From the Dining Table, Pt. 1 (Ethan)
Summary: Before moving out of the home you once shared with your fame hungry ex-boyfriend, you sit down to write him a letter, explaining to him why you left and where to find you if he ever comes to look for you.
Word Count: 2,352
Author’s Note: This idea hit me in the middle of the night while listening to Harry Styles’ new album, specifically the last song entitled “From the Dining Table.” I highly recommend you listen to the song while reading this imagine for the full effect. I also apologize in advance if I make anyone feel things; writing this had me feeling all the things. I might turn this into a mini-series if it gets enough love, so please enjoy! Requests are open!
“I honestly never thought this day would come, Mom.” You grab the last of the pictures of you and your ex-boyfriend sitting on the dresser and throw them into a cardboard box in the entrance of the bedroom. “I’m moving out of the house I shared with the person I thought I was going to marry, and he doesn’t even know I’m leaving. Do you hear how twisted that sounds?”
Your mom places the rest of your t-shirts into the open suitcase on the floor. “Honey, you can’t predict the future. You didn’t know he was going to turn out to be this way.”
“We’ve been friends since we were in diapers, Mom. Nothing about him or the way he was raised would have indicated that this would have happened. He used to just be a goofy kid with a camera… What happened?”
She stands up to zip the suitcase. “I don’t know, but you’ve been turning that over in your head for God knows how long now. Haven’t you tortured yourself enough?”
“Hasn’t he tortured me enough?”
The both of you sigh and your stomach begins to twist. You pick up the cardboard box and a couple of tote bags laying around, following your mom as she drags the suitcase out into the dining room, the wheels echoing through the nearly empty house as they click on the wooden floor.
“Y/N, fame changes people. I just hope for his own good that one day he realizes what he truly lost… Okay, do we have everything?”
You shift from one foot to the other, trying to subdue the pain in your abdomen that’s only growing. “Yeah, I think so. My clothes are all packed, the electricity will be shut off by the city tonight, my pictures are all put away, and we loaded all the furniture into the truck yesterday.”
“All, except the table,” she notes.
“Yeah, that’s not mine. I’m leaving it for…” you trail off as you glance at the surface, remembering the notebook and pens you packed in one of your totes.
“Hey Mom, why don’t you take the rest of this stuff? I’ll be outside in a second, I just have something I want to do, first.”
“Okay, but don’t take too long. I want to ride the daylight out as much as possible. You know I have a hard time driving at night.”
“I won’t, I promise.”
Your mom takes the box from you before pushing it and the suitcase out the door. She shuts it behind her while you pull your stationary out from one of the bags, setting it on the table. You take off the cap of your pen, breathing deeply before pressing it to the paper:
I don’t want to be angry with you anymore, Ethan, but I am. I’m so god damn angry.
I want to live my life and not think about you or hear your laugh everywhere I go. I want to look in the mirror and see my face again instead of yours. I regret cutting all my hair off just so I could look like you. I wish I had the power to delete our song off of my phone. I wish I wasn’t slumped over the dining room table, crying while I was writing this.
You’re so selfish that it makes me sick. The very first night I met you, I didn’t know I’d grow up to consider you my best friend. I never expected to become this attached to you. But, fast forward to the day you left me: when you walked out the door, you took the oxygen from my lungs.
I was such a fool to think you’d adhere to your resolution to live as normal of a life as possible. You used to know that life has so much more to offer than posting moody pictures on Instagram and hoping it gets over 500,000 likes or ignoring the people who built you up because it makes you feel powerful. What you’ve become absolutely disgusts me, and the worst part of it all is that you don’t even know what the time apart has done to me. I never got to celebrate your birthday with you, something that was a dream of ours to do together. I couldn’t give you Christmas presents this year. I couldn’t sit with you and your family while they grilled hot dogs in your back yard on the Fourth of July. I couldn’t do any of this because you only think of yourself anymore. It’s like you’ve completely forgotten about me.
Right before your departure, you told me you’d come back for me. You said you would text and call whenever you could until we would see each other again in person. I got your first text soon after, and for a while it felt like we were never apart; it felt like the oxygen in my lungs was restored. You’d call me after every show and every promotional event, so excited and in awe that you couldn’t wait to tell me about everything that happened. As time went on though, with the more people you met and the higher you climbed up the ladder, the texts became fewer and farther in between. My phone rang less often until it stopped ringing all together. You didn’t text me anymore. I had to learn about everything you were doing through friends and social media. I can’t count the number of voicemails I left you, afraid that I smothered you and apologizing for being the reason you pushed me away. I know now that it had absolutely nothing to do with me, but I can’t help but hope that one day you’ll call me and tell me that you’re sorry, too. It never happens, though. You never do.
You friends tell me that this is normal, that getting through the separation anxiety is the worst part. But, let me ask you this: Was it normal for me to curl up in the fetal position in the middle of the hallway after you walked out of the door? Was it normal for me not to sleep a wink after you were gone? I would scream into the dark of night, begging for you to come back. I would pray for you, and you know how I feel about religion. Praying was something you did before every meal and every night before bedtime. I would watch you clasp your hands together and close your eyes while your lips gracefully moved to form silent requests of peace, grace, and mercy. Do you remember when you asked me about religion? I pressed my lips into a hard line, squeezing my hands together so tightly that I lost feeling within seconds. I did it though, I got down on my knees by my bedside hoping that you would be able to hear me through whatever kind of higher power you believed in. It turns out I was wrong.
