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artemis and fred smiling and nuzzling

We are two children, playing with our favourite toy so much we don’t notice when the stitches come undone and the stuffing falls out. We carry on playing until finally we look down and see our empty hands, see that we are not playing, we are simply making motions in the air.

artemis and fred holding hands

We end in a flurry of emotional texts sent at 2:30 in the morning, with my blood and tears and his silence. Not with a bang, but with the quiet whisper of a draught of wind blowing through a door left carelessly ajar.

A long day passes. Still I hear nothing from him, and the silence shatters me. I need him to acknowledge we’re over, to say goodbye, to say anything at all to make it feel real. The morning comes and I tell myself I won’t call him, but I do, and I’m glad. We talk it out, clear the air and the miscommunications. “You can still visit.” he tells me. “Like a bird.” I tell him all I wanted was to build a nest.

artemis holding onto fred's shirt collar

At first it is hell. I replay the beginning countless times, torture myself remembering all our shared hopes and dreams, all the plans we had made together. I am stuck here, making decisions for a flat we will never live in together, for a future that will no longer happen. Suddenly all my, our, plans for the year are gone and the nothingness that stretches in front of me is overwhelming.

fred and artemis holding each other in a tunnel of arches

I lose sleep and my appetite but I make myself eat so people don’t worry, forcing food down past the constant lump in my throat. Tears spring into my eyes often throughout the day and when others are around I quickly blink them away, but as soon as I’m alone they spill and flow.

I feel gratitude for the various ways that each of us grew as individuals in our time together, but sadness that the direction of that growth happened to be away from each other. I try to feel excited about the empty road that stretches ahead. I have the freedom now that I always craved. I can go wherever I want. I can do whatever I feel like. But it doesn’t feel like freedom when I can do anything except the one thing that I wanted more than anything else; to have a child, to be a family.

fred standing behind artemis, kissing her shoulder

After a year and a half of constant companionship, its the little things that feel the strangest. There’ll be something I see or think that I can’t wait to tell him, only he’s not there anymore. I keep them inside or tell them to the pages of my journal instead. I fall asleep alone, no warm body and tangle of limbs to slip between. I think about the 2 months we shared a single mattress on my bedroom floor last summer, and how when I finally got a double bed it wasn’t just mine, it was ours. I think about the way he would always bring me tea, massage my aching back and put my socks on the radiator in the winter so they would be warm for me in the morning. He’s not there to hold my hand on a walk, not there to watch the sunset with me, not there to help decide what to do for dinner, or to make raw salsa with me when I get a craving in the middle of the night. I feel like I’ve lost a lover, a best friend and a family, all at once.

artemis' arms wrapped around fred's torso from behind

The hurt comes in waves, and I shatter again each time, over and over. I need to do something, anything, to feel some closure, so I walk down to the beach under cover of the stars, carrying the hand-drawn card he gave me before I left. I set it alight as an offering to the full moon, wishing for everything to work out for the best between us. It burns wholly, completely, and I take it as a good sign.

This relationship was so different from all my past ones, and the way it comes to a close is no exception. It doesn’t end with hate, or a lack of love. We’ve always communicated honestly with each other even in the hardest moments, and we decide our breakup should be no different. Like all else before it, we’ll go through it together.

fred and artemis holding hands and looking at each other

Photos by Luka last summer

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