What I Learned From “The One Who Got Away”

What’s old is new again— I was wearing a leather jacket as he was holding onto me on a rooftop just like the first night we hung out. Almost three years later, and we found ourselves back to where everything started. But while we may have found ourselves with pre-conceived notions similar to the ones we had when we first met, we are certainly not the same people we once were.

He took a weekend trip to my city, the place where I created a life for myself and swore I’d never dare let my past come back to haunt me. But there he was, and as he was walking towards me, I kept reciting in my head how it’s OK to care more and how really, it’s OK to care at all

It was such a clumsy and yet imperfectly, perfect fitting night.

It was a rare moment in New York when the city was actually dead quiet for once. Everywhere was closed, except his closet-sized cabin with no room left for us to hide— a space that I think we needed to enter a long time ago. 

I didn’t get the concept of having “the one who got away”, until he was right in front of me. He was someone I never thought I would see again. Every time I was ready to cross him off, he somehow found his way back. He even once told me that we were nothing, but years later, nothing and the answers I stopped searching for were laying right next to me.

We shared our brightest of hopes and darkest of fears, and my God, it was the most bittersweet validation I could have possibly hoped for. It was everything supposedly wrong that always, for whatever reason, felt so right. It was the way timing falls into our hands right when we need it to the most, so eloquently, unexpectedly, and yet so painfully necessary. And as hard as it is to come to terms with, as he grew up so did my infatuation for him, which evolved into so much more than I ever saw coming.

For so long I thought I was crazy, that my feelings were one-sided until they were looking me right in the eyes. But there’s one thing to learn about “the one who got away.” 

They’re a lesson that the people and the relationships that come and go in our lives may have the abilities to shape and mold us into who we are and who we’re destined to become. But just because they can hold that power doesn’t necessarily mean they’re supposed to be a part of the end result.

They’re a lesson that we can’t expect people to be something they’re not. Nothing and no one is promised to us and just because something feels right doesn’t mean it is. If we have to search for something so hard, we may not exactly like what we’re going to find. And if we have to force something or someone into our lives, are they really ever ours for the taking? 

If nothing else, maybe they’re a lesson that sometimes, love is who we leave behind.

Timing was never our forte, but maybe our unapologetic fate.

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We were the fools who dream as big as sky-scrappers, and we couldn’t live in more opposite cities. But I just needed to know that despite all that distance created, the space between us that was both intentional and unintentional, that he felt the way I did for him after all this time and all the miles and history that set us apart.

To be honest, I’m still not sure I know the answer to that but I can say this much.

As he walked me to my cab, I was ready to brush off the night and pretend to make nothing out of it, an instinctual reaction I developed from him and everything that came about with us. But then before I could leave, he leaned closer and said, “Until next time,” as he kissed me goodbye.

And just like that, he was the one who got away and I was the one who finally understood why.

Photo credit: Drew Coffman

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