The One

By Jess Chua

Just down the hall are the remnants of failed relationships and memories I’d rather forget.

The years of emotions and energy that were wasted on the wrong people. On those who were intense and passionate, but volatile and unstable.

They taught me about love. They taught me about hate. In some cases, they taught me how love and hate could be two parts of the same coin.

One promised the world while we were still teenagers, before backpedaling and taking it all away when there was a chance for something to manifest into reality.

One was an everlasting free spirit, committable to no man or woman, but with a gentle touch that transcended the bounds of time and physical space.

One prioritized vices over saving for the future, but made the decision to leave so that he wouldn’t take me down with him.

One was the carnal yang to my yin. We brought out the best and the worst in each other.

Yet all of them serve as a never-ending fountain of inspiration, whether I’m reflecting, writing, or finding similarities in the stories others share about their lives.

Blink and you might miss a realization. Exploring means reliving certain things, reopening some wounds to willingly suffer but be rewarded with each new step made in the right direction.

What does healing bring? Wisdom to make better choices in the future. Stoicism to know that this too shall pass. Resilience to establish personal boundaries after a lifetime of placing others’ expectations and desires above my own.

Yet, time and again, it goes back to the first one I could never have. The unfinished business that will never have a conclusion, even though I rationalized that I couldn’t expect closure from someone who didn’t wish to provide it.

What kind of life may we have had? Why did we both feed the dysfunctional allure of mutual obsession for so long? Why did we say so much but do so little?

The first is the one who appears in my dreams whenever I experience something that evokes a strong memory of being seventeen, when we were oh-so-clueless but oh-so-invincible. The furtive glances we exchanged, the electrifying warmth of a light touch, the promises of what could be. The one who showed me all the different shades of romance, from innocence to pure decadence.

He isn’t there, physically. He rarely was.

But this is the one who’s always just a breath or thought away—the elusive muse my idealistic teenage self always dreamed of finding—the eternal muse that’s always just down the hall.

Musepaper Essay Prize #55

Jess Chua is a content writer and editor based in Florida. She’s an INxJ on the MBTI test with an 8th house Venus in Scorpio. She loves reading, writing, cats, healthy meals, and exploring the dark depths of the human psyche.

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