Those of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning know of my extreme commitment to anonymity, for me and for those whose stories I tell. This post is no exception.
The summer after my college graduation, my boyfriend and I broke up. It wasn't an easy parting. I still remember the feeling of total helplessness when I realized that there was nothing I could do to change the situation. I cried, "These years, all we've been though, do they count for nothing? How can it just end? How can it just stop?" And he just looked at me, with a face full of the kind of pity I hope no one else will ever see.
We were eating Chinese food. I opened my fortune cookie, and through my tears I read: He loves you as much as he can, but not as much as you want.
I swear I'm not making that up.
I'm sure many of you have similar memories, gut-wrenching stories of young hearts ripped apart. Summoned by songs, smells, or very bad days, ghosts of lovers who were once essential to your existence, but whom you will never ever see again, drift through your thoughts. Such is young love.
Older love goes wrong, too. But divorces or the severing of any long term loving ties are usually not so clean cut. With children or property involved, former partners - if they have been together any length of time - usually remain in some kind of contact...hopefully civil.
It is rare that - absent a death - romantic partners fly suddenly, irrevocably, completely out of our adult hearts, never to return.
So why did the story of the just-too-perfect fortune cookie resurface all these years later?
A far away friend - we'll call her Far Away Friend (FAF) to keep it simple - has been whacked by just such a thing. Nothing - not experience, planning, intellect, resignation, or expectation - prepared her for how much it hurts.
FAF had a boyfriend. And then she didn't.
The whole boyfriend-girlfriend thing was complicated in this case by (you guessed it on the first try) a spouse. Who found out.
So, an emergency text. Then a sad return call. And then nothing.
FAF is sensible and mature and has no desire to ruin anyone's life, so she complied with the terms of the deal, terms they'd agreed on going in (after all, this wasn't true love and never claimed to be). She has not and will not contact the boyfriend again.
She told me that she thought her heart was far too scarred to feel such pain after so many years of feeling so little. She wondered, "Am I as insignificant as a gnat?"
The fortune cookie reveals a single word: yes.