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This Is What Remains When A Relationship Dies

Where does all the love go?

Woman, Actually is the little corner of BuzzFeed where Mariela Summerhays writes about everything and anything to do with being a millennial mother — a woman first, mother second. Yes, you'll read about the glorious struggle and joy of child-rearing — but also about relationships, mental health and more. Because as it turns out, growing up doesn't stop at motherhood.

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FOR ABOUT A YEAR, we saw each other almost weekly. I know the fastest way to his place from the train station — not his suburb's station, but the next one over, which is much closer — and that the intercom button to his apartment ruins the symmetry of the others. It sits isolated and away, placed oddly out of line.

But we don't talk anymore, so that information is useless, really. I don't need to know his favourite way of consuming the news or that his mother is a teacher; that he only has four pairs of shoes or the fastest way to his house from that station, because the love is gone.

I was one of the first people she picked up when she got her drivers licence — I can still remember what she looked like as I emerged from my parents’ front door, gleeful as she held the car keys aloft, by her face. I’m not sure where she took us for that first drive — likely Maccas, if we’re being honest — but it’s not important that I have that memory anymore.

It doesn’t matter that I know her elegant features and lithe limbs disguise an inclination for beer and durries, or that she hates bananas; that I still think of her around Christmas time or that I know her first car was some shitty, little blue thing, because the love is gone.

And though my vision of it is blurry, I still hold the image of another love lost — younger, sweeter. In this one, we are ice-skating with friends. He is shrugging off their teasing and his hoodie for my shoulders — was it white or grey? — bearing the words and the chill so I wouldn’t feel the cold.

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I STARTED WRITING this because another relationship is quietly falling asleep. And as I watch the timestamps between messages grow further apart and the knowledge I have of this person rest and gather dust in my mind, I wonder where the love goes when it no longer belongs to two people.

I wonder if I’m the only one who feels the weight of the love I’m no longer giving. The only one who cares that the tiny, beautiful things I know about so many someones is going to waste.

But the other day, long after the silence had settled in after our last call, I think I found the meaning — and it’s in the unseen ways that each someone still sits with me, even now.

Like how, after so many months of lockdown, I’d watched all the indie movies and walked all the streets in my neighbourhood. Then I picked up a book I’d intended to read for months, put it down again and chose to watch a stand-up special instead — which I know he would’ve put on, given the choice. And I laughed, which I might not have done before him.

And it's in those moments when I can’t walk down the street without engaging with someone who wants to talk to me about primary school kids who go without breakfast; or who is passionate about protecting whales; or thinks that there is more to be done to help immigrants from developing countries prosper here. I don’t think that was her intended effect on me — it makes me softer and she is so very strong — but I am my own kind of strong and I found out, in part, because of her.

And there's never been a time ice-skating, even now as a mother with my kids, that I don’t smile and think of being jokingly referred to by his last name that day.

Ponomariova_maria / Getty Images

SO, HERE I AM, writing this in the space between my last message and the one this person may never return. And please don’t take this essay as a declaration of not having felt the losses, as the wounds still open from time to time.

If this is where we part ways, I will think on it with sadness, for a long time.

But I can tell you, with a touch of certainty and all the hope, that in saxophone solos, half-glazed clayware, moments when I back myself at work and deceivingly romantic songs that are actually about drugs, I’ll pull the memories — like a tender-hearted, teenage boy’s white-or-grey hoodie — around me, and that is where the love goes.

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