Happy Endings: A long-term couple goes on their last date

She asked for a last date. I agreed. She had three requests.

“Can we have our last date for an entire day?” She asked.

I said we could. We’ll spend the day together, present in the moment.

“Can we act like we’re still together?” It was her second request. I agreed. I said I’d treat her the way I did back in college. Back when we were in-love beyond humanly possible and we believed we’ll make it through a lifetime, together.

“Thank you.”

“What’s the last request?”

She hesitated. “I’ll tell you during our date.”

It was a quiet July morning. Yellow sun, blue sky. A few clouds hovered in the distance, ready to filter the heat at high noon.

We went to a pine tree-filled park. We’d spot a jogger or two, but we mostly had the park to ourselves. We spread our picnic mattress, ate some sandwiches and cookies, watched a movie.

Midway through the film, an old coworker called. He wanted me to shoot his wedding in 3 weeks. It’s the season of weddings. An ironic time for a videographer to have a breakup.

She helped me negotiate the rate, and I accepted the job.

“Add another thousand. He’s obviously rushing. He’ll say yes,” she said. I thanked her for the additional income.

After the movie, we moved to a shaded area and sat on a pair of abandoned swings.

“You know, I’ve had a really hard time looking for help online.” I started.

“What sort of help?” She asked.

“Sincere, empathetic advice for people trying to move on from long-term relationships.”

She smiled.

“The top Google results are mostly dry, SEO-focused listicles from underpaid content writers or high-profile PhDs with emotional walls.” I continued. “The personal essays are written by people recovering from 1 or 3-year relationships and they mostly broke up over problems we have conquered in the past.”

Now she’s smiling a lot.

“The more ‘mature’ pieces are about moving on from a divorce. And they often assume it ended because of abusive, manipulative, toxic reasons.” I sighed. “I can’t seem to find another long-term relationship that ended without glaring red flags.”

She thought for a while. Then she gave me her phone. “I found a more helpful article. They didn’t stay together as long as we did, but the writer made some sincere points.”

I grinned. “I guess I wasn’t the only one googling advice.”

It’s difficult to answer when friends ask, “What happened?”

You guys were doing so well! We didn’t believe in “forever” but we thought if it’s you two there’d be a chance!

In response, I asked other formerly-committed friends the same question: “What happened?”

They had a one-sentence summary:

“He/she/they cheated.”

“We fell out of love.”

“He/she/they (or I) changed.”

“LDR didn’t work.”

“We had different priorities.”

But I couldn’t make a one-sentence summary.

She was my best friend and I was hers. We loved each other and we were madly in love as well. We were partners. I depended on her for support and temperance. She depended on me to push her towards her goals. We were happy, fulfilled. We’ve been that way for many years. We’d conquer the world together.

How could that relationship end?

“I think a lot of events led to our downfall — poor communication, differences in ambition, inconsistencies in our life goals…” the article said.

Eventually, when people ask what happened, I answered, “Life.”

That night, we checked-in at a roadside hotel. We made love like it was our last night together. Because it was.

Why do we enjoy something the most when we’re about to lose it?

Having no other plans, we returned to the pine tree-filled park the following morning. We visited an abandoned, yellow mini-bus, ordered some kikiam from a nearby stall, and sat in the passenger seat.

“An old friend advised me to write what I want to say because I might not say it all in person,” she began. “I read another article last night, while you were sleeping. And I wish I can tell you how I feel purely in my own words. But the article helped.”

She handed me her phone. “I took a portion of it and rewrote it for you. Consider this my ‘last letter’.”

The phone had a word file. I looked at it and hesitated. Then I started reading.

Love is imperfect because we are imperfect.

We will meet someone who will kindle a flame in us, and sometimes that flame will falter and die. It’s all a part of love and life.

We will let people in. Sometimes they will let us in too.

We will be vulnerable and they will hurt us. We will hurt others.

We will lose people, relationships, even parts of ourselves.

But the losses never outweigh the gains.

The love we had, the truths we discovered about ourselves and our significant other, the happiness that two deeply, intimately connected people create — these are unequaled.

And even if there is pain, even if things don’t work out…

Even if there’s a little destruction in the end; It’s still worth it.

It will always be worth it to love.

In the afternoon, we visited the city’s public park and I noticed some very peculiar bikes.

The public park has stalls with bicycles for rent; BMX, tri-wheels, pedicabs, and the “lovers’ bike”; a two-seat bicycle, one person rides in front while the other sits behind.

