Setting Sail


‘Do you still love me?’

There it was, the question I’d been asking myself for a while now. Coming from his brain, in his voice. I wanted to brush him off, to tell him that, of course, I loved him. But I overcame my urge to pretend; it was time to talk. We were in bed and I turned around to face him and asked, ‘Are you sure you want to do this now?’ He was. I couldn’t leave his question unanswered and expect him to be okay with it.

‘I don’t know’, I said.

And this was true. It sounded indecisive and cruel, but I really didn’t know. After a while he had just always been there; I never really thought about it, just accepted his presence. He looked scared, helpless. Again I wanted to reassure him, take back what I had confessed. And again I overcame the urge.

We talked. He wanted to know what exactly I felt. I told him I didn’t know. Would I leave him or did I just need time? I didn’t know. How long had this been going on? I didn’t know. A while. Why had I not told him earlier? I had wanted to be sure. So why did I tell him now, if I was so damn unsure about everything? He became irritated, and I grew tired from all the questions I couldn’t answer. I suggested we stop talking, stop excoriating the wound. Nothing was going to be decided that night. Under his protest, I went to sleep in the guest room.

For weeks I had imagined how I would feel after telling him, but I never thought that the answer would be good. I slept like a baby, and woke up feeling light and bouncy. A heavy weight had lifted off my chest and I could breathe freely again. Not so for him. The weight had now settled on his chest – he looked worried, breathless. He asked if there was anything he could do to save us – really, anything. I didn’t think relationships worked that way. It’s either good, or it’s not – no single deed was going to decide our fate. If it was to last, it needed to work with us being us.

He left to spend some time away, and I had the house to myself. I listened to loud music, I cooked my favourite meal, I went for a walk. The days seemed to last forever. Time was a different beast when tackled alone. When he came back, I had made up my mind. And so had he. All he wanted was our relationship. He needed to know what I wanted, so he could be that. I took a deep breath; the first sentence was going to be the hardest. ‘I can’t be with you anymore.’

The next few weeks were difficult. Most of the things in our house belonged to the former us and we needed to somehow divide them into his and mine. I proposed ideas, he mostly accepted. I ended up with very little, but didn’t mind. All I wanted was to be out, to be single, to be alone.

I had been caught in routine, had forgotten to question my choices. The break-up was tough but necessary. Others told me how brave I was to end a long-term relationship and start from scratch. But I didn’t think it was brave, it was the only sensible option. I was 26 and the rest of my life was at stake – I owed it to myself to at least try to find happiness. And so I set sail.