I keep my heart closed. My ribcage slammed shut. I push people away as soon as they start to mean something to me because I’m scared of getting too close to anyone. I’m worried about spilling my guts, exposing my secrets, and then having them walk away with a slice of me.
That’s why I cancel plans and can take too long to answer text messages. It’s why other people dub me confusing, accuse me of sending mixed signals. I’m not trying to play games by seeming interested one day and then going MIA the next day. I’m only trying to protect myself. I’m trying to stop myself from falling hard, from hitting my head on the pavement and having my emotions gush out.
I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I’m only trying to protect myself.
But there are exceptions, there are times when I decide I do want to date, because love is an addictive poison. There are boys who make my heart say you have to take a chance this time and my brain say do you really want to get hurt again?
Those two pieces of me go to war, a battle between rom-com fantasy and common sense. But the same side always wins.
After all, I’m a risk taker. A daredevil. A strong woman with an even stronger disposition. So when I find a boy who actually makes me want to give this thing called love a shot again, I convince myself that I can handle it. I tell myself pretty little lies that make relationships seem like a good idea.
And for a while, the high persuades me that I made the right choice. That I deserved to put myself out there again and experience the bliss of a boyfriend.
I drown myself in the flirtatious conversations. The texts at twelve at night and ten in the morning. The belief that this could actually turn into something real, that maybe we’ll make a life together.
And then the disappointment sets in. The missed calls. The cancelled plans. The unsaid compliments and slow drifts away.
The pain stings soft at first, like a mosquito bite I barely noticed. It happens when I wait for his texts and ignore everyone else who wants to talk to me. When I scroll down his Instagram, waiting for a new picture because it’s the closest I can get to contact. When I sit up at night, wondering what he would do if I showed up on his front stoop.
Then the itch sets in, annoying and persistent, causing constant questions. Why doesn’t he want anything to do with me? When did things change between us? What the fuck is wrong with him? What the fuck is wrong with me?
And, finally, the realization sets in — he’s not going to become my future. He’s only another sliver of the past.
Every single time I let somebody in, they screw me over. That’s why I always end up back in the same place. A place of heartbreak where I pretend I’m fine alone, that I’m good, that I don’t need anyone.
I convince myself that falling in love is a bad idea. I retreat to square one, where I’m comfortable, where I feel safe. And for months, maybe years, I’ll keep telling myself that the pain isn’t worth it. That love isn’t worth it.
Until the next boy comes along and the circle repeats.
Holly Riordan is the author of Lifeless Souls, available here.