The Pool

We met in January 2017 in gym class when you pulled me away from the chaos of my friends. We played catch from a small distance because I told you I wasn’t good at catching. You kept smiling at me, making me laugh and blush. It was that moment that you got your hooks in me. With every interaction this hooks only got deeper.
We began dating on March 24, 2017. You asked me to be your girlfriend just before midnight, even though you always said it was right after. The next day while I was at the musical, getting ready backstage, you said I was your princess. I felt like I was on cloud nine.
Almost everyday for the next two months we stayed after school so you could “help me with math”. We spent our afternoons in the girls locker room talking, laughing, kissing. Hours felt like minutes with you. You would walk me to the top of the lobby stairs, where we parted ways. The minute I got on the late bus I already missed you.
On the one year mark of my grandfather passing, you held me in your arms as I sobbed; not knowing how to deal with grief. That was the first time you saw me cry, and it certainly wasn’t the last.
In May 2017, you asked my mom to officially take me out. She said yes. We went to a little Italian restaurant nearby, got ice cream and went mini golfing. it was raining when we got done at mini golf, and you kissed me in the rain. You dragged me deeper into the never ending pool that was you.
We spent almost every waking moment of that summer together, the exception being when you left for an ROTC related bootcamp for a week. That week was the loneliest I had felt in a long time. Before you left, you had bought me a camouflage teddy bear you named Lieutenant, as he was your second in command to take care of me. I slept with him every night for two years. To this day he sits on the shelf at the end of my bed.
The next school year started with you picking me up and surprising me with my favorite drink from Starbucks. I got you to try it, but you insisted it was too sweet, and that explained why I liked it. Because I was sweet. I was drowning in you, it was like I’d forgotten how to swim.
You picked me up for school even morning that year, even when you had EMT. The car rides where always quiet, the only sounds being the hum of the car, and the songs on the radio. Those were the most serene moments of our relationship.
We went to an Imagine Dragons concert for your birthday with your mom and brother. I felt so out of place, even in the small moments we got alone. You refused to touch me with them there, not even holding my hand in large crowds. We both fell asleep in the backseat on the way home.
We spent Thanksgiving together, spending the afternoon cuddling on the loveseat in my family’s living room.
You came over on Christmas of that year. My mom and I had put together a self care gift for you, careful to get products without Shea Butter.
On Valentine’s Day of 2018, we went to the corporate park in town, where you gave me my gift. A stuffed animal, bath bomb you made, and a Jughead Jones comic book. We went to Panera and then went back to my house.
The next day you broke up with me, ending the happiest year of my life. And yet, I stayed trapped in the pool of you, unable to find a life preserver.
We still went to military ball “together”, though I spent most of the night with my friends, dancing and forgetting the pain momentarily. Until Perfect by Ed Sheeran came on, and you gave me the one dance you had promised me. I kept my face hidden against your shoulder, knowing my friends were watching me fall apart slowly. After the song ended, my friends pulled me away from you and into the bathroom where they calmed me down. The drive home was dead silent.
We stayed friends, we tried at least. However, we were more friends with benefits than anything.
That summer, we went on a trip to Virginia with my mom and siblings. We spent a few days there before my aunts baby shower. We slept on the couch together each night, stealing quick kisses where we could.
We took a day trip to Hammonasset, spending the afternoon with your aunt and uncle. We went to the camp ground you and your family went to, before going to your aunts and going to the beach. We got ice cream, before going back to her house and going to get pizza for dinner. The drive home we blasted music and talked about how I had never been to Duchess.
We went to Lake Compound twice. The first time we spent most of it just walking around, going on bumper cars, train, and the kiddie car coaster. It started raining when we went to the car for lunch. The second time you went on a rollercoaster and hated it. We spent the rest of the day on the train, waterpark, and walking around. You convinced me to go on a rollercoaster and have fun despite you not going with me. I finally caved and went on. That drive home was quiet.
