Art by Sam Liacos.
Break ups are filled with what ifs and excuses, this and that of why it didn’t work out. The time frame between the actual break up and finally feeling like yourself is messy and overwhelming, especially when you’re the one who feels left behind. Your mind starts going off on it’s own with questions you still want to ask, or did ask but were left unanswered. Not knowing what actually happened or realizing there’s several valid truths (yours and theirs), makes it hurt even more. It’s exhausting, but it’s also in these mind-racing moments that we can find clarity and the strength to breathe and exist on our own again, especially by writing all these thoughts down. The Letters To Past Lovers series is a collection of unsent letters about romance and it’s accompanying heartache, it’s an online Casa di Giulietta where old lovers come to term with the end. –Tania Peralta.
You won’t read this.
Just like the hundreds of words I’ve sent you before. You’ll skim. Answer selectively. Ignore the rest. But, I can’t ignore yours. The same words that sprinkle hope on my heart. The words that rip my heart into pieces. The words that pIece my heart back together. And repeat.
You won’t read this.
I don’t blame you. How many times can you read that someone you only spent six months with a year ago loves you unconditionally? How many times can you read they’re done with you knowing they’re lying? Or reading long-winded essays about wanting to continue this friendship in spite of unrequited love knowkng how much that would hurt them. How many times can you say sorry for not ever feeling the same? You’ve had enough, I want more.
You won’t read this.
Not because you don’t care about me, you do. I believe that much. And not because there is someone else. Juggling isn’t your weakness. What I have to say is no longer important to you. I haven’t moved on. I still grin ear to ear at you storming around your room in excitement from something new you love. I still cry at the memory of my first slow dance, the one I spent in your arms on my birthday. I still get butterflies when I see your name or your face on my timeline. Except what immediately follows the butterflies is regret, anger, and jealousy–emotions I hate more than what sparks them.
You won’t read this.
I’ve read everything you’ve had to say. I hate how proud I am of you, of your writing, of being published. It has to be empowering and therapeutic. Your literary freedom is worth my pain. Managing dueling emotions of anger and admiration gives me something to do. But those words you write, of actively loving someone else…you showing and sharing raw emotions about them…I hate those words. I’ve turned them into a personal attack against my heart.
You won’t read this, but I hope that you do.
When fate, God, or luck seated us next to each other for the first time, I was unprepared for the journey that would follow.
From our very first kiss –at the bar, on that same afternoon we met–we were nothing but loose limbs and wet lips. The alcohol in our bloodstreams broke down the barriers between us, before we could build them. Our friends cheered us on.
Every encounter afterward tasted of liquor and lust until we woke up next to each other with barely any recollection of how we’d gotten there. “You have your belly button pierced? I should have remembered that,” you said, with your arm draped over your forehead.
I put on my jeans from the night before and noticed a questionable stain on my left thigh. (Had I been sick?)
“You can stay.”
“I should go.” I turned my back to you and gathered the rest of my things.
But for every night we fell asleep in a passionate haze, we woke up the next morning entangled in your twin-sized bed.
We pieced together moments to create what I thought would be a bigger picture. From your hand guiding me across a busy street as it rained, your head on my lap, my fingers in your hair after a long day, your Blink-182 playlists as we brushed our teeth, to the smirk on your face when you looked at me after someone said something suggestive.
Slowly, I awakened from the inside out. I felt the ache of longing in my chest and the soothing balm of someone else’s figure. I got familiar with the comfort of another person’s body weight stretched out across me to inches away.
But the pieces weren’t falling into place like I had hoped they would and the alcohol was pushing me to new depths of honesty, until we were standing on a street corner and I was practically shaking your shoulders asking what you wanted out of this, out of us. The next morning we acted like it never happened–for all I knew, you didn’t remember anyway.
Thank you for reminding me how human other people can be , how people are imperfect and full of flaws, no matter how tall of a pedestal you place them on.
Because for every night I drunkenly embarrassed myself, you’d even the score and do the same.
“You’re really pretty,” you said after your best friend’s birthday party. You then stopped me on the sidewalk and grabbed both of my hands.
“And really funny,” you added.
You kissed me and then kept walking.
I didn’t realize how much I craved that kind of attention–the validation that you thought as highly of me as I did of you–until I didn’t have it again the next morning.
I didn’t realize how far my affection stretched for you until the night night you texted me, “Come over, I’m so fucking sad” and I ran over 30 New York City blocks to be there.
I didn’t realize how many times I could fold into myself and away from you until my best friend killed himself and you never bothered to ask how I was doing.
