Summers Back Then

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I would have been a child of less than 10 years of age, vacationing the summer away at my grandmother’s home.

Lunch was always a prior two p.m. ritual. I didn’t help cook the meals because although chopping vegetables and watching chickens get beheaded was sort of interesting, standing my ground in ammachi’s kitchen entailed lots of chit-chat that my lack of Malayalam communication skills was afraid to even try.

When the meal was ready, the women would call out to the rest of us and I would demurely tag my two cousin brothers into the kitchen to carry the food out into the dinning hall. Brown rice, an odd curry I would only ever eat at ammachi’s, the staple fried beef that only a Mallu could ever perfect and of course, pappadums. Keep the pappadums coming. Wash it all down with a gallon of water that ammachi insisted we drink during the meal. Not the best way to eat, but it helped me digest the so-not-my-taste food that I had to enjoy, so I didn’t complain.

My mother never understood how the potatoes in a curry I abhor 10 months a year were suddenly the most succulent thing in the world. Well mom, I had to pretend to like SOMETHING.

After a good forty-five minutes spent in an effort to keep my feet of the tiled ground that I could never get used to (I was always a carpet person) and nervously glancing at the wall opposite the table which was the 2 p.m. lizard’s favourite spot, the ordeal was done.

The table was cleared (which I actually helped out with so that my parents wouldn’t be deemed the worst parents in the history of India who didn’t teach their daughter to help set and clear tables). My older sister and elder cousin brother would almost immediately dart into the store-room to hunt for the badminton gear from summers past and I’d wonder how I could make use of my time in a semi-productive way that I could maybe, just maybe, enjoy.

This was the hard part because pair being the younger one who doesn’t have much of a say in group activities with totally not being inclined towards anything sports and you were left with a lost kid wandering the lonely alleys of her mind questioning the point of this painful recurring phenomena called summers at grandmothers.

But then you find a way, because what other option was there? The ways varied from collecting well rounded stones from the front lawn, washing them in the garage and showering them over random objects to plastering my face with wet powder and jumping like a lunatic from the balcony trying to scare the lanky men with meagre-supply stores opposite our house to standing on the wall separating our house from our neighbours and forming a silent friendship with the kids next door to creating and living in make believe worlds on the terrace.

But everyone needs someone to feed incoherence to, even those of us stuck in the younger sibling lack of choice rut. There was always someone younger to train in the art of nonsense. Let me just write a quick introduction to my younger cousin brother, my friend and partner in not-so-much-crime-as-idiocy.

It would be untruthful to say that he admired me because he did not. But since he wasn’t invited to the heated elder sibling badminton showdown and I am born a good sixteen months before him, he had little choice but to follow my lead.

So I taught him the right way to yell scary nothings from the balcony. I showed him the kind of stones that were perfect to first wash and then throw around. Don’t look at the dogs, I’m afraid of those things. I asked him for name suggestions to call our next door neighbours, and totally lent my listening ear to his two second pause before I suggested Somemoney and Thresakutta as befitting titles. And I invited him into my make believe world, with stories of century old farmers and plantations that were there before our house laid its foundation.

He would without exception every afternoon ask me if we could go and join the badminton game, and I’d always have to come up with new reasons as to why we were actually better off not doing so. The tiresome child!

Soon arrived 6 p.m., the hour of hours. All four of us were rounded together from our various miscellaneous activities and sent off for baths. The baths had to be quick so we could beat the 6 p.m. power cuts. It beat us though, almost every single time.

As the baths came to an end, we climbed into our PJs, hair still damp and whatnot, and made our way to the sitting area in the hall lit with candles and torches. Dinner preparations were still underway, the chickens were probably faster on their feet at night, and the four of us would quietly gather on the large rug at the centre of the room with only one agenda in our minds, old photo albums.

We liked seeing what each of us looked like ten years ago, but the primary goal was to discover what our folks were like before we ever met them. They were all sepia coloured of course, bellbottoms, thick beards, even thicker spectacles. The women had their saris neatly tied at the waist and a very strange look on their faces that we couldn’t recognize in our mothers, shyness? Awkwardness? Submissiveness? What was that?!

