I am no longer in love with Flora. You don't know how difficult it was for me to come to that conclusion, let alone post it on the Internet. For those of you familiar with my story, you might know the gravity this statement carries. And if you really know me, you're also probably someone who told me that I was absolutely fucking crazy to stay in it with her for this long, especially since we broke up over two years ago.
See, I am a romantic at heart, and I don't mean that in a positive way. I'm more like a romance fanatic. I love romantic movies. One of my favorite film series is the "Before" trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight). I hate "Love Actually", but find "Crazy, Stupid, Love" to be one of the most underrated romance films (if not films in general) ever. But at some point I realized that these movies, the ideology they espouse, can be dangerous. They make us think that love is supposed to look a certain way, or that if your encounter with someone vaguely resembles something you've seen in one of these films, it is somehow ordained in the heavens that the two of you are meant to be with one another. It creates this lift in your heart, springs a hope that life can bring something worth living for, but it also begins this unending journey to an unattainable goal. There is nothing noble about unrequited Love. Nothing romantic. Nothing brave. In fact, it is quite stupid.
Flora and I broke up in November of 2014. From that date until now, I have more or less remained faithful to her. I may have lightly dated, but not where it mattered. I didn't sleep with anyone and I damn sure did not love anyone else. The whole time I thought I was doing something grand, something that would prove my worth for her love, something that would eventually pay back in the form of her coming back to me. Instead, nothing happened. I thought about it for a moment, about whether or not I should continue pining over someone that will likely never come back into my life, and suddenly I looked myself in the mirror and thought of a one-word question I should have thought of a long time ago: "Why?"
Since we've broken up, Flora has never called, texted or emailed. She never asks how my father is doing, she never asks how I am doing, and if I didn't send her a "hello" every so often, she wouldn't even know that I'm alive. I sent her a "hand-wave" for Christmas, and she never responded. She saw it, but never thought to write back. Now I just think, "Why would I give my heart to someone who doesn't want it?"
I want to make clear that I am not trying to frame Flora as a "bad" person. I want to make clear that I understand she has zero obligation in caring about me romantically, or even as a friend for that matter. It is her choice, her life, and to this day I still think of her as one of the best people that I've ever met. The only pain I feel is from the expectations I built up from staying faithful to a faded memory.
There was this one time where I asked someone about Love. I said to him:
"Love, is it a fight?
"No," he said to me. "Love is a flower. Never confuse the two."
I look at that statement now, and our love was indeed a flower, and for these past two years, it was me trying to take care of it alone. It was me giving it water, but there was no sunshine. Everyday I would wake up and try to breathe a nourishing warmth into its bloom, but of course, it didn't work. It withered and its roots eventually rotted. This entire process has been me excavating the remains. Love cannot survive with only one person caring for it. We cannot do this alone.
It took me a long time to find the courage to write this out, because at times I felt I might have been throwing away our story with too much nonchalance, too much pain, too much bitterness. But it's not that. I've carried my Love for Flora as a sacred talisman, and I've guarded it with my life. She meant the world to me. She was everything. People don't know this, but Flora actually asked me to marry her three times. The first time I said "No", because I said she should think more about how it would change her life. The second time she asked again - in front of her father and her step-mother - and I said the same thing, detailing a bit more about how her civil status would change and how that would affect her financially, i.e. taxes. The third time was when I was back in the US and she asked me over the phone. This time I didn't say "No" immediately.
"Ok. Why do you want to get married?" I asked.
"Nick. I wouldn't consider marriage for just one reason only. It's for your visa, so you can stay here, so we can be together, and well, because I love you," she told me.
"Are you sure?" I asked. "You understand this could make your life more difficult?"
"I understand and I'm sure."
"Okay then," I said with the biggest grin on my face that she couldn't see.
"Damn. That was the hardest marriage proposal in the history of the world!"
We laughed, but what ended up happening was that the exact things I had warned her about scared her off. In order to get married in Brazil, one needs to have a variety of documents including but not limited to: FBI criminal background check, certificate of civil status, contract from a lawyer, notary official to wed, etc., etc. Because much of this stuff took months to process, and I needed to start gathering documents pretty much when I returned because of the expiration date of my visa. I think that spooked her out of it. It felt like pressure to her, and she called it off. That hurt, in a very profound way. I thought Flora was the Love of my Life and I would have given anything in order to marry her. It would have meant everything to me. My greatest triumph.
But I also look back on that now, and who I was then was kind of scary. To give so much of yourself to someone who is not willing to give back is dangerous. What occurred to me so strongly, when I asked myself "Why?" in the mirror, were a series of questions: "Where is your self-respect? Your self-worth? Where is your self-love?" I realized that over these past two years, I managed to fill the hole in my heart with Love for myself, and now my heart has been returned to me. I am the owner of my heart. I Am The Owner of My Heart. I AM THE OWNER OF MY HEART.
My friend once told me that every boy has a woman in their life that turns them into a man. For my life, Flora is that person. She taught me how to love myself.
I used to define the quality of my New Years Eve on whether or not I kissed someone at midnight. That one New Years with Flora has so far been my favorite, but I think this one may have topped it. Because this time I found something that was way more valuable than a random kiss from a stranger, or maybe even from Flora herself. This year, I rediscovered my dignity.