By Grant Susman

I remember how it hurt.

I didn’t want to accept that it was really over; the time that we had was short, but I was sure that it meant something. It had to.

We had met in that stupid English class that we’d complain about so much. We laughed, joked and did anything but pay attention. We connected in an instant and fell apart even faster.

Truthfully, I’ll never completely know why it ended. Even as I sit here, years later, the complexity of it all still strikes me. Yeah, I’m smart enough to realize that few things in life are certain and most things go unanswered. But I’m not too proud to admit that I’m human. At least not anymore.

For months, I lived in denial of the emptiness I felt. I blamed it on anything I could: classes, work, roommates, whatever. I couldn’t bear the thought of taking responsibility for my own selfish mistakes, even after it dawned on me that I was the root of most of our problems.

I was the reason it didn’t last. I was the reason she left me on a downtown street corner that cold December night. I was the reason she stopped coming to class and eventually switched schedules.

I still remember her last words as she got on that city bus, turned around and looked me dead in the eye.

“Sorry.”

I never thought a single word would leave me with such a miserable feeling. I was the reason. I just wouldn’t realize it until time had healed the wound.

Some people can remember exact dates and times of significant events in their lives, but I’m not one of them. Or, maybe, I just chose to block out the memory of that day as much as I could. It doesn’t really matter. All I know is that I’ve never felt as hollow as I did when that bus pulled away.

As the months passed and seasons changed, so did my memory of what happened between us. It was a long and painful period before I could truthfully see the situation for what it was. My pride, my ego, my heart and my soul were all too tied up in the thought of her for me to think clearly about what went wrong.

But one afternoon, as I sat zoned out on a train back home, a spark was ignited. The wires finally crossed, and six months of the greatest spectrum of emotion I’ve ever experienced slowly began to make sense. It was a true “holy shit” moment.

No, I didn’t come to the conclusion that I was the problem at that moment. In fact, it wasn’t until a few days later that I arrived there. But it started to become apparent almost instantly.

I was ecstatic, relieved and dumbfounded at the same time. How could I have been so blind to everything that now couldn’t be clearer? How could I ever have thought that it was all her fault?

I stood up, shoved my way through the afternoon crowd and bolted out the door as soon as we were stopped. All I wanted to do was apologize. Everything I did, everything she said, it all made sense now. I was just too stupid to realize it before.

But I stopped. I knew better than to run off and try explaining myself to someone who never wanted to see me again. The damage had already been done, despite what I thought I could say to redeem myself.

It was okay, though. Somehow, I knew coming to that realization was enough. She had hoped for so long that I would become aware of my self-centered ways and eventually change. That was what she wanted me to understand the entire time. She wanted me to understand what was so plain for everybody else to see.

I’ll sometimes think back to the time we spent together and the memories we shared: I look back fondly at the good, the bad and everything in between because I know that as much as I wouldn’t wish the same experience upon someone else, I’m glad that it happened. I really am.

I’ve changed. I’m not the same person that I was back then, and I’m more than willing to admit that I was wrong about pretty much everything. I have no idea if she will ever see this, but it’s out there all the same.

If there were one word I could say to her now, it would just be, “thanks.” For everything. You made me understand who I was. You made me learn to be honest with myself. You made me accept reality, but most importantly, you made me a better person.