We laughed at how ridiculous they all looked, never thinking but once how we would probably have the same reaction to our own attires fifteen years down the lane. We each had a favorite album that we would always make an excuse to pull out, mostly the one we knew we made our first entrance in. Mine was my father’s younger brother’s wedding. I was a year old and heart wrenchingly cute. It was a coloured album.

Soon the chicken was cooked with all the required potatoes (lots of extra potatoes since I loved them oh so much), and we were called to help lay the mats.

Summers weren’t always the most relaxing, and yet every other year hopping on that airplane to the motherland came with such anticipation, I wonder why.

Last night a 24-year-old me sat in a candle lit room with my friend loudly expressing our exasperation as to when the electricity would choose to return. She told me she always loved power-cuts as a child, I said that growing up in the Middle East, it wasn’t a huge part of my life.

But then, I guess it was.

On Friendships, Karma And The Internet Bible

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Life has not been easy.

But I guess it isn’t supposed to be. No one ever learnt from sitting on the perfect rocking chair, sipping piping hot tea and pondering about this vast universe.

You may study, think, reflect, contemplate, draw conclusions and heavens help us, judge (we are humans and we will judge, that’s alright). But even the wisest of empaths and the most knowledgeable of psychologists can only dissect a situation so much.

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? I like that phrase. It helps soften your anger and hush your annoyance. It aids compassion and fuels empathy. Still, you need to remember that you can only walk that mile metaphorically and do it so much justice. Even more so, you need to remember that there is only so much you can tone and chisel your life by drawing from observational miles.

So life isn’t gonna be easy and that’s just fine. Yet sometimes, it is everything BUT fine.

I’ve been having the worst luck with three of my closest friends this year. We’ve constantly been at it, waging silent wars and subtle I-don’t-think-you’re-getting-it-right rebuttals. Of course, we are friends, we won’t be nasty to each other up front. Friends are supposed to understand, support and love, even when they disagree.

Alas! It has all taken a toll on our strong friendships. Quelle suprise, amirite?

When my third and closest friend recently gave me a piece of her mind about how I am messing things up, I knew I needed to sit back and think. Think, with a little experience this time. Not a lot, but a little.

But a little experience only opens doors for a little understanding. My means were limited, but the word wide web and the plethora or humans I interacted with, I realized, was not. So I began to ask, search and to listen. What did the wiser ones have to say on this? (Yes, I know, www is filled with more smart alecs than wise-ones! I know.)

The one annoying phrase that kept hounding me was that if I seemed to be having problems with too many people, maybe the problem was with me and not them.

Of course, I had my own set of mental rebuttals to that one, a rather long list of ‘but I accepted them when they were this’ and ‘not EVERYONE has a problem with me’ and the most striking of the list, drawing similarities between the ones who had problems with me and in turn turning the problem towards them. Yes, I did that. I do that.

But none of that really satisfied me. If I were to be honest, and I was, I knew there just felt something wrong in that approach.

Now let’s fill you in a bit about the kind of person I am. I am the sort of person who has read too much crap on the internet and internalized it all, not completely understanding simplified one liners. I don’t think the Internet Bible is for a person like me. I need to know the whole story, or I screw up.

I am a rather proud person, but I’ve always heard that pride comes before a fall and that the first one who apologizes isn’t weak and all that. So I often apologize first, sometimes when I don’t even really mean it, because hello Internet Bible!

I’ve taken in mottos on pretty pictures as life advice that I relentlessly throw at myself when any hard situation comes up. Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness. Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it. Don’t give your past the power to define your future. And then the famous don’t cross oceans for people who won’t even jump a puddle for you ALONG WITH the revised one striking it out with No, do it. Life isn’t about what you gain but what you give. You know I am guilty of having shared all this on my Facebook as well!

You get it. That’s basically me, a confused soul looking at a string of words from an actual situation I know nothing about and going all “This is it” MJ on my life with it.

So where were we? Yes, me trying to be really honest sans the Internet Bible (which I totally ODd on by the way) and other’s opinions. You see, complete honesty is a scary thing. There are doors you don’t feel comfortable pushing past so you just perch yourself against it, sip piping hot tea and ponder about the vast universe.

But one day, someone pulls it open from the other side and you fall flat on your back. Urk. Not so comfortable anymore. Experience, what a fun thing you seem to be!

