What They Don’t Tell You About Letting Go

He overuses the words “dude” and “yo”. I thought he was friend-zoning me or something, but that’s just the way he talks. 

 

He likes to “people watch”, and is one of the most observant people I’ve ever met. He will remember little things that are said in passing, and bring them up in the next conversation. 

 

The way he treats strangers is heart-warming. He smiles at people who pass him in the street, he makes small talk with cashiers and waiters, and he keeps a little spare change to give to anyone who needs it.

 

He walks in a really weird way. He leans forward because he has an awful posture, and takes unnecessarily wide steps. It’s cute. He’s cute.

 

He likes chocolate lava cakes. He likes pasta. He likes creamy peanut butter. He likes french toast. He’s lactose-intolerant, but isn’t great about avoiding dairy, which he later regrets when he’s paying the price in the bathroom the following day. 

 

He would casually brush against my shoulder even when the sidewalk had more than enough room for the both of us. I noticed all of these little things. Or was it just my wishful thinking?

 

He takes public transportation everywhere. He doesn’t have his driver’s license yet, and in his own words, “drives, just not legally”. I had never been a fan of trains or walking too much. The transit was long and tedious, crazy people were abundant, and we got lost more than a few times. None of that mattered though, because I didn’t care where we went, as long as it was with him.

 

We lived close to each other and met up for walks in our local park, just to talk. We talked until the sun set and it was too dark to clearly make out each other’s faces. We talked until the night was so cold that I could see my breath and was shivering even after he gave me his oversized hoodie. We talked until my mom was texting me frantically, ordering me to come home. So he walked me back, and turned to leave.

 

After a moment of hesitation, I called out to him.

 

“So are you going to give me a hug, or what?”

 

He laughed, held out his arms, and I melted into them. I could feel his heartbeat against my cheek and his breath on my hair. 

 

We were just kids, but he made me feel older than fifteen. We talked about our futures. He wanted to move out after he graduated and either go to grad school, or pursue business. He was also planning on taking a gap year so he could figure it out for himself. 

 

The timing wasn’t quite right for us. I wish I had met him a few years later; things might have been different then.

 

But we were too young. There was too much to experience, and people are just that: experiences. He wanted to see the world, explore his independence, and see who he could become when he wasn’t caged within five miles of his home.

 

He wanted to fly, so I let him. 

 

Who was I to clip his wings?

 

He was never even mine but I had never felt that way about anybody. It hurts to think that someone else will be the one to make him smile with a “good morning” and “good night” text every day. 

 

But I know I’ll be okay. 

 

Hearts mend. They break, but they mend. And there is beauty in the ephemeral. 

 

We couldn’t have been anything. I knew it, and he did too. One time, when we were on a walk in our local park, I brought it up. I wanted to know where we were, where we were headed. He told me it just didn’t work. 

 

He knew where he wanted to be, and what he wanted his life to look like.

 

And it didn’t include me. 

 

I had known this, as he had talked about it before, but I had naively thought that I might be the one he could make an exception for. 

 

I agreed with the conclusion we reached even though I didn’t want to. 

 

We were silent, but not uncomfortably so, on the walk back to my house. I was blinking back tears when we got to my doorstep.

 

“What are you thinking about?” My voice was barely audible.

 

He looked at me with unreadable eyes. I loved his eyes. I always thought they were hazel, sometimes green. But at that moment they looked black.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I didn’t know what I wanted to hear.

 

He held out his arms and wrapped them around me. This hug was longer than any other ones we had in the past. But it didn’t feel comforting. I held him like I never wanted to let go. And I didn’t. 

 

We pulled apart.

 

“Good night,” he whispered.

 

I stared at his retreating silhouette until I couldn’t see him anymore.

 

The next day, I stared at my blank phone screen, willing his name to pop up, but it never did. I had never experienced anything of the sort, and the heartbreak hurt so much more than I thought it would.

 

I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to ask him if he was thinking about me. If he knew how much I missed his smile. If he knew that I couldn’t go to the park anymore. Because we used to sit on the swings and talk about how our day was. Because we used to climb on the playground structure at half past midnight, laughing and sharing stories about our childhoods. Because everything from the palm tree we sat under the first time we talked to the stupid park bathroom that was always out of toilet paper reminded me of him.

 

One day, I realized that I hadn’t missed him in a while. I no longer wondered what he was doing, how his thesis was coming along, or whether he was any closer to getting his driver’s license. He felt so foreign to me now, so dreamlike that I wasn’t even sure if any of it really happened.

 

I couldn’t remember how I’d felt that day we went thrifting together. And that kind of sucked, because I knew for a fact that was a day where I just felt so happy. I didn’t remember our embarrassing inside jokes, or what he wore the last time I saw him.

 

Actually, that was a lie. He wore the same goddamn thing every day, and that was part of the reason why we went thrifting. Because his drip game was seriously lacking.

 

Nothing hurt anymore. Which was good, right? 

 

It meant I was healing. But it also meant that when I thought about him, I didn’t feel happy, or giddy. I didn’t feel like I was dreaming. 

 

I just… didn’t feel.

 

And that’s what they don’t tell you about letting go. 

 

That you don’t just let go of the hurt and the longing and the heartache. 

 

That you also have to let go of the memories. Of the good times. Of what it was. Of what it could have been. Of what it should have been.

 

Of him.

 

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Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

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