Building valuable, healthy relationships are central to living a positive and productive life. Bumble has helped change the way we interact, breaking down old-fashioned power dynamics and encouraging women to make the first move. Over the next month, we’re celebrating love. We’ve partnered with Bumble to highlight interesting ways to start a conversation, how to find love in the digital age, how to cultivate intimacy as we emerge from isolation and more. Alongside our helpful and inspiring content, we’ll also share stories of ‘the one that got away’ — because sometimes it’s the love before that leads you to The One.
I didn’t expect to be writing this to you, but events in the past week have sent me spiralling into memories long packed away and mostly forgotten. Before Saturday night, we hadn’t talked in over seven years. I couldn’t even work out how to get in touch with you when I was sitting in that dimly-lit bar with friends just a few nights ago.
I eventually settled on writing out an email with ‘Hello’ in the subject line, unsure whether you even used that account anymore but spurred on nonetheless by my third glass of wine. You replied the next day.
We met at a party, but I already knew who you were. Of course, I pretended I didn’t. I lingered close to you as people started dispersing from the bar, aware of your every movement. You looked at me with your kind eyes and my stomach knotted. For the first time, we smiled at each other. You leaned closer and said, “You are really beautiful”. You probably don’t remember any of this. Though my memory is infamously horrific, for some reason, I do.
A few days later, we started texting. I told you I’d taken a weird pill and couldn’t sleep so you called me and talked to me all night until the sun came up and I could finally rest my eyes.
Later that week, we had our first kiss.
I didn’t know a lot back then. I was 21 and had just finished university. It felt like I had the world at my fingertips. I moved cities to start working at my first proper job — away from the one you lived in, as chance would have it. But distance didn’t stop us. Instead, we sent messages back and forth all day, creating our own language that included nicknames in German and stupid pre-emojis
“You called me and talked to me all night until the sun came up.”
A few nights ago in bed, after we emailed, I decided to pick up my phone and search your name. After failing to find our text messages, gone thanks to years of iPhone updates and stints in various different countries, I went to my email inbox. Up popped pages and pages of conversations that I read through diligently, cringing at the way I used to speak — especially after a few drinks. I was so desperate to insert you into every aspect of my life. Hoping, I think, subconsciously, that if I did so you wouldn’t leave.
That night, I studied our conversations, trying to piece together our romance, eager to define it now that I’m older and wiser and have had my heart broken a few more times. Despite the added extras, yours still sits pretty highly on the pain threshold. I think that’s partly because we ended before we’d ever really started, leaving my imagination to run wild with possibilities of a life spent together hiding in tents at summer music festivals.
I was so clearly enamoured by you, an addict craving every inch of your attention. I’m embarrassed by how full-on I was, but I was young and in love, even though both of us refused to say the words for a little while, and probably didn’t fully believe them when we did. I remember, once things were over, thinking that I couldn’t possibly have really been in love with you. I hated myself for saying it, convinced that you thought I was stupid, young and inexperienced. After all, it had only been a few months. We didn’t even know each other.
“I remember, once things were over, thinking that I couldn’t possibly have really been in love with you.”
Looking back now, I think the reason we moved so fast was a mixture of my wanting to be validated and needed and your wanting to be distracted from the work your body and mind so desperately needed you to do. You were hurt and hurting and we both knew that the way you were living was unsustainable. But I was naive and I didn’t understand everything that was going on with you at the time. I didn’t realise the power of the brain, the lengths you would go to to stop the pain or what you were doing all those nights you didn’t come home.
It doesn’t feel as much like the world is at my fingertips anymore. Not right now, anyway. In the years since we last saw each other, I’ve had experiences I know would make your heart hurt if we were to ever spend another of those nights under the covers talking until dawn. I understand now that there was no way for me to fix you and just how important self-preservation is. I wonder if we would work better if we’d met today or if the simple fact that we never got to find out if it was real is what makes our love so special.
I hope that time has given you the sense of calm you so craved and I hope that you’ve found happiness. You spoke to me of moving out of the city, of being closer to nature and of family being your top priority. I never got to find out if that’d happened, but friends say you are surrounded by people who love you.
I know right now is hard for you. I can feel your pain from here and the familiar pang of worry that I felt for you all those years ago has returned. For what it’s worth, I’m sure now that not only did I love you, but I still love you. You are so loved. Please remember that next time your mind tries to play tricks on you.
Goodbye for now, Schatz x