The Moment When Someone You Loved Becomes A Stranger


The back of your hand. That’s supposed to be the standard for how well you know someone.

You know his face like the line running down your thumb. You know his voice like the way your middle finger is a little bit crooked. You know his heart like the scar on your palm.

But what if over the years the back of your hand changes? What if it gets calloused or wrinkled or tanned? What if it is no longer something you recognize?

The same thing can happen to the people in our lives.

You think you know somebody. Until you don’t. Until they’re no longer someone you know, but instead just someone you knew.

You knew his face then. The dimples when he smiled, the feel of his lips on your shoulder, the way his eyes lit up when you walked downstairs. You knew that kissing his right ear was the quickest way to get him going and that the slight crook in his nose was from a baseball incident when he was 8 years old.

You don’t know his face now. The darkness when he looks at you, the hard set of his mouth when you realize you messed up again, the taste of alcohol that’s now permanently on his breath.

You knew his voice then. How it was scratchy first thing in the morning, how it got a little deeper when he said he loved you, how he laughed at the stupidest things. You knew the way it sounded when he answered the phone and the way he sang along to Frank Sinatra in the car.

You don’t know his voice now. How patronizing it is when he calls you crazy, how he no longer laughs unless it’s at your expense, how you barely even hear it anymore because he never wants to talk to you.

You knew his heart then. Because you held it in your hands, because it was all yours, all of it, because you selfishly, naively believed you would have it forever. You knew it beat faster when you were together and slower when you were apart.

You don’t know his heart now. Because he tore it away from you, because you were no longer good enough to own something so valuable, because when he stole back his heart, he stole yours along with it. Because he’s heartless.

You knew him then. You knew all of him. But you don’t anymore. And it’s hard. Hard to accept that someone you loved, someone who you considered your other half could become a complete stranger.

There may be some things you recognize, some things reminiscent of the man you fell for. You’ll cling to those fragments, bask in those shreds of light, hoping they’ll grow bigger, brighter. Hoping they’re a sign that somewhere, underneath the unfamiliar exterior, he’s still there.

Unfortunately, that hope isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to bring back what you once felt, what you once loved, what you once had. It isn’t enough to make him yours again, to make him what you think he can be.

Because when someone you know becomes someone you knew, it’s time to let go. It’s time to pack up their memory and shove it in the back of your closet with the dusty shoeboxes and old high school yearbooks. It’s time to stop pretending, to stop hoping, to stop trying.

They tell us when we’re kids not to talk to strangers. They tell us that strangers are dangerous, that we could get hurt. As adults, that same warning holds true.

The man you loved who is now a stranger can, and will, hurt you.

He will leave scars, scars that can fade over time but will never disappear. He will leave memories, memories that will haunt you if you let them, memories that play over and over in your head.

Most of all, he will leave you. Don’t fool yourself into thinking he will stay. Strangers never do. Just like the back of your hand, he will never be the same as he once was. And neither will you.

But that’s okay because as time goes on, you’ll become familiar with your hand again, with the wrinkles and callouses and lines. And just as your hand won’t stop changing, you shouldn’t stop living or stop loving. Because eventually you’ll find someone new to know, someone whose face, whose voice and whose heart will stay this time. Someone who will never be someone you knew. Someone who will instead always be someone you know.