I forget that, and I forget how young she was. When I remember that, the balance comes back into my perception, and I stop shouting at her. I tell her that it wasn’t her fault. She was just unlucky that such a bad man came along when she was too young to handle it. It wasn’t her fault, and she did manage to leave him behind. When I remember that, I can forgive her, then she stops being “her” and slips back into being part of me, and both of us are complete again.