There’s a cute guy who comes to the restaurant on Saturdays. He works on this side of town.
I watch for his car to pull into the parking lot and then I primp and rush to the window.
He orders a milkshake. Or sometimes chicken fingers. With ketchup.
One Friday night I am sitting at home, bored, and alone. The next thing I know I have a phone book in my hand. I look up his number.
His last name is odd. There aren’t many in the white pages.
The phone is ringing. And so are my ears. I can’t breathe and my throat is tight.
“Hello,” he says. And I know it is him and not a wrong number. Or his parents. I know it.
“Oh…hi…this is…um…this is Miranda. From the restaurant.”
“Oh…hey! How are you?” He sounds excited that it’s me. I am excited that he answered.
“Oh, I’m fine. Fine thanks. Listen, if you’re not doing anything tonight, do you want to get dinner?”
“Oh, sure. What time?”
“Now?” I am unsure. He will think I am strange for asking him out on short notice.
“Sure. Can I pick you up?”
I ask him out to see if he is prom-date material, and five months later he proposes. I am 18.
Instead of planning my next outfit for Thursday night like most college freshmen, I am planning my wedding and choosing curtains and dishes.
Instead of “when I grow up” it’s “after the wedding.”
We choose a date in April. We settle on a location and pay the deposit. I buy a dress. A beautiful dress.
And then he breaks my heart.
He cheats. And I am devastated.
I have given up attending the college of my dreams for him. I have decided to live and love the small-town life for him. Friends have abandoned me because they do not understand this. And I am okay with losing them. Because I had him.
And suddenly? I have nothing. I am alone. My world has gone dark and I am wedged in with the knowledge of all I have given up to be with him.
He calls from time to time
“How are you doing?” he asks.
“You don’t get to ask that anymore. You didn’t want me,” I spit into the phone.
I put on my most angry self for those calls. I grit my teeth to keep from crying.
After we hang up, I cry. I weep and shout and throw things.
And one day he calls and I tell him I am leaving town. Moving away to that town I gave up for him. Trying something new.
“Wait,” he says, “…you can’t.”
“But I can. You decided I could when you chose her.”
And so I left.
I hated it. I hated that town where I knew almost no one and nothing was familiar.
I missed him. I missed the friends who hadn’t understood. I missed home.
And then one day I stopped being lonely. One day I realized that I no longer thought of him. Or of them.
One day I realized I wasn’t just surviving anymore. I was living.
I was strong. And brave. And better off than I would have been if I had stayed there.
And now, I sit here on this couch, in this house–in my home–and I am surrounded by life. My life.
Because I lost him, I now have them.