I didn’t know how to balance a bicycle. I never learned. I was tempted to make her drive the lovers’ bike. I’d sit behind and put my arms around her waist. We’d ride in the sunset as autumn-colored leaves fluttered by in slow motion. But … no.

That’s when I saw the “double bikes”: two bicycles, welded together in the middle by a metal pipe. Really.

We thought it was weird until we saw four bikes stuck together, in a square formation, driven by four laughing friends. I guess I’m not the only adult who can’t balance a bicycle.

We rented the double-bikes and drove around the park. Cruising in these marvels of innovation, I realized I haven’t used a bike at a park for almost a decade now. Even weirder, “10 years ago” no longer meant childhood days.

Time certainly moves fast.

We biked around until dark. Then we went to a cafe, just a few minutes from her place. We ordered desserts and hot matcha green tea with milk.

“I’ve been having plenty of dreams lately,” she said.

“What have you been dreaming of?”

“Memories. Very old memories.”

She looked at me. “I can remember the details. I was in a red hoodie. You were in your brown jacket with blue lines at the sides. The one you eventually gave me. It was so late at night. It’s amazing they allowed you to do it.”

I chuckled. “Thankfully, the teachers didn’t get in the way. I remember one of my co-conspirators. When we arrived at the school gate, she came to me, barely able to hide her excitement, and she whispered, ‘The plan worked!’ It was my cue that the preparations were ready.”

Our first valentines, ages ago. Our friends made the setup, hours after school had closed for the night. Candles, lights, flowers, artistic arrangements, and a surprise. The joys of young romantics.

Old memories.

“You still haven’t told me your last request.”

She grinned. “Actually… I couldn’t think of one. I thought I’d save it up in case I want you to do something you don’t want.”

I laughed.

“And ‘Two Requests’ don’t sound as dramatic as ‘Three Requests’,” she continued.

We started walking down the street towards her house. We reached an intersection; a road ahead, a road behind, a road to the left, and a path to the right, leading to her place.

We stood under a lamp-post by the sidewalk. It was late and few cars or people were passing. A cold breeze whistled by and I thought of Narnia.

We both loved Narnia. We’ve watched all the films and read all the books. Prince Caspian is our favorite film in the series. We especially liked Regina Spektor’s theme song.

I remember the film’s ending scene; when Edmund and Lucy realized that their older siblings, Peter and Susan, had reached their last adventure in Narnia. It’s sad that Peter and Susan aren’t returning. But that’s just how it is.

“You want the bliss, the magic to continue — but that time has passed. A new chapter awaits us, and staying where the previous one ended brings no real happiness,” I told her months ago when we first broke up.

Like Peter and Susan, we’ve had our time. Our moments together will be forever treasured in our memories. We will miss it and yearn for it sometimes, but we will have to move on and keep living forward.

It’s sad. It’s sad because it’s beautiful. But eventually, we all have to move on from Narnia.

I smile as I remember the “last letter” she gave me at the pine tree-filled park.

I cannot allow my heart to be pinned to a man I’m no longer with.

I must be strong enough to know when to say goodbye and accept that letting go is not weak.

I must set you free to become the man you’re meant to be, even if that isn’t the man I knew.

And I must become, must grow, must chase beautiful things in your absence.

We stood under that lone lamp in the middle of the intersection. She buried her face in my chest, and I felt her warm tears rolling. I held her close and my tears warmed her neck.

She shook her head. She kept shaking her head as I held her close.

“You have to go,” I whispered.

“No. I don’t want to go,” she whispered back.

“Please let me go.”

Slowly, she gave a weak nod.

“I want you to do something for me. And for yourself. Consider this the last request,” I said.

“From now on, we will be cutting everything. We won’t reach out to each other no matter how painful it gets. We are on our own now.”

Our tears flowed furiously.

“So I want you to walk home, by yourself. I want you to walk away from me, on your own. We’re letting each other go now. Walk away, and don’t look back.”

We held each other closer. We held hands… And then she walked. Away from me. Away from us. I watched her walk away so that every fiber of my being knows that I am on my own now.

When she reached her gate, I turned around and walked away.

I wondered what small moments and gestures I took for granted.

Maybe I should have paid more attention to the little details. Her hand’s touch, her warmth, her smile. Maybe I should have held her longer… But I guess it doesn’t matter. It would never be long enough.

John pucay happy endings 3 min
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This post was originally published in Medium's PSILY.

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