Collateral Damage

“These are the days that must happen to you.”

–Walt Whitman

Somewhere between our first date and our last hug, I arrived at the conclusion he was the one.

He was someone who I loved for the better part of three years and looking back on things now, it makes a lot of sense why.

It is an interesting thing, what a few years of small moments and subtle coincidences can amount to.

“You’re meant to hurt that hard. That deep. Remember, the same way you love will be the same way you let go.”

–Robert Drake

It was the wooden back scratcher that sat on his coffee table, just like the one my grandpa kept on his.

It was his love for hockey and how it reminded me of my dad, proudly flooding his rink in the backyard when I was a kid.

It was silly things.

Like when I learned that he used Kohls Cash to buy his jeans. And how he liked to order his lagers with green olives–a Beertini, if you will.

It was when he recognized the arguably unpopular, but apparently unforgettable, alternative rock song from 2004 that inspired my third tattoo.

It was this strange sense of familiarity that grew within me the more I got to know him.

It was that he enjoyed watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune every day after work.

And an occasional game of Crash Bandicoot on Saturday nights.

It was the way he dressed up as Santa every year to deliver a bag of presents to his nieces and nephews on Christmas Eve.

It was that he, too, grew up on the lake.

It was the way he played his guitar while we sat on his porch.

It was the way he sent me the new songs he had playing on repeat.

It was the way we laughed together.

And his funny collection of old-timey phrases that sounded like the things my gram would always say.

It was Saturday mornings spent on the trail and summer nights spent at the creek.

It was our bar.

It was our first time.

It was the things that were said.


“I’ll miss you.”

“I’m proud of you.”


“I’ll be excited to see you when you get home.”

It was the stupid, completely unrelated things, like season nine episode four of Suits when Harvey and Donna finally end up together… (facepalm).

It was all of the intimate exchanges, idyllic ideas, and quiet moments.

I clung to every last detail that might indicate long-term compatibility.

Every last detail that might indicate he still felt the same way he did when it was the,

“I love you, too.”

But the reality is, I let the sum of all of those things outshine the undeniable subtleties and inconsistencies that might’ve indicated otherwise.

The things that might’ve indicated maybe he wasn’t, in fact, the one.

Of course, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the horrifyingly embarrassing moments, too. Like the time I basically blacked out and imploded with emotion after the first time we slept together.

How my mind raced, and I couldn’t sleep, and I manically and prematurely defined the relationship at three in the morning.


I’m pretty sure I’ll never resent the negative side effects of insomnia more.

And I’m pretty sure I’ll carry the sheer embarrassment of that unfortunate event to my grave.

There was the time I forgot how headlights work.

There was the time I got mauled by his cat.

And of course, let’s not forget, the time I lost my car keys on the Luce Line.


As you can probably tell by now, I’ve spent a good amount of time contemplating, reminiscing and searching for answers.

But finally, after a tearful drive home one afternoon and a much-needed phone call to my gram, I am happy to say I’ve found some relief.

I’ve accepted all the subtle signs and inconsistencies that led us here for what they really were.

The truth.

And the truth is, I was the girl he could go to when he got lonely or was between women.

I might never know who I was to him, but I’ve come to terms with that because at the end of the day, I know it was never his intention to string me along.

And at the end of the day, I was the one who broke my own heart.

“I once dated a writer and writers are forgetful, but they remember everything.

They forget appointments and anniversaries, but remember what you wore, how you smelled, how you looked on that first day. They remember every story you’ve ever told them, but forget what you’ve just said. They can’t remember watering the plants or taking out the trash, but they don’t forget what makes you laugh.

Writers are forgetful.

Because they’re busy remembering all of the important things.”


I don’t believe that anyone is sent to us by accident in this life.

And so, I’ll continue to wait for the revelation that helps me understand how the love I had for him and the memories we had together enriched my life, strengthened my heart and taught me lessons that will ultimately only make me a better person.

Until then, I am walking away with a few invaluable takeaways.

Expectations are tricky.

As an overthinker, I really need things made clear to me.

A person’s actions (or lack thereof) and silence sometimes speak louder than their words.

You should be careful not to read into things.

And sometimes, you just have to take people’s words at face value.

I’m not sure if I believe in the idea of the one, anymore.

But I do believe that to a certain extent, love is a choice and not just a feeling.

So in the wise words of C.S. Lewis, “Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity.”

“Maybe five years from now our paths will cross again. I will tell you how desperately in love with you I was, and we can laugh about how we broke each other’s hearts.”

–Selina Soldner

Thanks for the lessons, B.

Give Tracker a hug for us.

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