CHAPTER THIRTEEN: HOLDING ON

It was the way he smiled at me. The way he said my name. The way he kissed me. The way he just listened to me and seemed to understand my feelings. It was the way he was so open and honest whilst being so caring. I’d fallen in love. I couldn't stop thinking about Liam. I was the happiest version of myself when I was around him, and when I wasn't I was anxious and counting down the days until I saw him next. My friends were commenting on how genuinely happy I was. I honestly couldn't believe how perfect it’d been. We obviously had our ups and downs, but we were learning how to work through them. We continued to be honest with each other with how were feeling and clarified any of our doubts or thoughts, which kept our “relationship” healthy. But with the intensification of our feelings came a lot of confusion in Liam’s mind. He’d never wanted or planned on being in a relationship, so it scared him that this was all moving so quickly but we both couldn’t deny that it felt right. As we reached the four month mark of seeing each other I began to want something a little more concrete. I started to mention how I was feeling and how we needed to have more conversations to try clarify what was happening. He kept reiterating that he just wanted to go with the flow and continue things the way they were, but I wanted him. I also just wanted the peace of mind that he wasn't talking to other people and that I was actually special. My mind started to play games on me and I’d seek out the other guys he was speaking to so I didn't feel blindsighted. But that always made it worse, looking at these guys just made me feel so bad about myself. How was I supposed to compete with them? I’m just some dorky boy from New Zealand who felt like he got lucky and met his possible soul mate. But now I felt like I was entering a Hunger Games style tournament to fight for his attention and that’s not what I wanted. I believed in our connection and our relationship, so I tried to get the voices out of my head. But as my birthday approached my inner demons started to show.

I’ve always hated my birthday. Every year the day feels like a disappointment. You receive generic “Happy Birthday” messages from some of your closest friends with no personalisation. Everyone seems to bail on your birthday plans at the last minute and you usually end up crying in bed at the end of the day feeling alone. At least that had been my experience over the years. However I felt a little confident that this year may be different. After all Liam and I were in a really good place and we were spending my birthday night together by going to a gig, and we had a week of events lined up so I would be spending a lot of time with him and that’s all I wanted. His birthday was a month and a half earlier and I bought him a couple of funky shirts with a little note attached saying “because it all started with a shirt” as well as made him a little Spotify playlist of songs that held little memories between us. It was a little romantic and sweet, maybe a bit cheesy, but that’s the sort of person I am. I like to be really thoughtful and make people feel special, so I was expecting him to make me feel the same. But the day came and I received a semi-reflective text message from him in the morning but tried to not dwell on it. Later that day he texted me asking if his roommate could come to the gig with us that night because she really wanted to see Lauv. I was honest back to him and said that usually I would say yes, because I love hanging out with her, but tonight I wanted it to be just us as it was my birthday and I wanted alone time. He rebutted by saying that we were going to be together all week and she really wanted to come so I caved in. I was really disappointed because this meant our pre show dinner plans were cancelled because we had to wait for her to finish work and I was already starting to feel like a third wheel. When we all met up it was a good atmosphere, and I felt a little better about the night. We grabbed a late night dinner at Pancake Manor after the show and headed back to his place. All I wanted was to fall asleep in his arms on my birthday, but he couldn't have been more eager to get me in an Uber home. I felt a little disappointed because he still hadn't given me a birthday present or done anything special. And I know I shouldn't care about that but deep down I did. I was so unsure about where we stood in our relationship and so desperate for reassurance, when he didn’t give me a birthday present it just felt like he wasn’t thinking about me.

I’m a giver, in all aspects of my life. I like to emotionally show my love as well as physically show it. I think love is so important whether it’s romantic or between friends and family, and because life is too short and you never know what is going to happen, I like to express that. I like to make sure everyone around me knows how special they are to me. I love surprising people and I love doing thoughtful things. It’s sort of my kink. It makes me happy. But it’s also nice being the receiver every now and then. I just want to know that the people around me care about me as much as I care about them. 

I hate complaining about presents because it makes you sound selfish, but when you’re super close to someone you do expect something thoughtful and nice. It’s just a little reminder of how much they care about you and how much they take notice. 

