dear hilary: a gradual slope

Dear Hilary,

There was a boy, a wild and free and brave boy who did the best he could to hurt me as little as possible. and he really made me braver, trusting God more, and less selfish than i thought possible. regardless of whether or not i would’ve chosen him as husband – i, undoubtedly, still love him. essentially, though, he had to say ‘i like you, alot. but not always.’ and now that we’ve both had about a month off work, we’re back in the same office – not simply completing the same tasks in separate cubicles, but a part of the same ministry – planting and growing the Word, in a community that’s washing each other’s feet kind of family. we’re not afforded the opportunity to ‘have space.’

How do i help my heart mend, not simply from being hurt, but from being hurt that his eyes are light and as sparkling as ever; he talks to me without regret or sadness, and that seems to have been the case from day one. i’m learning to let go, but what do i do about the lump in my throat that comes when i see how easily his fingers let loose?

I still notice it

Dear I still notice,

It must have been winter, because there was ice on the sidewalk during our three minute meander to the theater. It must have been almost spring though, too, because I almost fell once or twice as the ice melted under our feet, a hopeful kind of melting, as if the ground itself wanted to be free of the long months of February and March. I’d known him more than a year. I’d passed notes for a few months. Once I tied one with some blue ribbon I found in an unused classroom during lunch and I impulsively wrote, “love hilary” on the outside of the note, creased it again and again in my pocket before I gave it to him.

So it must have been the end of winter when he told me that “he liked me too much” to have ever wanted a relationship. He told me almost laughing, a joke we were sharing that I couldn’t catch the punchline of. I remember vaguely that he wore the same jacket to school every day, a brown frayed corduroy one that made me wonder if he was cold walking to and from his car every morning across the frozen parking lot. He said so many things in that walk to theater, his laughter moving so swiftly to confusion and then something that sounded like pity. Because he liked me too much, we’d make an amazing power couple, but you see, as friends.

I saw him at school every day for the next four months. We had lunch in a group together every week, his brown corduroy jacket and his old sneakers and all I could think when it was happening was how could he laugh like that, tell stories about his guitar or the rival high school debate team, how could he be so whole, while I sat and thought my life would surely end and it could never be the same and it was never and always and everything, and I was heartbroken.

So I wanted to tell you and me both, me that girl not all that long ago, who longed for him to long for her, who wondered (and still wonders) about the wholeness we think we understand in other people – I wanted to tell us that hearts mend on a gradual slope. You walk through each day and notice one hundred things. You walk through the next, and perhaps you only notice 97, perhaps there are three things, the way he holds a coffee cup, the laugh he has when he heard something that makes him nervous as well as happy, the sound of his fingers against a keyboard, that somehow fade. And the next day, maybe something comes back, and something else leaves, and time is the healer not because time makes anyone less the wonder that you always knew them to be, but because we move in the slow swirl of the months and days, and we are freed by the movement. 

You don’t know how he is healing – and I say it in the present tense because even if he ended things, he must also heal, mend, build back together his self from the threads and pieces of what’s come before. How he moves along the gradual slope is hidden from you. How he heals in the midst of seeing your lovely self, and all the hundred small things he knows about you – how you hold a coffee cup and laugh in the morning and sign your name on an office birthday card – is his. Yours is yours. If you can, try not to compare how it looks like he feels to how you know yourself to feel.

You mend by moving in the swirl of those months, by sharing the space you must share but not looking too long or too worried in his direction at the conference table.

We are freed by the movement. We are freed by the way time so gently journeys us back and away and yes, at the pace it must be, you will find yourself looking again – and you have let go.



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