We went to see Ed Sheeran in September for my 16th birthday. I thought that would be the best night of my life. I was sadly mistaken. We spent the ride to Massachusetts mostly silent, just listening to music. We checked into our hotel room and got ready. I did my makeup in the large mirror between the bedroom and bathroom while you sat on the bed and told me I was too pretty to need makeup. We got to the concert after having to turn back to go get the tickets from the hotel, and went to get something to eat. We went to our seats and watched the opening acts, Anne Marie and Snow Patrol. When Ed eventually came on, I couldn’t stop smiling. You pulled me out of the seats just after Galway Girl so we could get merch while there was nobody else there. As we were going back up the stairs to the stadium, a girl puked right next to us. As we went to our seats, it hit me that I was alone with you in a different state from my mom and it sent me into a full scale panic attack. You thought it was because of the girl throwing up. We got back to our seats, and Ed started playing Perfect. I had to sit down to keep my legs from collapsing under me, and started sobbing. You never asked why. I still can’t listen to that song. When we eventually got back to the hotel, we took a bubble bath, and later fell asleep to the sounds outside.
Halloween that year, we went out with my family and best friend. You refused to talk to me, rather talking to my mom’s boyfriend the whole time, and denied ignoring me when I asked you about it. That’s when I knew you were pulling away.
You left for Marine Bootcamp on December 14, 2018. We had our own mini Christmas beforehand, and spent the day together two days before you left. You called me right before you had to turn in your phone. You didn’t say I love you back.
I went through the next three months trying to keep myself afloat, so as to stop drowning. I only heard from you twice, and knew I was losing you. I wrote so many letters, but I couldn’t bring myself to send a single one, not wanting to sound needy, hurt you, or hold you back from focusing on yourself. I ended up burning the notebook those letters resided in.
You came home a week before the musical in March 2019. We spent three hours together, locked in my bedroom just talking, kissing and in silence. You decided we were going back to your house and making dinner, before going to a movie with our friend. We make chicken parm, and went to see Five Feet Apart. When Will left Stella I couldn’t help but start crying. “I don’t want to go. All I want is to be with you, I can’t…I don’t know what comes next, but I don’t regret any of this…I just don’t know of I can walk away if you’re still looking at me”. In that moment, I knew what that quote meant, especially when we got back to your house. You had our friend drive me home, barely touching me of hugging me before I went. You went in the house before I got in her car, crying all over again. She told me it would be okay, that it wasn’t forever. But it would be forever.
You left for combat training a few days later, telling me you’d talk to me soon. It was then that I had managed to begin to pull myself out of the pool.
A month later, you told me that you couldn’t handle being friends with me anymore. You left me. Tore yourself away from me from 1,161 miles away. I had no choice but to finish pulling myself from the pool.
That summer I participated in the Parks and Rec musical, and met someone who numbed the pain for a little bit. He made me laugh in moments where I got lost in my head, stuck in memories of you. We were never anything beyond friends, but he made me feel alive again.
I started at my job in September 2019, and met my work mom, best friend and big brother. They help numb the pain and help me forget how we went to the same restaurant on the day of your graduation and sat at 417.
I met my boyfriend in October. We spent afternoons cooped up in the library as we did homework, him helping me with my ap psychology class. We started dating in April. He understands the pain I’ve been through, and doesn’t criticize me for it. He was there when I would wake up from nightmares, and is willing to listen. He shows interest in the things I love, and adores my family. We started dating in April.
I’ve managed to pull myself almost entirely from the pool. I know what I lost, what I gained and how I’ve grown. I’ve started pushing myself to be better, to get better. He makes me want to be better for me, not mold myself to fit what he wants or expects. I went back to therapy, and realized that I have no reason to be afraid. I don’t have nightmares as often. I’m not scared to go to Target anymore. I don’t have to hold my breath when I drive by your house. I don’t fear speaking my mind. I’m not afraid of my own mind anymore. I’m not afraid of growing up and living my own life with what I want to do. I’m not afraid of you anymore. You can’t hurt me anymore. I’m no longer being dragged into the pool that is you. I’m ready to start living and it feels so damn good.
So thank you. Thank you for the experiences I had with you, but I don’t need them anymore.

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