5:24 am according to the Fitbit he bought me.

We never did get around to getting rid of the popcorn ceiling, I think, while staring up at the same view I’ve had most mornings for the last seven years.

He’s lying next to me and I need to go to the gym, need to get ready for work, for next steps, but first I need to move. Though we broke up six months ago, it’s right now, right here, that I feel a sense of finality. I sense that once I get out of this bed, we will not be the same.

“I’m going to get to the gym,” I say.

“Early,” says he.

“Opens at six, and I need to be back to start work at seven.”

“Mmm hmmm.”

He’s been awake but dozing for hours, and knowing him as I do, thinking for hours, too. He’s always been a restless sleeper but a deep thinker. He’d gotten up around two and when I’d asked, brought me Advil.

My head still hurts and my heart feels heavy. I have to get out of this bed and I know it.

“Kiss me,” I say, and turn my head toward him.

He moves his head, licks his lips and then gives me a peck on the lips. I make him do it again, to give me two kisses. I want a third. I want them all and always. I want no other man to kiss me ever, but I have to settle for the two and hold on to them, hold on to the memory of the others that came before.

As I walk past him, I lean over and brush my lips across his hip. Another good-bye. As we’d fallen asleep the night before, I’d rested my hand here, trying to hold on to the closeness as long a possible.

I didn’t look back at him as I left the room to head down the hall to the bedroom that had been mine since even before we’d called it quits in January.

I don’t think I knew how much he loved me until we broke up. I realize that begs the question of why I would spend ten years loving and seven years living with someone I didn’t believe fully loved me. I guess a therapist would suggest that perhaps I don’t fully love myself but I’m not really into therapy. At least, not that kind.

I doubted his love because he was so critical all the time, not just of me but of everything. The way he expressed himself at home was in a way that indicated to me that he was very unhappy. I was not always happy with him or the things he did either. I guess we just didn’t always work at being the best version of ourselves with each other, but I know how much he loved me because of how he left. It was quiet, thoughtful and slow. He tells me that it was the most grown up thing he has ever done.

There was a fight. It was a big fight. We fought in December and we both said terrible things to each other. We yelled at each other the things that had hurt us for too long and had never been said. Then we pulled it together for the holidays and family. We smiled for pictures and played together and opened presents and cooked meals. Then when the holidays ended and the decorations were put away, we retreated inside ourselves and gave each other a wide berth. I made a resolution that New Year’s to be kinder to him in thought and actions. I’d thought it, like spats we’d had before, would just blow over.

When I have to tell someone that we broke up, I say it was mutual, that we’d both been unhappy for a long time. That is true except that I would never have left him. Love is a choice. Being with someone is a choice. I chose to make a life with him. I chose to love him, and I would have dealt with whatever happened. I loved him when I didn’t like him all that much. I loved him even though I was also indifferent and hated him sometimes, too. I love him still.

If there hadn’t been love, it would have been different. I can’t seem to articulate it right now, but what I can tell you unequivocally is that nothing has defined our relationship so well as the leaving it.

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