But I was just as guilty of not filling the growing space between us with the right words, because I knew it wasn’t the right time. You were an island that I could never swim to, no matter how hard I tried.
When I finally asked you about the distance between us—when I could no longer stand not knowing—you were honest. The timing wasn’t right, you didn’t want anything serious, you were going with the flow, it wasn’t just me.
And in that moment, I could finally breathe.
Before you, I thought I was incapable of truly connecting with someone, despite being inches away. Before you, I never thought I’d be capable of appreciating another person’s warmth.
But for every bottle of red wine we cracked open on a weeknight, for every bottomless mimosa glass you refilled for me, for every tequila shot we threw back painfully, for every Brooklyn Lager we cheered during a Pens game, I learned something.
Because of you, I’ve realized everything I need: a man who isn’t afraid of his feelings, a man open to communicating them to me, a man who won’t put me in a position that forces me to question everything we’ve shared together.
And because of him, I’ve realized it isn’t you.
Dear Mr. Unexpected,
Lately, I’ve found myself thinking back to my darkest days. Days when it was more normal than not to feel tears fall down my cheeks. There were mornings where I’d save putting on my mascara til last because I couldn’t help but cry for you. And then there were mornings where I wouldn’t even bother with mascara at all. September to September; I was broken for a year.
About a month after you told me we were over, my ex-boyfriend hit me up. He wanted to see me. Any other time, I would’ve said no. But in the midst of my heartbreak, there he was, willing to give me the attention that I so desperately desired from you. So in an attempt to fill the void you left, I went to him.
Being with the man that at one time I thought I would end up marrying, made my feelings for you hit me harder. When he’d tell me he missed me, I wished it was you. It was hard to smile and he could tell I was hurting. “What’s wrong?” he asked, at least three times that night. I wanted to tell him about you, about us. But what was there to say? You had already let me go. “Nothing, I’m just tired,” I’d tell him, again and again and again.
That same night, he apologized. He apologized for lying to me and for cheating on me. He apologized for all the pain he’d caused me. But by then, the pain he’d caused was child’s play. The pain he caused was nothing compared to the pain I felt when you walked away.
“Come here,” he said to me. Chills rushed through me. It all felt so wrong. Even though I wasn’t yours and you weren’t mine, my heart still belonged to you. As he pressed his lips against mine all I could do was crave for your taste.
That night, my love for you sank in deeper than I’d like to admit. I no longer questioned if what I felt for you was in fact love–I knew it was. That same night, I went home and cried myself to sleep. I thought about you and knowing you weren’t thinking about me. I’d pray to God for the tears to subside and the pain to end. September to September; I was broken for a year.
What time is it in Colorado? Where are you now? This letter is terribly overdue and I can only blame myself for that so here goes nothing …
I just wanted you to know that I am truly thankful for who you were and have been in my life. I have always loved you. I know our relationship has been interesting to say the least. I’m not even entirely sure what you even think of me now or if you even think about me at all.
I still remember the first time we met. I felt comfortable and at ease, never judged by you at a time in my life that I was a complete mess. I was able to be myself completely when I was with you despite what I was dealing with at the time. I remember certain qualities about you which I admire to this day–like your unashamed faith (that was my favorite). You were like an angel, arriving in the perfect moment, a light in my darkness. Aurora, my sky was brighter with you.
Where are you now? Are you back in Colorado? Did you make it to California? Or are you back with your baby moms? I remember when you told me she was having your son. I could hear your worry. Still I knew you’d be the great father that you are today, but as I was congratulating you a little piece of my heart broke.
You check in once in a blue moon. Does she hate me? Does she hate you, does she hate us? Does she hate herself? Am I the other woman if I met you first? Are you still with her? Are you happy? I have so many questions.
I believe God places people in our lives for a reason, but I still would like to know why you and I were so short lived. I could write a whole book about you, instead I stay writing love letters about you that I never send. I tried once but you’re always on a moving current that I can’t seem to reach and timing has never been a friend of mine when it comes to you.
Your location remains to be a place I dream to be at. Where are you now? I don’t know if we’ll ever meet again, but I hope that one day we’ll cross each other’s paths once more.
Seven years later and I still smile with nostalgia thinking of freshmen year with you. “You deserve to walk on rose petals”–I remember all the beautiful words you said to me. When I think about love, I think about you. Aurora, my favorite lover, you’re the only one I believed when you told me I was beautiful. I miss you Aurora, I always have. I always will.
