HOW TO LEAVE A MAN

  1. After being apart for three months, tell him that you need space to process what happened with your family over the summer. Wait two years to explain yourself any further.
     

  2. Admit, over text message, that it's no longer the same for you. Neglect to mention you've met someone new.
     

  3. Graduate. Move away. Distract yourself with people who mean nothing for about a year. Smile to yourself whenever you end up on a golf course at night, and answer any prying questions with I love stars and have you ever watched the moon set like the sun?
     

  4. Watch the storm clouds roll in around his head. Stand your ground against the lightning in his eyes. Let the tears come when you've made it around the corner of the hallway in his dorm and ask yourself why you don't feel any better even though you're finally free. Spend the next month imagining the sympathy he's gotten from his friends and family, and feeling sorry for the girl that comes next.
     

  5. Take six months to decide that no, you're not crazy, just deeply unhappy. Take three hours to talk about the future you want on a hot afternoon in the park. After driving home, sit in the parked car outside and mourn the ghost of what will never come to pass.
     

  6. Give him a long goodbye kiss at the airport. After the jet lag subsides, spiral into an anxious circle and try to figure out if he was really ever the person you thought he was. Write him a letter, fifty percent emotion, fifty percent logic. Resist the urge to throw up as you hit send. Tell yourself you did the right thing as you paint a coat of black over what was once golden.
     

  7. Never let any of them know that you remember how their hair felt between your fingers, or how you could almost always tell what they were thinking when they looked at you that one way. Remember the very beginning, before it was really a beginning, before either of you knew something was about to start. Keep track of who was at fault, and whether you hurt them more or not. Move on. Move forward. Move, move, forever upward.