I don’t hate you.
I know we haven’t spoken in months; I deleted you from my phone and from Facebook. I unfollowed you on Instagram. I was bitter. Sorry about that; I thought it was for the best.
We ended on bad terms, but we take equal part in the blame.
“You don’t look gay,” you said when we first met. You were delighted that my “voice wasn’t high”. I called you a homophobe. We laughed.
Maybe I should have turned away then. But there was something about you, something that I wanted to help. At that point you hadn’t told anyone; not even a friend. You were young. I saw my own self in you when I was confined to the closet. I was so unsure of who I was, and you reminded me of that time. I wanted to be there for you.
We began speaking on the phone for hours. I tried to see you as much as I could. I began to park 100 metres from your house to pick you up. I never went inside. You'd tell your mum that you were with a girl whenever you were at mine. Our dates and late night sleepovers were accompanied by cover-ups. I introduced you to my family and wanted you to meet my friends. I was a secret to your family. You didn’t come to my birthday when I’d invited you. You didn’t invite me to yours.
That’s when it started to hurt; it was the silence that killed me. I was in the shadows, somebody’s whisper. I didn’t feel deserving. I felt selfish for wanting to be in your life as much you were in mine.
Everything was on your terms; it had to be, after all. I knew you weren’t ready, but I became desperate for any public display of affection, no matter how small. I felt appreciative if you tagged me in something on Facebook, anything would do. I was trapped; I couldn’t breathe.
I thought I needed you.
We were manipulating each other, moulding each other to our own ideals until we were both disfigured. You weren’t happy with my flamboyance. You told me to uncross my legs, you always referred to me as a bloke, and you looked down on my painted nails. I had limited tolerance for your closeted-ness. I had always told you to take your time but I was unknowingly pressuring you to come out. I was never satisfied, constantly putting you down. I’m sorry.
You were making such an effort, even coming out to close friends and going to clubs with me, but nothing was ever good enough for me, and that made you sad. I kept saying I couldn’t do this anymore but would come running back. This happened three times. I thought I needed you.
“I’m this close to coming out,” you said whenever I had doubts. You told me that you’d done all of this for me. You told me that you weren’t the one to blame, and that it was just the situation we were in. I felt guilty, I felt responsible, and I stayed. Nothing changed.
We were hurting each other. We had become disfigured; hollow vessels created for the other’s benefit.
And then I left you.
The bubble burst. I felt lost. You unknowingly uncovered my insecurities, and I hated you for it.
I was sad, but it went beyond you. My sadness stemmed from something deeper; you’d merely unravelled it. You’d showed me, through our fighting, through the tears, through the five-hour phone calls, that I still didn’t really know who I was- and that I was afraid of this.
I thought I needed you.
But then something happened. Something within me ignited again, a passion that had only been present in our deepest arguments. I thought I needed you, but I didn’t. I started to run. I started to write again. I started to smile, and mean it this time. I started to do all the things I told you I wanted to do. Leaving you had finally given me the motivation to do those things. Leaving you prompted me to find out who I was.
Writing gave me therapy. I started to look back on our relationship, this time seeing the scars in their true light. I started to see the hurt you put me through, the hurt we put each other through, and came to realise that we had never worked. After all, we were always in, would always be in, different chapters.
I need to thank you, though.
I know who I am now and it took me leaving you to figure this out, however painful it was. You showed me parts of myself I didn’t know existed; stronger, more resilient parts. Our fights made me feel manipulated and confined, but they also taught me that I never wanted to waste my breath on fights like that again. I paint my nails when I want to now. I sit how I like. Four months on, I’m excited again. I won’t let myself be manipulated.
I’m able to talk about this now because I’m over it. I’ve reconciled our differences. So to you, my old friend, I wish you all the best. I honestly do. I know that piece-by-piece, whisper-by-whisper, we’ll both achieve the happiness we thought we would obtain together, it'll just be with other people. We’re both seeing other people now, and this is a good thing; we’re both one step closer to being loved for the people we truly are.
The world is an amazing place, my friend, and I am just a tiny piece within yours. In your own time, you will love and be loved. You will come to trust. You will feel confident in yourself; in your own skin.
And although I never believed you, thank you for showing me that I deserved the world, although not with you. Now that you’re gone, I finally agree.
We both deserve the world. The pain was worth it.
Louis Hanson is freelance writer, student at the University of Melbourne, and LGBTQIA+ youth advocate.