Sara Gaby Ortega
P.S. I’ll always love you
Dear High School Sweetheart,
Little did I know that you’d not only take a piece of my heart, but you’d take all of me.
We met back when “sweethearts” were just two inexperienced organs eager to beat at the same tempo, when holding hands in the hallways between classes made my tanned cheeks turn rosy red, and when locking tongues while perched up on strangers’ lockers were risky displays of affection.
I’ll never forget the first day I laid eyes on you, you were that suave Latino that walked right into Ms. Amato’s 10th grade math class, only to fearlessly sneak out of that portable window seconds later, without notice. I had a thing for the bad boy type, and you were that. Your mysterious sense of trouble swayed me from that very first moment, leaving me with eyes for you and only you for years to come. I should’ve known your street smarts wouldn’t be enough to handle my heart with caution.
When you chose to un-love me, I would chase after your affection, force feeding you pieces of me until you were ready for all of me again–even when you chose to love her. You were all I knew. Time after time I condoned you loving me to only leave me, assisting you to create a repetitive sequence of eating me up, swallowing me whole, and spitting me back out. I was left in crumbles and with a shit load of questions: Was I no longer what you desired? Had the taste of what was me year after year gone stale? Was I no longer what you badly craved?
For eight years, I gave you all of me, but you could never quite surrender all of you. Breakups to make ups turned to frigid hearts and blank stares, as I sat at the end of your bed begging for you to want me, begging for you to love me. All you’d offer up was silence, as if you were ashamed of the mistakes I never made. You left me broken. Still, silent and broken, you’d take my body without question.
Goodbye’s were never easy with us, but eventually I walked away. It’s bittersweet how you’d leave white roses at my doorstep years later; if only you could have professed your love to me when I was ripe for you. Instead, you chose to eat away at my dignity and flesh, instead of accepting the love I offered to you on a silver platter. But could I blame you? I handed myself to you. Every time you left, I sealed myself shut and when you claimed ready to return I blindly opened myself back up. Until I birthed a child, our child…And now all I carry is unconditional love for him.
Instead of feeding your greed, sweetheart, I open myself up to new hearts and new beginnings.
P.S. You didn’t leave me bitter, only better.
Dear Mr. Timing,
I can’t keep doing this with you anymore. I can’t keep pretending that this was what we both wanted.
When we ended I told everyone it was because of timing. Timing was something tangible enough to blame. I would tell them all the little great moments–The safeness you made me feel, the nights where you put me to bed with warm words of our future and you making me listen to Goodie Mob’s entire discography to understand the teenage version of you. (I get it, you were complicated). I didn’t question how quickly we fell nor how I loved the thought of you telling me how you wanted nothing more than to buy my favorite shampoo for your shower. It was your way of saying I was your girl and I had a place in your space and essentially your life. (That memory haunts me in the earliest of mornings.)
Over time, moments like that started being replaced with texts. You said the right words in those messages to fill the void long enough for me to not notice. When you shut down, you used your words to compensate for detachment. You cared so much about your job but as a result you started to drown in your own personal demons. Work. Family. Balancing us. (Although “balancing us” shouldn’t have been a demon at all.)
Things were coming at you at a million miles per hour and I didn’t know what to do other than just hope to be a speck of comfort for you. I justified that these were things I couldn’t control or feel like I had any place to help in. These were your demons and I knew better than to fan the flames.
I convinced myself that if I stayed as your rock, things would fall into place as destined to. All my guy friends told me to “show him you can handle his shit.” It wasn’t about me, it was about all the things you were going through that were stopping us.
You decided to slowly push me away. With every nudge, I tried catching whatever rays I could that were even a quarter of the light you were to me. I wanted to understand what was going through your mind so badly. Why couldn’t I be your escape? Was I not worth it? You kept apologizing for your lack of presence, emotional and physical. I started to lose count of the times I heard the word, “Sorry.”
I wonder how fucked up you had me. How fucked up I looked to my friends who started to see through the rose-colored shield I had put up. I kept protecting you because I wanted to hold on desperately to something, even if it were text messages. I wasn’t sure if I was bordering sadness or being pathetic. And still, I couldn’t blame you.
When I finally had the courage to end things between us, it dawned on me that it was what you wanted even though my words and actions led us there. It was my birthday and there I was ending things with you so you could re-center, find your own gravity. I protected your feelings over mine. I protected you over me.
We both agreed that maybe if the stars aligned, we would be together. A chapter that would be left purposely unfinished. Somehow that brought me solace, somehow I gave myself that flicker of hope that we would be a “we” again someday.
