Dear Maine: It’s Not You, It’s Me

I knew it was too soon to see you again. There’s a reason they say to achieve closure before allowing yourself to be caught in an intimate embrace with your former beloved. But, Maine…I couldn’t help myself. I mean, an all-expense paid two-week long visit back to you? It was too intoxicating. I couldn’t say no.

And so I found myself right where I should have known I’d be: following the curves of your coastline in my car and dancing at the steering wheel to all of our songs (thanks, WCLZ, for playing all our old favorites while I was there).

Before I knew it, without the safety net of my routine or my community or my job, I was back under your spell. I spent hours imagining ways I could come back to you, Maine, my first love. Your crisp, cool air; your shoreline that is so beautiful it makes me want to cry; your intensity; your laid back spirit (how do you manage to be both intense and laid back? You are, truly, a wonder.), your people who don’t look at me while I’m walking by (there is nothing more precious to a transplanted, introverted Yankee than being completely ignored on the street)…it all coalesced, and I began to fantasize…

What if?

What if Dale could get a job here? What if my parents hadn’t moved away? What if all the kids moved back, and we could be one big happy family? What if I did feel up to the winters again? What if there were a beautiful, four-bedroom, old New England-style house for sale (under $130,000!), right in downtown Bath? Would I come back?

Oh, Maine…you know I would. Yes, I would. I would come back.

And this brings me to the painful crux of this letter:

I’m glad none of those things are true. I’m glad because I don’t have the strength to resist you on my own. If any of those things were true, I would pack my bags and run to you so fast I’d leave dust in my wake. I would bring my husband and my children to frolic in your midst, and I would teach them to pick out the prettiest seashells, their favorite fog, the perfect ratio of sand-to-rock on a beach, like my father did for me.

And yet.

It wouldn’t be right.

I had my chance. You and I had our chance, and we blew it. And we both know it. And now, it’s time to move on and to relegate each other to lost loves, always in each other’s hearts but no longer to be in each other’s lives. We can be like old friends who see each other now and again and marvel at how the other has changed (and how that means that we, too, have changed), but we can no longer be the intimate loves we once were.

I’m sorry, Maine. I have met someone else. Virginia was hard for me to love at first. She doesn’t have your crisp air year round (oh, how I miss your air when it is summertime in Virginia!). She doesn’t have the innate aloofness that comes with being one of the least-populated and most out-of-the-way states in the nation. As such, she doesn’t have the innate self-confidence that comes from knowing you can do whatever you want and absolute no one else will care or even notice. Her people are so friendly and so beautiful I spent years wanting to hide from them. But I have come around.

Virginia has mountains the likes of which you can only imagine. Virginia has people who are good — so good — it’s hard to believe they’re real. Virginia has music that will break your heart and put it back together, only stronger the second time. Virginia has rolling hills and farmland and an independent fighting spirit that, on a good day, remind me of you.

Virginia  worked its way into me, so slowly and so sneakily that I didn’t even know she was there until I found myself with you and wanting just to go home. Virginia and I have been through a lot together. You will always be my effortless first love, but Virginia has earned my love, affection, and loyalty through twelve years of blood, sweat, and tears.

So, Maine, the next time you see me, I will be a different woman. You may find yourself looking for the long-haired quiet and serious girl of my youth when really you will be confronted with an older and contented woman. I hope you can forgive me for keeping you on a string all those years, but I have finally decided that — for better or worse — I am where I am supposed to be.