I’ve always thought of Sophie and I as two sides of the same coin. We were made of the same metal, composed of the same elements, the same electricity ran through us in the same way – we simply viewed the world from different directions. I believed we’d grown into two different people because the world had nurtured us in two distinctly unique ways. I thought that, if we had had similar life experiences, we would have become very similar people outwardly, superficially. But we weren’t. But that’s what drew us together. Mother Nature often plants different seeds in the same soil.
She made the first move. On Snapchat. Added me. She moved her white pawn two squares forward. I wondered who this girl was, but I accepted, sliding my black pawn forward into an exposed position. We spoke a bit – infrequently. Then a lot. And I, in my deluded state, only then realised she was the girl in my Maths class, who sat in the far corner of my row. Sophie had sat silently in my periphery for months.
Across the board we teasingly slid our black and white knights and bishops – our flirty comments and witty remarks concerning our teacher’s irritating habits. This grew and grew over about a month till I knew she was the girl I’d wanted (perhaps I’d craved) to meet for a while. So, I slid my queen into a compromising position, suggesting we meet for coffee.
She said yes.
I carefully selected a private, cosy coffeehouse I’d visited once before, remembering its sepia wallpapering and wooden features. I drank a cappuccino with chocolate on top, a curled, thin, snapping biscuit on the saucer. She didn’t want a drink. We chatted, laughed, we got on so well. She looked so pretty as sunlight danced through the window and dazzled within her warm, brown eyes, as she smiled and analysed all her favourite films to me in immense detail. I barely spoke – it didn’t bother me. She was exciting and vibrant and the words she used so full of colour.
Then she got upset and began to cry. She told me how this was all wrong, and how she couldn’t go further because she feared she’d hurt me and that I didn’t deserve someone like her. She commanded all her pieces to retreat.
I knew from that moment Sophie was struggling. I had known but not fully. This didn’t put me off her though. I promised that I would help her. No. I promised I would help her help herself. Otherwise, I would become her paracetamol. I wanted to make her feel valued and important and worth my time.
Our relationship was a whirlwind that ended in a storm. We spent hours together, sequestered in priceless honeymoon-period trivialities. Cinema, car rides, meals out. I got close with her friends and encouraged her whenever she felt low. I saw something special in her. She just didn’t see it in herself. We spun within this cycle and loved it, and loved each other, each other’s presence, each other’s fingertips and lips and quirks and laughs.
I never judged her for her low moments. Of course, it killed me inside whenever she explained her feelings to me. I discovered more and more about her past, how the world had neglected her. She was in so much pain and anguish – something I’d never really experienced first-hand. But I accepted it. I accepted Sophie for who she was. She was not her history. She was not her illness. She was what I saw in front of me. She existed only in the seconds I spent with her. Seconds I was convinced would continue ticking. I believed that whenever she fell, I would succeed in picking her up every time. I thought that if we continued this way, we would stay together, and she would ultimately love herself for the brilliant, gorgeous energy she was.
Then our storm came. It was dark and cold. We slept together for the first time that night – then we fell apart. An argument exploded out of the sex. The binding act of love and unity – something we’d been anticipating for so long – unleashed confusion and anger from within us. It was tangling argument – we hurt each other, we misunderstood one another’s actions, we got jealous.
I drove home. Emptiness. I slid into McDonalds’ and ate, filling myself with more rot and more filth. I felt cold and lonely as we exchanged blood-red texts. Then it dawned on me that I’d broken my promise to Sophie, my presence had made her worse. I struggled for weeks after we broke it off and flung the chess board into the air, scattering black and white pieces everywhere…
However, our sky cleared. I’m not sure how, we just spoke again and saw each other intermittently. Then we embraced after she watched a play I was in. That embrace was a mutual forgiveness – a reconciliation. This degree of acceptance – this amount of intimacy felt right to me. So, I told her I hadn’t retracted my promise – I promised I would always be there to support her, just in a different role. All my mates thought I was mad, but I didn’t want any tension between us. I didn’t want to be another horrific event of her past, I wanted us to continue to value one another, as we still do.
If I’ve learnt anything from my relationship with Sophie, it’s to be adventurous in relationships – meet with people on the other side of your coin. It may all go up in flames, but as long as you don’t dance in the ashes irresponsibly you may learn something. Also, be forgiving – it’s not a weakness, it’s mature. With a little introspection you may even realise that the perceived black and white fight you had was actually more a haze of grey. And finally- be sure of yourself. Don’t go into a relationship thinking that the other person is going to complete you: complete yourselves, then complement each other.
Featured image by Suzy Yang