Heart On My Sleeve for the Heartless to See

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” – The Perks of Being A Wallflower

I’m dressed in a black swiss dot romper and chunky heels as you pull out my chair on the cobblestone where it sits outside restaurant doors. You’re a little older, handsome and tall, and you’ve got your life together. You’re kind and have young siblings, so you’re great with kids. But when we remove our masks and begin to talk, I don’t feel the spark I’m searching for. Somehow I’ve repressed the ability to connect with a good man like you.

Maybe it’s because you seem perfect, and the date started out like a romcom scene (even mid-pandemic). You don’t show the signs of a man who would take advantage of my affection – signs that I can, unfortunately, plainly recognize now. But deep down inside, I wonder if there’s something integral missing from my heart that would have allowed me to fall for you. Is my heart sitting on my sleeve, but only for the heartless to see?

I don’t know when or how it happened, but somewhere along the way, I began to desire people who didn’t desire me. As we small-talk our way in circles, in the back of my mind, I’m not thinking about you – I’m thinking about him. Not just thinking, either – but desiring, missing, worrying for him. A man who is a year younger than me, handsome and tall, but not with his life together. A man who I wasn’t interested in until suddenly a wildfire set loose in my heart, and once he realized he had me under his spell, he pulled back emotionally.

Smiling and readjusting my mask, I tell you I need to use the ladies’ room, and I make my escape. Once there, I text my friends, asking for advice on how to end the date early without hurting your feelings. And then, I text him.

Self-loathing bubbles up inside me as I type these words, because I hate that it’s now been over a month since my date with you and I’m still pining for him. I shouldn’t be pining at all – I should be adored by someone who cares equally as much as I do. That someone should have been a man like you.

Just as he told me he can’t force himself to care about me, I can’t force myself to want you. I wish I could. I wish love could be orchestrated that way. Because then maybe I would find a man who deserves me – a man who would cherish my very being, and care for more than just my pretty face.

The self pity never lasts too long thankfully, because then I remember that not even a year ago I felt trapped in a loveless marriage. I’d gladly accept a thousand years of confusion over the inner workings of my heart between two men with different intentions than to ever have to live with a man who didn’t yearn for my soul or body ever again.

I return to the table, and offer to Venmo my half of the bill to you. You refuse profusely, telling me you understand what I’m saying, but that it’s a date and you will pay the bill. And you do.*

I try not to think about how on my first date with him, it wasn’t until I’d arrived that he told me the cafe only accepted cash, and that he didn’t have enough for us both on hand. Luckily, I always prepare to pay for myself – but it spoke volumes and should have been a flashing sign that he wasn’t prepared to pay for me too.

We hug goodbye, and that’s the last time I ever see you. You deserve so much more than a sad, lonely, broken girl who would allow herself to miss a man who uses her without remorse. I hope you find your happy ending, and maybe someday I will find mine too.

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