Months later I reached out because I yearned for you. I missed us and the feeling of safeness that you had given me. I don’t know if it was a moment of weakness as much as a moment of wanting to be wanted by you again. We saw each other and got tangled into our thoughts and touches. Days later we realized this wasn’t okay. You weren’t sure if you could be in a relationship and I knew I wanted more.
I forced myself to see past the spectrum of my feelings geared towards you. I wrote on the wall all the things we messed up on–big shit, little shit and shit that I didn’t even think mattered– like it was some ridiculous math equation. I prided myself on my independence–a promise I kept to myself because I didn’t want to be like my mother, to be second. Second in priorities. Second in feelings.
To say the words “I deserved better” felt new to my lips. It was as if for one second I was undeserving of that statement because I hadn’t acknowledged myself until that moment. I was second to whatever you were going through, an emotional cum rag for you to go to when things were either really good or really bad. I deserved better. I deserved to be first.
It wasn’t timing that broke us apart, it was you.
I have to say, I thought this area of abstractness you left me in was new to me, but it isn’t. On some level, I’ve been here before. Writers tend to live in the abstract for it defines the very essence of who we are (truth seekers) and what we strive to bring to the world through our voices (clarity). This is simply a new color of the same abstractness; the difference being that I have yet to become accustomed to this hue and truth be told, I’m really not feeling the cold colors of unrequited love that are splattered around this room.
The other truth that I’ve briefly shared with you before is that this hurts–missing you. It fucking sucks. It sort of feels like I’m being punished for a crime that I have been guilty of since the day we met–being myself (and for that I am 1000% guilty). Perhaps, the real crime is that who I am is not enough for you. And therein lays another crime–you not expressing that to me when you had more than enough chances to do so.
Right after you wantonly dropped what we had, I referred back to that text exchange we shared a week prior where I offered to walk away from our “thing” if you were feeling too scattered. We even talked about it face to face because the texts were getting messy like the edges of saran wrap. And you squashed it, only to rub my face in it a week later. I don’t think you know how much that hurts–to feel safe and secure in your feelings for someone, to have them acknowledge those feelings, eradicating any doubt, only to turn around and have them take it back or walk away so haphazardly.
You words of intention, commitment, and desire were valuable; they left the purse of your lips only to be deposited in my memory’s vault, in hopes that they would continue to endear me. I stored them and held them close because my heart was building upon them with the notion that you needed time. I wanted you to have that time. No, I needed you to have that time.
When one is left in the dark they rely on the light of their own thoughts to help guide them through the mire of emotional leftovers.
Those words, your words, were a currency to me in which you chose to deflate based on a future you believed lacked sound analysis. Or so I think…or so I thought. Who am I to ponder? When one is left in the dark they rely on the light of their own thoughts to help guide them through the mire of emotional leftovers.
I recalled you telling me that during your trip to Coachella a close friend of yours took you to task and called you a dick for leading me on, citing that you knew all along you were going to break my heart. You said that you didn’t know it would come to this. You recanted that anecdote as if it was a badge of honor for admitting that someone else called you out on your messy dealings with my heart. Honestly, you could have kept that to yourself. Depending on the weather and the day of the week, I could agree with your friend. As the adage goes, “hurt people, hurt people.” As each day passes I have found myself agreeing with your friend more and more. The day and climate have become arbitrary. A former lover wounded you and I caught the brunt of your pain. You even walked away from our situation just as easily as he left you. Irony can be one timely son of a bitch.
‘Hurt people, hurt people.’ A former lover wounded you and I caught the brunt of your pain.
In one of our post break-up talks you mentioned this “uphill struggle to not communicate” with me. Why a struggle? I didn’t wrong you in any way. You said that we could be friends and despite the cold bowl of “It’s Not You, It’s me” soup you served me, I felt like I could handle that. I deeply questioned if I could, then decided that I could. I valued your presence in my life. My heart was opening day-by-day to you without reservation.
I don’t get how we can go from 100 to 0 that quickly, as if what we developed never mattered to you at all.
