When it comes to dating, there’s ‘The Thought’ a woman must never say out loud.

 

“I’m not someone who people fall in love with,” I wrote in my black, hardcover journal I’d been keeping for three or four years – years which had proven to me that those nine words were true.

I knew, deep down, that those relationships – the ones I watched from a distance, where couples laid in each other’s laps at the beach and laughed, throwing their heads back in exhilaration – weren’t going to happen for me.

I knew it like I knew that someone in my life would one day die of cancer. Or that one day I’d experience physical pain greater than anything I’d ever imagined. Or that my future was full of nights where I couldn’t sleep, mornings where I groaned as I got out of bed, punctuated with people who’d decide they didn’t like me for no particular reason – and there’d be nothing I could do to convince them otherwise.

And then I met Liam.

I was in a bar with a friend when I saw him for the first time.

His face was kind before it was handsome, and it had a quality to it that made me think he was attractive specifically to me.

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My friend happened to know him, and introduced us for what was just a split second. As soon as we left, I said to him – which, to be clear, I had never done before – “can you ask him if he’s single?”

He was, it turned out. My friend told him I was interested.

It was a Tuesday when I got the Facebook friend request. He then sent me a message, and as we began speaking I felt something I hadn’t in months.

Alive.

There was hope. A hint that my future might look different to the life I was currently living. All that, just from a Facebook message.

And then came the date.

The nerves were overwhelming. It felt like much was at stake. The potential conversations played over and over in my head, until I felt like I might go mad.

But that Saturday night, I got on the train in black jeans and a silk, patterned top. And the moment I saw him, the nervousness dissipated.

He had cut his hair since I’d first seen him. We joked about my forwardness. We talked about our families and our jobs – making them sound infinitely more interesting than they actually were. We dropped in the parts of ourselves we wanted the other to see, carefully storing the unflattering parts away, wondering if they’d emerge as we lay side-by-side at 3am one night.

I’d not felt something like that in years. With his blue eyes, framed by blonde eyelashes, he saw me; a me that was better than the one I knew.

We walked to his house afterwards, and from the corner of my eye I saw how he looked at me. I was an enigma. Something he didn’t see coming. I was interesting. Funny. Maybe even beautiful.

The next morning I woke up to a text message that asked when he could see me next. He’d have to properly thank my friend, he joked.

And like that we were attached. We texted back and forth dozens of times throughout the days that followed, with each personal revelation drawing us closer. And much like when you’re instructed to not think about a pink elephant, and find yourself unable to think of anything but – I was being plagued by The Thought. The Thought a woman ought never say out loud.

This is it.

I’ve found my person.

Everything I’ve felt – all the rejection and the pain and tears as I sat on the floor of the shower – have led me to this moment. It all finally makes sense.

And maybe, just maybe, what I was so sure I knew, was wrong.

We went out again. This time it was even better than the last. He told me I looked beautiful, and we talked about life and what we wanted and travel and dating. It flowed seamlessly.

And I let The Thought grow.

Weeks went by and it was as though I’d been injected with something magical. The world was a different colour. I spoke to people with energy and interest. Things suddenly had more meaning. I laughed harder.

This is what people talk about, isn’t it? The person who completes you… who makes you a better version of yourself… the profound ecstasy of falling in love. I was sure I’d heard that somewhere.

We were meant to go painting in the park.

And then my phone fell silent.

I watched it. And I turned it off and on. And I waited. And I put it in another room and ignored it. And then I checked it again.

Day turned to night then day again.

That’s when he asked if he could call me.

I knew when he asked that it was over.

He’d decided to get back together with his ex. It was unfinished, he explained. He was sorry. It was bad timing.

When I put down the phone, I cried like I’d never cried before. I was embarrassed. I was stupid. Why had I done this to myself, again?

I opened my black, hardcover book and stared at the last words I’d written; “I’m not someone who people fall in love with.”

My breathing shook as I quietly said to myself, “See. You knew.”

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