Let me tell you that if God does exist, He’s a vulture. He’s completely unfair. The kind of lives He had in store for both of us was cruel and downright disgusting; He chose me for endless suffering and He chose you to poison the lives of everyone you meet. So much for being a good guy, huh?
The worst part of all of this is the fact that despite my anger and resentment towards your addiction to fame and how you chose it over me, you’ve taught me more than I could have ever imagined. It makes me sad, but one of those lessons is the fact that once people are broken in certain ways, they can’t be fixed. This is something that no one ever tells you when you’re young; it never fails to surprise me when I look around and see people close to me breaking one by one. I should probably get it in my head. I saw it happen to you and then I felt it happen to me. I did almost everything to try and heal the resulting pain, including hurting myself in ungodly disturbing ways. I didn’t, however sleep with strangers and then leave them in the cold like the tabloids said you did.
But, see, even if I did such an ugly, terrible thing, those people would never fill this hole. I’m always going to want you. I’m always going to choose you.
I hate myself for that. I hate that I can be so angry and so vicious toward what you’ve become, but at the end of the night I lay in bed knowing I’m always going to be waiting for you. I can lie to myself all I want about it and yet I still find myself walking around every day thinking about how different circumstances would be if you were by my side at any particular moment. I tell myself to avoid everything that reminds me of you; instead I expose myself to those things even more because I don’t know how to live without the hole in my chest anymore. I can easily say I’ve failed at attempting to get over you and I don’t want to make any more attempts. The only way I can carry you with me now is by carrying the pain of you not being with me. The pain has been there for two years, five months, three weeks, and two days. This is the only way I know how to live now.
But, above all else, the one thing I desperately need you to know is that even before my anger, pity, and resentment, if you ever end up calling me again, even if it’s at 4 AM and you’re too sad to say a word, I won’t yell at you about how much of my life you’ve consumed. Rather, I will intently listen to your silence until you’re able to fall asleep again. If you need to cry, I won’t wipe away your tears because we’re only human and sometimes tears are the closest we can get to laughter and that’s okay. If you need to yell so ferociously that your voice gives out and your knees fail you, I’ll be there to hold you up and I’ll yell with you to make you feel less alone. If you get so angry that you punch your hands raw, I will ice your knuckles and gently remind you that wounds do eventually heal, both inside and out, just like the way harsh winters give way to warm springs. I will be your warm spring again, and I will do all of this because I love you unconditionally, even when you spite me and drive me insane. Sometimes I think I’d be better off dead than putting up with everything that comes with you, and I hate the fact that I don’t hate you. I just love you. My love is over, underneath, inside, and in between all the struggles that we have faced.
Now, I’m begging you, Ethan. If you ever decide to come look for me, I’ve left California; I can’t live in a place that feels so artificial anymore. I’m going back to the beginning, the place where you and I planted our roots, where we ran around in the sprinklers in the summer and made snow angels in the winter, where we tossed our high school graduation caps in the air and took weekend trips driving into the city. I’m going back to the place where I can find myself again. If you ever decide to come look for me, I’ll be waiting for you there.
Wiping the tears from your eyes, you fold the piece of paper down in thirds before placing it in an envelope and sloppily addressing it with an “E”. A horn honks outside, cueing you to grab the last of your bags and place the letter in the middle of the table. As you approach the front door, you turn around to take in the empty house one last time. All of the memories you and Ethan shared together here begin to dance in front of your eyes and you sigh to yourself, grateful that they’re going to stay with you for the rest of your life, but heartbroken you have to leave this behind. Finally, you step out onto the front porch and lock the door behind you.
“Alright, I’m good. I’ve got everything,” you grunt as you climb into the passenger seat of the moving van, tossing the bags behind you.
Your mom reaches over from the driver’s side to place her hand on your cheek. “You are such a brave girl. I am so proud of you for starting to let go.”
You close your eyes and place a hand on her wrist. “Thanks, Mom. Can we please go now, though, before I get too sentimental? I don’t want to cry anymore. My lungs already hurt too much.”
The both of you let go of each other to click your seat belts in place, and as your mom pulls the truck out of the neighborhood and onto the highway, you roll the windows down and turn on the radio. After several minutes of humming along to the music and getting lost in your own thoughts, your mom’s voice startles you.
“Do you think he’ll ever come back?”
You shift in your seat, unsure how to answer. “It’s been over two years, Mom.”
“What if he decides to come back to the house and you’re not there?”
“He has a key. He can get in.”
“But you won’t be there.”
You pause for a moment. “No, I won’t be. But I have a feeling that if he ever comes across what I left for him, he’ll know exactly where to find me.”
“And where’s that?”
You glance out the window, the vast, California landscape speeding by you as you head for the state line. The two of you have a long drive ahead of you back to the East Coast, almost 2,800 miles.
“Home. I told him to come home.”