You must know about me by now.
Don’t worry; he didn’t love me any more than he loved you. For some time I tried to convince myself otherwise, like maybe if my body was a palace and yours was a dark alley it would make sense for him to leave yours without really leaving, and to sleep in mine without paying rent.
Sometimes I felt like I was doing you a favor, like maybe even in the moral blackness of letting him rip someone else’s heart from someone else’s body, I would still be noble.
Mostly, I was just convinced that someday soon he would choose just one of us, and that person would be me.
I know I owe you more than an excuse, but let me finish. I spent so much time insisting that you and I were in competition. Every quality of yours I overheard through the grapevine put me on the defense.
I needed to be the opposite of what you were. Others said you were crazy; I could force calm. They said you were too cute; I could roughen myself around the edges.
I let opinions draw a caricature of you, and likewise, I let my fear of losing him draw my own. But now I see that we were both the same: both scared, both vulnerable and both holding out for someone who could never fully commit.
I was wrong for not realizing that sooner. I know now that the way he treated both of us had little to do with how we stacked up against each other.
The other night, my friend overheard him say at a party that his girlfriend made him angry and he needed to cheat to get her back.
It wasn’t because his current girlfriend isn’t pretty enough or because the other girl is the one he really wants. To him, affection is a currency for which every woman in his life must ceaselessly prove her worth.
Though he would have crushed your heart regardless, I’m ashamed that I rationalized something so selfish on his part so that I could act so selfishly on mine.
As ashamed as I am for what I did, I’m even more ashamed of myself for the things I didn’t do, like think about your feelings. I didn’t stop chasing, I didn’t stop him from pitting us against each other and I didn’t look inside myself, even for a second, to find some compassion for you or some love for myself.
I thought that I was above this sort of thing. Never would I have imagined myself the sort of person who would get so wrapped up in a quest to win somebody who wasn’t mine — and from under the nose of someone like you, who didn’t deserve it.
Though it’s been a while now, I still wonder how I sank to such a low place. Why do situations like these drive women like you and me away from each other? Why does it take so much time for us to realize that we are both casualties of the same self-serving cruelty?
I know I still have my own mistakes to answer for, but if I could do it all again, I would have gotten to know you. Then when he came charging into my arms after your fights, insisting it was me he really wanted, I could toss him back into yours.
Then maybe we would never have to experience this mutual bitterness and shame. Maybe this story could end differently. Maybe this story could become one where we both nod knowingly and walk away knowing, or even just hoping, that we are worth more than he would ever see.
The Regretful Other Woman