So what have I been doing so wrong? I can sense myself get tense and curt in regular conversations. I’d had enough of bullshit. I felt like I needed to speak up now. But then, I had to ask myself, why did I even put up with the aforementioned bullshit to begin with?

Because I was kinder, maybe nicer, when I COULD be. And I have read that quote, the one where Dalai Lama said “Be kind whenever possible, it is always possible.” Again, one line. How much do I really know about what he meant or what situation he was talking about? Maybe sometimes the choice was to be kind to yourself and allow yourself to say that right now, no, I can’t be a good friend. Not if it isn’t coming to me. And it just isn’t.

Guilty of finding the trigger on the www, I’ve been doing a little digging into Karma. Not the you reap what you sow kinds, but the you attract what you put out kinds. I drew up a chart of the various significant relations in my life, the rises, the falls and the fall outs. And little else in my life has ever made more sense than the bitter-sweet list of names that were oh so much more than names to me.

Clarity. Crystal clarity.

Who you are being, as opposed to what you are doing, has a lot to do with what you attract. I haven’t been at peace for a long while. When certain people walked out of my life, I realized that I had allowed people to take who I was for granted for too long. I looked at those who were still in my life and hurled the resentment at them, cause I let them take me for a ride too. The others left, I couldn’t do anything about it, but these guys, oh boy! Were they ever gonna see the wrath of my scorn.

WRONG.

I know.

But when my insides pruned, I saw how my friends began voicing discontent. That’s not what you need to do as a friend. No, maybe it wasn’t. But my job wasn’t to teach them how to be a friend. My job was to teach myself how to be one.

So maybe I did allow them to take me for granted. My no-complaints during their long periods of radio silence and open arms when they returned. My heart breaks that took second place to their heartbreaks. My change of focus to better things when they said and did hurtful things so that I wouldn’t indulge in negatively feeling towards them. Yes, I can see how some of that made me bitter.

But a lot of it came from a place of fear, not always understanding. It came from crappy, short-sighted perceptions of insightful messages. It came from an attempt at gratitude over reasoning for times when there should have been gratitude for reasoning. And you know the one thing all these guys have in common? They all came from within me.

So it wasn’t really fair to throw the flak at friends who were just being themselves the best they knew how to. It’s not fair to judge their human for judging my human, not when I have always said that I could love with super-human love.

I got my Karma, and I can’t bring myself to call her a bitch because she came in the form of my best friend.

Metamorphosis

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It happens to the best of us.

Change.

You wake up one day and realize that nothing you are doing seems in accord to how you feel, and nothing you feel fits in with the image you have drawn up in your mind of who you are.

There must be something wrong with me.

There is something wrong with you. You aren’t being true to how you are feeling. You aren’t allowing yourself to become who you are becoming. You’re fighting your metamorphosis and that kinda’ change is painful on its own without the added pressure of you holding yourself back with all your might.

I don’t want the negative experiences and encounters to change my faith.

Someone once said that you are the sum of all your experiences. You cannot subtract an experience from your life and continue being who you were. As painful as that may sound, your experiences will shape you, they will mold you. Even the bad ones, especially the bad ones. So don’t resist the change. Try and understand it.

Faith isn’t something that’s gonna turn up at your doorstep cause you’ve called all her friends (read: all YOUR friends).

The biggest lie you have told yourself is that faith is something you can hold on to with just your will.

It’s untrue. And if you cannot, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t fighting hard enough, sometimes it means that you just need to stop wounding yourself in the battle.

They are saying that it’s making me bitter.

Maybe it is. Let it. I always used to preach let your hardships make you better, not bitter. But then I had to revise my sermon. There are some parts of you that will turn bitter along your sojourn. Maybe it’ll soften further along the way, or maybe it won’t. What you need to do is embrace it. Stop drawing your sword every time you see it, that defeats the purpose in itself.

You need to let all the parts of you that are changing change. Let the reds turn scarlet and let the olives turn juniper.

That is going to involve saying NO to a lot of people you love and YES to a lot of things you told yourself that you are never supposed to feel. As you stand before yourself, undone after moulting, you will notice something emerging from the wilted.

