It’s not as much a single moment as a gradual acceptance. She’s known relationships and love and happiness in them, but that is the past. The men she loved were good men, and she seemed to have avoided the monsters other women had met, but still, it was not to be.
Now, occasionally, on a street or through a friend on Facebook, she’ll see them, with their new lovers, wives, children. She is now just a discarded fragment of someone else’s life, a crumpled paper ball of an relationship that might once have had merit, might have grown into something beautiful, but is now abandoned, perhaps even the source of rolled eyes and “what was I thinking?”
For her, it’s not unhappiness, per se. Loneliness comes, in waves, but the funny thing about loneliness is that it’s a known quantity. It can be managed, and distracted, and tricked by other pursuits, hobbies, sports, reading, friends. Never quite extinguished, especially not in bed, where she sleeps against a pillow if only to feel it against her, reflecting her own heat back, something against her, in the night.
Places hurt. She can never return to the Place de la Concorde because that was where he held her on a cold winter’s night, a thousand tiny white lights around them, and for a moment she had everything she wanted. Now the Place would just be a reminder that her most cherished memory was merely the high point on a slope to pain and tears.
Same with words. She’ll hear a word, an inflection, and it’ll remind her of him and what’s gone.
And yet, she’ll manage, and carry on, and find that curious settlement that comes from accepting where one is and where one is going. She doesn’t worry as much about fitting into that dress or whether she should have that biscuit, and the liberation is tangible.
It feels like a section of her life has finally been neatly parcelled away and stored carefully on a top shelf. Not thrown away, not obliterated forever, just put away.
Perhaps it will be opened again one day. But, as she gets older, she recognises, perhaps not.