The worst date is the one where the relationship ends, the one where he asks you to join him at that special place, and you know that you will have to break his heart. You get ready with your usual care, internally preparing the speech that you must pluck up the courage to make. The worst date is the one where you break up and he did not see it coming.
Jack was my dream come true. He was tall and slim with a wit so quick I had to stay close to catch the facetious comments he would quietly drop to show how pretentious or shallow the general conversation had become. He never felt the need to push his point of view, but when he chose to speak those who knew him listened.
When he smiled at me it felt as though we were the only two people in that crowded room. He would drape his arm around my shoulders and I would melt into him, basking in the glow of his intelligence. If anyone was surprised when we got together they quickly accepted my presence amongst the elite. So long as I was with Jack I belonged.
When we were alone he would drive me to out of the way places where we would lie on our backs and search out shooting stars. He talked of music, opera, travel, books and college. He planned out his future, never doubting that he would achieve his goals. When I asked where I fitted in his plans he would roll over, encircle me in his arms and kiss me gently. ‘With me’ he would say. For a time that was all I needed to hear.
I did have opinions but they could too easily be countered. I quickly learned not to try to join in their debates. When Jack worried me with a turn of phrase and I questioned him later he would have endless reasons to back up his thoughts. I would lie in bed while he slept, frustrated by my inability to vocalise my niggling concerns.
How tempting his future looked, filled with brightness and ease and love. But what was it about me that he loved? He could not have been more gentle and caring yet he made no effort to find out what I thought. When I tried to discuss he would indulge my ideas before reminding me how right he always was. I could not make him see why I did not always agree, internalising the concerns that grew stronger with their demands to be heard.
He thought that I was sweet and cute and adorable. His mother loved me, a kindred spirit come into a household filled with boys. His father looked at me through eyes that I guessed saw far more than was ever said. He knew better than to interfere, allowing life to take it’s inevitable course, unable to prevent his family suffering the fallout of my actions.
I could have handled things better but did not know how. I knew that I was being crushed by his love, but this gilded life was not one I could expect to experience again. I wonder how much longer it would have lasted had I not met David, had I not rediscovered fun.
It was not the excitement of the new that decided my fate, although that too was a draw, but the reminder that I was young and could feel free. I did not wish to settle down in the shadow of another, however impressive. I had my own life to lead.
I broke his heart and I watched him fall. Something inside him died at my hands and he could not understand what he had done wrong. I had never been able to show him the world through my eyes, to explain how I felt and why. I allowed him to see my betrayal as an act of evil rather than self preservation. It felt kinder to cut cleanly than to have him question what he was.
When he did not go on to achieve the great things that were expected of him I wondered at the impact of my actions. I can only hope that my influence was not so great. I convinced myself that I had done what was best for both of us, yet I recognise now that I acted selfishly.
I learned to insist on myself, to resist subsuming what I was in the presence of a stronger personality. I learned that the intelligent are not always right, that all opinions should be listened to.
In the end it was I who went on to achieve. There were none more surprised at this than me.