It won’t be love at first sight, but you’ll learn to love it anyway. You will learn to love yourself again but you can only do that if you are sure that who you are loving is who you truly are.

This isn’t the best version of me, they say.

No, it isn’t. But neither is the version of you they loved. That will not be your best version anymore because that isn’t who you are. Your light will shine different and your kindness will feel different. Accept that.

Don’t let them tell you more than they should, and what they should ends at “Go be. I’ll wait till you can become.”

Don’t let them persecute your human because it didn’t fit within the boundaries of what’s human for them. Your human is wild and messy, it crosses their lines and defines its own boundaries.

A friend once told me that people can only meet you at how far along they have come in their journey. Some of them will say that they are with you and some will say that they are ahead of you, but that’s all a lie. The ones who are really with you will walk along in silence and the ones ahead of you will shine a light for a path to follow. So don’t listen to the ones who talk. Listen to the ones who ask.

What if I fall into darkness yet again?

I believe with all my heart that the darkest pit in this universe is fear. You cannot be afraid. You must not be afraid. Say it out to yourself. You WILL not be afraid.

It is said that we human beings are only the medium, art, music and poetry finds its way out into the universe through us.

If you want your life to be a masterpiece, stop spreading yourself too thin, stop encumbering the melody with the screeching and wailing of your fears, stop adulterating the words with your inhibitions.

Be, without the fear of becoming, and when you learn to be, you will see the exquisite truth that you have become.

Why I Finally Stopped Cursing That Moment

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There was a man who walked in and mercilessly stole your heart away, kissing you on a chilly Christmas night as The Turtles chimed So Happy Together on repeat in your head.

You loved the scent of his skin lingering on you and held on to his white and maroon checked vintage shirt, the warmth of which worked itself all the way into your soul.

Your heart did funny things in it’s cage every time he would mispronounce a really regular word. You’d say the word over and over again in your head in his voice, and it only made you fall in love a little harder.

You traced the contours of his face a million times in your mind and could bring him to life in a split second if you closed your eyes.

His soft, long, skeletal fingers became the place you thought your hand belonged in and his touch, that always tickled more than it should have, could tingle memories before they were even made.

He wasn’t really funny, but the few inside jokes you scrapped up together over the years was your happy place. You could say them to yourself a million times and smile.

He was an enigma, with a curious mind and an ever so elusive presence. And even when he was beside you, it always seemed as though you had to fight a little harder to give words to the silence between your gazes.

It scared you when he looked at you, cause it felt like his button eyes could look all the way into you. But you didn’t think that maybe, just maybe, it could look through you.

When you feel something for someone that you can’t quite explain, for reasons you can’t even begin to fathom, you trust that it was a predestined, galactic match being handed down to you from several lifetimes. You are certain that in every birth and in every possibly existing parallel universe, your souls have met, meshed and been together.

So when you were in love, you probably thought that it would be the only time that you ever would be. Naturally.

And when you had to let go of him, you thought that it would never happen again. But of course.

So you kept picking at the hackneyed memories of jaded emotions and wondering how it ever got here. How could you be but another to each other now? How could you possibly have held on so tenaciously to the clarity that you saw in a moment and let go of your love of a lifetime?

There came others after him, the ones who you broke and the ones who broke parts of you, but never the part that could defeat you. That part belonged to him and you’ve been a defeated warrior stumbling along life ever since the day he walked away.

“Well, whatever. I’m just so glad you are not with him. He turned you into such a train-wreck.” Your closest friends all tell you the same thing. All the damn time.

So what if he did? Doesn’t love wreck you? Isn’t it supposed to be reckless? What was the use of sobriety in the world of amour! How can it even be called love if it doesn’t make you want to jump off a cliff every single day?

I’ve always been a believer in love, the fairy-tail, sweep you off your feet, perfect-for-each other kind of love. Blame it on one too many chick-flicks, call it what you may, but I could never imagine settling for anything less than elating, enthralling, all-consuming, I-will-love-you-a-million-times-more-than-you-love-me kind of love. The truth is, I could never imagine settling.

But then, there came a man who walked in and gently stole my heart away, standing ten feet away from me and doing his own thing on a chilly New Year’s Eve as a burning skyscraper and world renown fireworks battled for dominance in the night sky.