The next day Liam messaged me and said he wasn't feeling well. He said he wasn't going to come around and would just meet me in the city for dinner before we went to play mini golf with my friends. I was a little upset because all I wanted was to spend one on one time with him. I felt like this whole week we were hanging out every day but we were always out at an event or with a group of people. We didn't really have any time to just be by ourselves, and to me that was all I really wanted. I just wanted to be reminded that I was cared about. I ended up convincing him to come over just before we went to dinner but he didn’t really seem like himself. We played mini golf and had a good time, and when we got back to mine I asked him if he wanted to come inside for a bit. But he said he was tired and that he would make up for it the next night when we went to see Bruno Mars. He then reached to the car floor and picked up a bottle of alcohol and said; “Happy Birthday Thomas! This is a cool bottle that I thought you would like. It’s a spirit you mix with mixers”. I thanked him for the gift, but I couldn't help feel my heart breaking a little. Everyone knows alcohol is the gift you get someone when you don’t really know what else to get them. Or the gift you get someone you don’t really know. After four months I kinda expected something a little more personal. Also, I don’t really drink and everyone knows that about me. I only really drink cider or beer, so being gifted a spirit was a little confusing. No thought seemed to go into it and it turns out he texted his roommate that afternoon asking her to stop into the bottle stop on the way home to get it for me. I thought back to Valentines Day, when I’d given him two boxes of chocolate and a cute card, and he turned around and told me he bought me a box of chocolates too but his friend ate them the night before. I started to see a trend and felt a little disappointed. It wasn’t about the presents, not really. Deep down I was just afraid. It can be really scary and vulnerable to feel like you are always the one who loves more, and the way Liam was acting was starting to open up an old wound. 

As we kissed goodbye he looked at me and was like “what’s up?” My mind was obviously in overdrive because of the present and he could sense the panic. I tried to play it cool, but then he said he got the feelingI had something to say. I kept trying to say it was fine but he kept poking for more. I finally and cautiously came clean. “I’ve never said this out loud to anyone before, but I love you. I’ve been falling in love with you since New Years and I know it’s a lot to take in but I’m just being honest. It scares me so much because I know that we’re in a weird place and I know that’s not what you want but I can’t lie to myself. This is how I feel”. He sat there in silence and finally said; “Thank you Thomas. I promise that doesn't change anything negatively. It means a lot that you said that”. And then he kissed me goodbye and drove off. He started to act a little weird over the next week and was messaging me less and less. I knew I’d messed up by telling him and I regretted it. I couldn't help but wonder why I always mess up good things. I started to go into a downward spiral of self hate. Liam and I started fighting a lot and disagreeing on our relationship status. We’d break up and get back together each week, and our break ups were getting worse and worse. I was an absolute mess, I didn't know how to feel anymore. I didn't want to be without him because he’d become my best friend and the idea of not having him in my life made me feel very alone. All I wanted was for him to show me he cared about me, but he started making me believe that maybe it was all in my head. Maybe he was just a friend. And then I would remember all the amazing memories and the sweet things he did for me, the effort he did make and I became confused. I felt us drifting apart and I got terrified, I started to tighten my grip on him and became a little crazy. That ended up just pushing him away more and ended with us having our biggest break up. I’d had enough of the mind games, of being so unsure where we stood. One moment he was saying he didn't want a relationship but the next moment his actions were saying differently. I was sitting on the end of the Brisbane river feeling absolutely heartbroken and confused. I knew it wasn't working and it was time I admitted it. I was finally defeated. I turned up to his house unannounced and just said “we need to talk”. I told him I couldn’t do it anymore and that if he didn’t want to commit to me, we had to break up. We talked it out and he explained that he just couldn't commit and recently realised that it was something he definitely couldn't do, so we broke up there and then. The finality of it left me wrecked. He walked me out to the Uber and I just broke down and had a massive panic attack. I felt like I was back on the side streets of LA experiencing my break up with Nathan all over again. I was losing someone I had fallen in love with, someone who had become my best friend. All I wanted was to feel like I was enough for him and to have him fight for me, but he gave up easily when it got too hard. I literally couldn't hop into the Uber because I was so hysterical, he had to sit with me and try to calm me down before ordering another one. He didn't know what to do and neither did I. I’d only ever had panic attacks in private before and never in front of someone, so it was terrifying. Once I got home Liam checked in on me and we took some time apart. I reached out and told him that I wanted to keep a friendship with him and didn't want to lose him completely, and we started to work on that.

The most important thing to me was that I didn't lose our connection or friendship because that was the most special thing. I don’t usually feel that comfortable or open with people as quickly as I did with him, and I couldn't lose that intimacy like I did with Nathan. Losing your boyfriend and your best friend at the same time was awful. I was a lot more aware of what was happening in this relationship because of my last one. I could read the signs better and I was more in tune with how I wanted to feel. So I did hold on harder when I saw things begin to fade because I still thought it was fixable. I knew he cared about me and didn't want this to end either, so I wanted to make sure it didn't become reality.

We didn’t end on bad terms, we just decided we couldn't be together romantically, but there was no reason to lose our friendship. I grew so much from meeting him. He inspired me a lot and genuinely made me a stronger and better person. I also had a different connection with him than I did with Nathan, and it was one I wasn't ready to completely throw away. I had to remember that we were never officially a couple, but also while we never had the title we were boyfriends. The way we acted and the way we were fit that definition. Whilst I may have “broken up” with him and given him the ultimatum, I was very much still in love with him and cared about him more than I wanted to admit. We didn't have the healthiest of relationships emotionally, but we did have a very special and genuine one. It would be easier for me to just run away and hate him, but the wasn't fair on either of us. However, I was about to learn that being friends with your ex is a lot harder than it seems and would trigger one of the biggest decisions of my life.