Prior to your teary-eyed season finale in that bar on the Bowery, in which my unguarded feelings were part of the season ending punchline, your communication was eh at best. So naturally, I call bullshit on your struggle to not communicate with me. Your denial of me has been perplexing to say the least but it seems to come with relative ease for you. We couldn’t chat once in a blue? Check in on a friend? What does acting like we didn’t share an intimacy that extended beyond the bedroom get you or me? For you, it means time away from a man who sought your friendship, your heart, your smile, your trust, sensitivity, and compassion. Perhaps it even allowed you to make room for a new person to exist in your life. For me, a cold bowl of emotional confusion sprinkled with spiced flakes of doubt. If I’m such a great guy then why be so distant? Why act like I handed you the cold soup when you were expecting something much more comforting? You say that we can be friends, but I’m the only one who has ever reached out to say hello. I don’t get how we can go from 100 to 0 that quickly, as if what we developed never mattered to you at all.
You didn’t have to push me out and act like we never existed. You didn’t have to ignore me because you never loved me the way that I loved you.
Yes, we do have our friends to confide in and the minutia of our daily endeavors to provide an escape. But we also have each other in this; the only two people with all 20 of our toes on the ground that matter. It feels like you’re doing the non-speaking thing out of pride, to prove a point. Kind of like you’re stalling, hoping that one day I’ll be over you or become involved with someone else so that the residual guilt you carry will shed itself that much easier. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that. You didn’t have to push me out and act like I or we never existed. You didn’t have to ignore me because you never loved me the way that I loved you. “Hurt people, hurt people.” This is a truth about you that I am slowly processing to this day.
That night of your birthday when I called you I wanted you to hear exactly what I had to say. Through this pain that has been washing over me I still miss you immensely and I offer my unwavering support to you from afar. It’s hard to convey these feelings when the other person doesn’t really show any interest. I can arrive at a destination of understanding regarding your actions to then check-in but it doesn’t mean that I have to like the decor of the surroundings. The hue of this place doesn’t suit me. It leads me to question you and myself, really wondering why you did this if I measured up to all of these wonderful attributes that you value in a man. You chose the position of saying, “It’s me, not you.” I’ve taken the position as the rebound that floated and remained at the top of your pool of your then current options.
I’ve taken the position as the rebound that floated and remained at the top of your pool of your then current options.
Calling you on the night of your birthday was very impulsive, yes. What I did that night was the culmination frustration and hope that I couldn’t downplay any longer. Missing you has not been fun. It hurts. That night was 100% of me reaching for 100% of you in that exact moment. All that I am right now is a humbled man feeling for you, reaching for your warmth in these moments in a room shaded by a brand new hue, left holding a bowl of your finest gazpacho.
Listen to me carefully, David. I’m only going to say this once. This is the story of how you carelessly handled my heart, but never touched it. This is how I came to realize I shouldn’t be swallowing your cum at these hours of the night. That I shouldn’t be tainting the softness and angel-like beauty that are my lips with your false intentions and misguided excuses for why you couldn’t hold my hands in public. This is the story of how I came to love myself more than the empty comfort your body provided me with twice a week, at 3 in the morning, if I was lucky.
When I saw you for the first time I was floating. When I stared into your eyes, my cheeks burned. I had to look away. Your eyes were too beautiful for me to stare into. Something about your smile was too charming. And when you touched me, it felt like home. When you, even after long hard days at work made it back into my bedroom, I felt important. With all the other bedrooms you could be in, you chose mine. How considerate of you. How sweet of you to be so exhausted and still make time to listen to my praises for you at 4 in the morning. I was so lucky to have someone like you. There was so much beauty in our relationship. There was so much care, so much love, so much gratitude.
But winter came along and everything got colder. I stopped being sweet. I stopped waiting up for you. When I spoke, it was hard and empty. When I touched you, I didn’t care. When you laid in my bed, you took up way too much space. I was confused. Where did it all go?
It was all an illusion, David. It was all a big misunderstanding. Your eyes were not beautiful, David. I am beautiful–So beautiful that even the empty darkness in your eyes brightened when they stared at me. My smile is so charming that yours mimicked its radiance when in my presence. It was my skin. My touch. My everything that was beautiful, hopeful, considerate, and caring. It was me. It was all me. I was the love. I was the beauty I saw in your eyes. I was the home I felt when you touched me. It was me.
Thank God it was me, because when you left all I had was me. All that was left was me. And I loved it.
See you never,
I have read this over and over. I love this.
” I am beautiful–So beautiful that even the empty darkness in your eyes brightened when they stared at me. My smile is so charming that yours mimicked its radiance when in my presence. It was my skin. My touch. My everything that was beautiful, hopeful, considerate, and caring. It was me. It was all me. I was the love. I was the beauty I saw in your eyes. I was the home I felt when you touched me. It was me.
Thank God it was me, because when you left all I had was me. All that was left was me. And I loved it.”