I loved how he sounded like my best friend and that he went out on a limb to share with me a part of his predestined, galactic down-the-gutter-drain that he didn’t have to.

He was funny, the real funny, and our hundred inside jokes spewed together over weeks became my happy place.

I could listen to him rap to Eminem over and over again, and suddenly the lack of music on my phone didn’t seem to matter so much. He would indeed be one tough act to follow.

His enigma was his fearlessness and when he was beside you, it was hard not to want to breathe him in, every last whiff of his rock solid honesty.

He reminded me of songs that were too sappy to ever understand, and he redefined the pain and heartache in all the old ones.

I didn’t think I deserved him, but for a change he didn’t think he deserved me either. And we both knew what holding on meant. We both knew how to count our blessings. We saw that maybe there could be another love, just as majestic, just as maddening. And if you waited out the pain, we saw that you truly cannot fathom what lurks around the next corner bend.

For the ones who lost their loves of a lifetime and the ones who can’t even begin to imagine how anyone else could ever make you feel remotely as crazily smitten as you were, I’d say your perfect is still out there, a greater perfect, a better perfect. And when others tell you to lower your expectations, you better tell them that they know nothing cause when you meet him, you’ll know.

And that moment of clarity?

Well, you can stop cursing it now.

With Love, Your Not-So-Best Friend

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I’ve let you down, yes I know I have.

I have spoken about you to others when we weren’t good. I meant no malice, but I was upset and I needed to talk. I deserved to talk, to vent. You may be my best friend, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay when you hurt me. I understand that you are human and you need to hurt me sometimes, I hope you understand that I’m human and I may hurt you too.

I have not taken some of your problems very seriously. That’s unfair, I know. But everything I see is only through my perception, and sometimes mine ends with my limited experiences. Maybe someday I will understand what you went through, but if you’re a friend you should hope I don’t. That’s a bit hard, right? It’s okay.

I’ve lied to you and bailed on you to sleep, I’ve bailed on your mom’s birthday celebration to meet someone I just felt like I had to. Where were my priorities? I don’t know. You always tell me to follow my heart so I did. You ask me to not feel guilty for doing so, so I haven’t.

I let you go without a word. I let you walk away when I should have held you back and told you how I felt, when I should have given you an explanation. I didn’t. That was so messed up. But sometimes I don’t have the strength to go through a whole cycle of blame games. I envision what you will say and I don’t give you a chance to say anything different. I don’t even give you the chance to know what I am thinking when you have every right to know. But you didn’t ask me, did you? No. You didn’t ask me.

Sometimes when we were apart, I didn’t miss you like I said I always would. I didn’t even think of you. When I thought of you, I was glad you weren’t around, I enjoyed our distance and felt deeply grateful for it. I know, what kind of a way is that to feel about a friend? How could I even call myself a friend? I don’t know, maybe it’s because I still love you.

Most of all, I know I haven’t always been there for you when you have needed me. I haven’t showed up with a hug or a phone call or even a text to check in on you. Even when you told me you were going through a rough patch, I wasn’t the best kind of friend I should have been. I didn’t ask you about your difficult boss or your nasty breakup. But you called me a best friend, you said you loved me, and I just hoped you knew that I was there, somewhere in my absenteeism, thinking of you and wishing you the best.

I strongly believe that to have a friend, you need to be a friend. I know I haven’t been the personification of that belief, but here is what you need to know.

I still do call you my best friend.

Even though I’ve hurt you and you’ve hurt me aplenty, I have loved you through the tears. I have rooted for you through the heartbreaks. I have held on to you even when I let go.

I check up on you through funny ways, stalker-ish ways, and I am glad when I hear that you are doing well. When I know you are upset, I pause for a moment wherever I am and I send out a silent prayer for you.

I always think of you when I listen to Titanium or Rehab. I think of you, and your people and I wonder how all of you are, even when I don’t always ask, even when I’m not one of your people, I think of you. I think of our memories and I laugh and I cry every single day. I think of you because you were, are and always will be a part of my heart, a part of me.

I am me because you are you, you have been a part of my journey and even through the silent weeks, months and years, I will never give up on our friendship, I couldn’t even if I tried.

