It should have been me. I should be going with him around the world. He wanted me to, we had talked about it. I had at least a year of school left at the time, and had long since depleted my already meager savings account. I would have to finish school and work like a demon for at least two years- and this being Boston, and my earnings potential being much less than fully realized, probably more- in order to save up enough money to even hope to undertake a thing like that. Financially he was ready and set to go, though I knew never to expect him to help me out in that way, particularly since he could hardly be counted on to pay for dinner without seeing a tic go down on his internal ledger. I told him I wanted to, would love to, but I just didn't see how I would be able in the near future. He said I was being too negative. He said if I just wanted it enough, all I had to do was decide to do it, and things would fall into place. I told him he was unrealistic, but the truth was the idea of it was so wonderful and also so impossible that I couldn't even allow myself to hope for such a thing. He said he still wanted to go, even if I couldn't go with him. I asked him would he really leave me for a year? or six months? or even three months? I couldn't begin to imagine what I would do without him for that long. I was so used to seeing him almost every day, to sleeping next to him almost every night that any absence was practically unbearable. I had grown to rely on him so much, for love, for moral support, for social interaction. I asked what he expected me to do with myself. I said maybe I would want to see other people. He said, you wouldn't wait for me? You wouldn't wait for me for three months? I said, wait for what? What are we heading towards here? I like things the way they are now, he said. You want me to wait for you, I repeated, but what am I waiting for? Are we going to get married? I don't know if I want to get married anytime soon, he replied carefully. What? I said, my stomach sinking. What? I think actually I might not ever want to get married, he said. We were in a crowded bar, and suddenly my eyes filled with tears. Ever the enemy of public displays he steered me towards a dark corner. I think I sputtered but reallys in shock, searching his eyes for the truth. Really? Are you sure? Though he had always been a self-declared commitment-phobe, privately he had talked in the dark about growing old with me. Hypothetical babies were discussed, happily, willingly, and with no arm-twisting involved. Once he proposed to me in a burst of lovey-dovey brought on by a bout of the stumble-down drunks. I told him that he couldn't ask me that then, that he had to ask me again when he was sober. And every day I waited in quiet expectation, but he never did ask again. And now here we were. Or rather, here we weren't. I sobbed and we did tequila shots. So are we breaking up, then? he asked. I don't want to break up. I don't either, I said. But it's not fair...it's not fair that you keep me here when you're just going to go off and leave, when you're keeping me from meeting someone who maybe will want to marry me. He seemed to realize this was true. But it is going to be summer soon, we decided. We don't want to break up right before the summer. Summers are the best time to be in a relationship. Vacations and long weekends and water sports and all. We agreed that we were not breaking up, not right now. But before two weeks had gone by, we were over. He broke my heart a million different ways and in the end I just said, enough. And though I know it was the right thing to do, I never stopped wishing it could have been different. I never stopped thinking what if.
What if I had said, screw it, I'm traveling the world for a year with the man I love, and money or not the universe will find a way? The rational part of me knows that the correct answer to this is we would have killed each other before two weeks were out. I am an anxious traveler, prone to bouts of crankiness when hunger and sleepiness and discomfort strike, while he is absolutely intolerant of anyone unable to attain his zen-like level of calm. And now he's living out my what ifs with a why-not girl, and without knowing her I know her already: she is everything I am not. A good traveler, willing to climb rocks and jump off cliffs and pee in holes in the ground with grace and aplomb. (Because, why not?) Never cranky, naggy or mean. Does yoga, has friends and is invited places. Has a good job and enough money in the bank to take a year off and travel the world. Has him.
He was halfway right when he said that things always work out.