1. Today's the wedding of the-guy-I-almost-married. That's the epithet I use sometimes in real life, too. It puts me in a bind. Our worlds still overlap --- his profession and related issues are a topic of conversation in my circles. Because I considered marrying him, I can speak with authority about a world that most people don't see from the inside and I feel the need to say how I know. I have begun saying "a very close friend," even though that's disingenuous because we have spoken only once since he gotten engaged and that was probably the last time ever. That time, just a few weeks before his wedding, he told me that he continues to follow me by facebook.
So today he goes from the-guy-I-almost-married to a very-close-friend-I-never-talk-to. Congratulations on your new status, my VCFINTT.
2. The hard part comes when I move, and start encountering people that he and his wife know, though thankfully they're moving. I will be visiting a community where he is now a prominent figure. If he ever comes up, he will be mentioned by title rather than by first name. I'll be living within a few miles of where his wife has lived for the past few years, presumably encountering her friends.
3. Coincidentally, while packing today, I ran into a book that Gene gave me when I left my previous city, a foreign language edition of The Giving Tree, which is the only children's book about which I have always since childhood felt unadulterated sadness and anger: the tree gets exploited by its friend the child, and is inexplicably happy.
I'm four years older than my VCFINTT, and when we were dating, he had a lot of mental health problems. His family was in theory supportive of him, but also had always been completely crazy and disordered. When we started the relationship, I had just six months before gotten out of the only truly awful relationship I'd ever been in, and I really just needed an affectionate relationship, which this was. I bounced back after several months with him, and I gave him a great deal of emotional support for years during this time, although it was a difficult time for me as well: a year into our relationship, I failed my quals and was kicked out of my program, and had to petition to return. Getting a call from him at 3 pm saying that he was still in bed and needed help getting up, and spending countless hours talking him out of bed at the worst of his depression was a downer, especially on top of the usual stresses of long-distance relationships. I loved him, so I tried to help as much as I could, but I also set boundaries, and after a few years he was upset about the boundaries. By the time I broke up with him, I had no respect left for him, and was angry to have lost prime dating years, ages 26 to 29, doing what I thought was the right thing in supporting him.
Now I realize that it was silly of me to devote so much to someone that I'd not decided to marry. He came from quite a conservative background, so I expected a proposal after a year even though he was only 23 then since that is what his friends were doing, but we were in different cities and neither of us was willing to leave or change programs, which were both long and we were both holding on by our fingernails. His program had no direct equivalent near me, though we researched his doing a supplementary masters at my school, and I was afraid that I might not survive transferring programs.
So we stayed in a holding pattern. That's why the Giving Tree is going to the top of my give-away pile.
4. Of course I love him and always will, and I am sad that we'll never talk again. Sometimes I have fantasies of old age, whether or not his wife is still alive, if he ever gets sick, I can visit him in the hospital. Maybe if one of his parent dies, I can pay a mourning call. And then I realize how silly it sounds to wish for these things.
He's the only person I ever foresaw getting old with, and even though I chose to end the relationship some part of me still wants to follow his life.
5. I've never even been engaged, and with such a life of expectations washed away, I feel divorced.