I will never give up on you.

So I call myself a friend. I even dare to go as far as calling myself a good one sometimes. I’m not always the best, but I’m here. And I’ll be here.

With love,
Your Not-So-Best-Friend

 

To The Men Who’ve Left

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Thank you.

Thank you for showing me that I could be seen, that I was something more than a walking ghost filled with other people’s stories but my own dreams. Thank you for telling me you loved me when neither of us knew what that even meant. If it weren’t for you, I’d never know that I existed, that I could be wanted, that I could be someone.

Thank you for shifting schools and staying back in the country for me. Thank you for never giving up on me, even when it hurt your fragile heart oh so much. Thank you for letting me go when I asked you to. Thank you for never coming after me. And it’s been nine years since all of that, but thank you for still leaving behind that tiny corner in your heart for me. Thank you for your kindness, for your patience, for your faith.

But most of all, thank you for the 12th of October, 2007. Thank you for breaking my heart into a million pieces, my heart which wasn’t even yours to break. Thank you, because had I not been broken beyond repair, I wouldn’t spend the rest of my life trying to stop others from being broken beyond repair.

Thank you.

Thank you for showing me what it was like to fall in love. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t ever know what love could have been like, the passion and the madness, the beauty and the insanity.

Thank you for being my only saving grace in a treacherous, confusing cave called high school. Thank you for giving a broken girl a reason to face another day. Thank you for the 27th of October and for that day in May. That was the day I realized how beautiful love could make someone look, even when they don’t see it.

Thank you for never returning my love the same way, even for a day. Thank you SO much. Thank you for ripping my heart apart for years on end, because had it not been for the venom you injected into me, I would never have sought an avenue to extort it from my being, I would never have found the greatest friendships and the most exhilarating laughter that I did.

But most of all, thank you for never letting me know that I was secure in your love, because I wasn’t, and I shouldn’t have been, even for a day. Thank you for not holding my hand that was an inch away from yours on the cab ride that day lest you gave me something to hold on to. Thank you for leaving me with nothing to hold on to. Thank you for leaving me when I was free falling and for not looking twice when I crashed. Thank you, if it weren’t for the disturbed you made sure I knew I was, I would never have gone looking for the peace I did, and I would never have found it.

Thank you.

Thank you for being a friend when all my friends acted anything but. Thank you for sweeping in and being everything he wasn’t exactly when I needed it. Thank you for showing me that in fact, I did not have a type, none besides kindness.

Thank you for taking the wrath that I wasn’t brave enough to dump on someone who deserved it. Thank you for standing by it, confused as you were and letting me break you. Thank you for bringing me face to face with my ugly human.

Most of all, thank you for helping me see that enduring great pain does not entitle you to give greater pain. Thank you for not chasing me when I walked out of your car that February evening. Thank you for never looking back at me, for allowing me to never look back at you. If it weren’t for you, I would never know how important it is to forgive yourself every now and again. I would never know that my human was what made me real and relatable, it was my strength, and not my weakness.

Thank you.

Thank you for making me chase my dreams. Thank you for teaching me how important it was to dream. Thank you for putting me on the path to my dreams, to myself and for cheering me on every God damned step of the way.

Thank you for making me live in the now. Thank you for helping me embrace my fearless. Thank you for teaching me how to place my bets against all odds.

Most of all, thank you for cheating on me. Thank you for showing me how crass being a human can be. Thank you for your cowardice and your honesty. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t realize that I had learnt, and that I had grown, and that I could be different and do things differently. I wouldn’t have known the kindness of my own heart, how easily I could forgive. I wouldn’t have known that my kindness was stronger than my deepest pain. I wouldn’t have known my capacity to accept being human.

And thank you.

Thank you saving your entrance until I was ready to meet you.

Thank you for being exactly who you are and allowing me to be exactly who I am.
Most of all, thank you for showing me that I know exactly who I am and what I deserve, and being the first space where I ever felt emboldened enough to ask for it. Thank you for giving me what I asked for, and so much more.

And maybe this isn’t the final act, who knows, but thank you. Thank you for loving me like no one ever has, or maybe ever could.

To the men who’ve left.. and the one who didn’t.