I Can Sleep Better Now

Dearest H,—

It has been almost a year since I stopped talking to you. There is an itch in me to calculate the exact number of days, so excuse me… 353 days. It feels longer. It feels shorter. For three-hundred-and-fifty-three days I have wanted to talk to you again. For a few weeks now I have contemplated writing you — more seriously than previously — and it has apparently gotten to the point where I can no longer find any reason not to. As I enter my thirty-seventh year (fuuuuccck!), I realise there are things in my life that I need to address. There are things that linger in the back of my mind, or the front, there are fears and desires that hound me, there are regrets, most certainly, there are risks and there is sadness. Reaching out to you, writing this, feels like something I must do. And I apologise in advance if it goes on too long, or is overly sentimental. You know me…

There was a moment the other weekend when, after a long drinking session with the family (first gathering since the outbreak, some seventeen months), I found myself in the kitchen with my sister-in-law, who is engaging enough to withdraw from me certain truths when I am in that kind of inebriated state. (My therapist had been on an extended holiday and this may have factored into my willingness to divulge things that I would not normally do so.) She asked me if I had met anyone, whether I was looking to meet anyone. My younger brother was there and the next day I would be terribly hungover. I told her I was not.

For years I adored you, H. At first, on Flickr, it was your beauty and talent. When I met you in 2013, I came to be infatuated with you like a schoolboy. It was your enigma that was so captivating, how untouchable you seemed. In retrospect, I look back and recognise that it was unhealthy and the infatuation was based upon things I projected onto you. You were a test, an exam, something I had to study for, to pay close attention to, so that I might figure you out, and therein lay the appeal: understanding you was the goal, and I was, I think, infatuated with that and the idea of you. Now I realise that was all folly. It was schoolboy.

Despite that, it was over the space of a month — between January and February, 2020 — that I came to fall in love with you. I have thought about it a lot. This whole situation has afforded me plenty of time to think about such things. It was love. It is love. And I can say that, I can write it down with a calm expression because I know it to be true. I know it to be right, and I know that it is just the way things are. To not admit it would be to deny myself so much of what I feel, and so I write it over & over: I fell in love with you, H. I have been in love with you. I am in love with you. It is a whole symphony of feelings that one has only to baptize with the sentence—‘I am in love with you’ and it is the whole truth.

I guess everyone has a different definition of what love is, things that can be articulated and things that cannot. The articulatable: someone I care for more than myself, someone I want to be happy more than anything, someone who makes me want to be a better person, someone I can truly be myself with, who makes me calm, who makes me happier than anything else, someone I want to fuck constantly, someone who assures me that all the misery of life suffered until that moment has been worth it. There was something you said to me once that I remember—‘In a way I’m glad I’ve gone through feeling discontent before because it makes me appreciate things now so much more.’ And so I come to announce that I love you, and the reasons I cannot articulate are infinite.

Being with you in Helsinki is the happiest I have ever been. I do not look back on that time with sadness but with joy. That it is in the past is unfortunate. That it happened is everything. ‘Better to have loved and lost’, etc. I wish everyone could feel how I felt when I was with you. It is not luck. I felt like I had been through a lot of shit and on the other side was you, and you were worth it all.

So, in a burst of drunken honesty, when my sister-in-law asked if I had met anyone or was looking to meet someone, I answered—‘No.’ I told her that, quite frankly, you have ruined everyone else, that I would never meet someone like you again, that every woman I have met since you — there have only been a few — has only served to highlight how perfect you are. I told her that no-one comes close to you. It was the first time I had said it out loud to anyone, and to do so felt like an exorcism of sorts. She asked after you and I told her that you had met someone else. I said that you were always going to meet someone else, and if you did not then you were not the person I thought you were, were not the person I had fallen in love with. That is you, part of you, and I am in love with you. I realise how silly that must sound — even as I write it down — but it is true. I am in just as in love with the parts of you that might destroy me. Others may think I am insane. So be it.

The last message you sent me was—‘I sincerely hope this will pass.’ It was nothing I paid much attention to at the time — I was a little blind at that particular moment — but I have thought about it a lot. Before your admission, I speculated with my therapist that you had met someone else and I considered to her whether I could still be friends with you. I said that I could not. O, H, it is so difficult! I think about you every fucking day. To think about you with someone else is a great weight upon my delicate heart. It is torture and it has kept me awake at night and made me weep. Now, after it all, I realise that I just want you to be happy. More than anything I want you to be happy. If it is not me who makes you happy then I can only hope someone else does. You deserve all the happiness in the world.

A few weeks ago I met an ex for some drinks on an especially sad Sunday. We happened to walk past the café that you and I went to the last time you were in London, just before you got on the tube to the airport. I remember how agonising that coffee was, how hard I had to try not to cry. I knew that things between us were beginning to change, that every minute I was with you I found myself liking you more & more; I found myself wantingyou more & more; I was insatiable for you, your company, your touch, your laugh, your eyes. Now the cafe is closed, boarded up, another victim of the pandemic.

When I raised this e-mail to my therapist — after she asked me how I want to use this session at 10:33 on a Friday morning in August — she inevitably came around to the question of—‘Why are you doing this? What do you hope to gain from it?’ I told her I just wanted you to read it. I told her that it was already pretty long and that if you would just read it all — ‘In bits, on the tram or bus or whatever’ — then I would be happy. There was a fear that maybe, as a worst case, you thought I disliked you for having met someone else, but that is not the case at all. I only wanted to declare what I already have and what I might further admit. Frankly, putting this all down has helped me tremendously; by that, even if this e-mail does not get read, then it has served a purpose, at least. You always made me want to be a better person. To this day, I am still trying, and I will keep on trying.

But I do not know when I will stop being in love with you. I am not even certain whether being in love with you is something I wish to avoid. I guess that as time goes on this kind of thing becomes less intense. In terms of moving on, I am uninterested until I contemplate meeting someone like you vs. meeting someone as amazing as you; the former is impossible, the latter highly unlikely. And so time just goes on, doing whatever it does, healing, passing me by, turning me thirty-six.

I hope S is well and still barking at canoeists, I hope your family are healthy. I hope that your new apartment was worth the wait. More than anything, I hope you are well and as happy as can be.

In closing, I wish to recall a text you sent me just after the last time we saw each other, and I will transcribe it here—‘Sometimes I think about how you present outwards at time, like about how you can be all scowling and pissed off when walking a busy street or how you’re somebody I probably don’t even properly know when you’re at work, or any kind of thing really, and I find all of those sexy obviously which is part of why this can pop into my mind, but more than anything else it makes me feel so honoured that I’m somebody who gets to see this slightly secret side of you, the you that smiles a lot and that’s sexual in an amazing way and all of that. It’s a thought that makes me feel all warm.’ I like that text a lot, and I cherish it wholly. On the morning of my birthday I read it again. After all of this time I think of it often. That I might be understood by you is truly flattering and magnificent to me. It is silly, I know, but the truth is: the ‘secret side’ of me you saw was my Happiness. It is not a ‘secret side’ at all but something I experienced with only you. It is the best of emotions to have graced my adult life, and in the corner it is signed with your name. The time I spent with you is worth every bit of heartbreak I have endured since, and I would not trade it for anything in the world.

Yours, with love,