Tiffany N. Williams is a thirty-something doing thirty-something things in New York City, to include, but not limited to, brunching, day partying, being on the scene (well, napping... same thing), teaching undergrads the intricacies of human resources, and fighting for our black and brown youth.
You can find her on all the social medias as @mstwill and can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find the first installment of her short-story series, working title: "Incidentally," exclusively here, at The Southern District.
Have you ever smelled a flower so sweet that its aroma lingers for hours...? That’s what it was like to love him. His presence is felt long after he’s gone, and the love he cultivated never truly goes away.
When you fall as deeply in love as I did, there's no escape. It doesn't matter the circumstances. A love like this consumes you. My every waking thought was about him. My every movement was deliberate and for him. I was able to breathe for the first time. Everything was different... better... because of him.
It had been about six months since the relationship started. We had hit all the milestones - I had a drawer at his place, he had a key to mine, I met his parents, my friends liked him. We were moving forward, and all was well until that fucking career day. Until I found my great love in my friend, not my boyfriend.
Even though we were close, I didn’t tell my friend everything. So, he knew that I was dating, but not that I was at the start of a serious relationship. So when I followed him to his hotel room after Career Day, he couldn’t have known. I had been falling asleep on the phone with my friend's voice being the last thing I heard before sleep... together in Miami holding his hand in front of his friends, solidifying our growing love... escaping to Philly for a weekend getaway... how could he have known about my other life? How could he have known about the boyfriend waiting for me back in the city? Well, he surprised me in New York...that’s when he knew.
My boyfriend and I had moved in together the week before. It was difficult to live this double life, but I made a way. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it up for long, and would need to make a decision, but until then I just enjoyed feeling loved. While waiting for dinner to be delivered one night, there was a knock at the door. My boyfriend went to go get what we thought was our pad thai and pad see ew. That’s when I heard my name being said by a familiar voice.
As I walked to the door, I could see my friend staring at me, looking for an explanation. My boyfriend stood between us and asked if I was expecting a guest. I stopped moving. I willed my body to move but it wouldn’t. As I stood froze, I could hear them both asking questions, their voices filled with confusion at first. That’s when the delivery guy showed up, snapping me out of this paralysis. I walked up, grabbed our dinner, looked my friend in the eye and said, “I’m sorry you traveled all this way, but I told you that I don’t think there’s anything romantic between us. I’m happy the way things are; I don’t want to ruin our friendship, and I’m happy in my relationship. You should leave.” Then I shut the door before he could respond.
I don’t know why I lied, why I cheated, why I responded like that...I was, well... I am a coward. Why couldn’t I have just chosen my friend and given him my all? Because that would’ve been too easy... because it would’ve given me my happy ending and I don’t deserve a happy ending any more than I deserved him. It hurts to remember what I did. I try to block it out but it always finds a way back. I’ll never outrun the guilt and shame. I’ll never stop punishing myself. I didn’t mean to hurt him - I swear. I was just chasing love...
What does a plant need to grow? Soil, sunlight, and a little encouragement. He was my soil, my light, my encouragement - my everything. How do I grow without him?
His smile would light up the room -- the kind of smile that made everything else fade away. And his laugh... his laugh was perfect. He laughed from deep within his soul, used his whole body. It wasn’t easy to make him laugh; he didn't think many people were funny. So when I succeeded, it was my greatest pleasure. What I wouldn’t give to hear his laugh again.
We were sitting at opposite ends of the room. He couldn’t bear to look at me and I couldn’t bear to look away. I knew I would never make him smile again. I started talking, begging for forgiveness. I talked about our love, how perfect it was before. I tried to make him laugh - I didn’t know what else to do. Maybe if I could make him laugh he would remember... if only I could get him to remember. How could he throw away what we had built just because I had...well, it didn’t matter what I did; it was done. What mattered was that I had ruined us.
He listened to me, never looking at me. He didn't utter a word. Just listened. He nodded every so often, mindlessly stroking his beard. After I was done, he took a breath, and looked at me. He wanted me to know that he was listening, that he heard me, and that he had considered my words. I needed to know those things, so that when he quietly said, “I never want to see you again,” I would know he meant it.
It felt like the day we first met. But instead of being confined by the heat, unable to escape, I was trapped by pain. It was heavy...oppressive. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. He hadn't meant to hurt to me, which made it worse. Like I said, I never deserved him.
I didn't fight as he left. How could I? What could I say to get him to stay? As he looked at me one last time, I could see all of the hurt I had caused. I finally realized it wasn't just the incident. Had there ever been a time when I hadn't hurt him? I just wanted him back. I wanted my person back.