My eyes fell on his almost 7 feet stance. Breathlessly, I was a goner when my gaze found his brown eyes. Never meant to fall in love…especially so deeply. The Ex Factor was young….20 years old to be exact. I had just turned 29. This was the summer I was suppose to get my feet wet in the dating world. I made up my mind that Julio and I after 10 years of dating on and off were DONE! ?? Phoenix was on the scene doing what he does best….ME. LOVE was not on my mind. I had escaped it most of my dating life minus Julio. And even then…it was puppy love because Julio and I were teenagers when we first met. BULLET PROOF FROM FALLING IN LOVE…that’s what I would tell all these guys on our first date. I repeated the same to the Ex Factor…never realizing that he literally had me at HELLO. For 5 years, I would be on a roller coaster ride that all my friends and family would watch in a disgusting awe as I fought to save my independence and self esteem while loving a man that just didn’t love me or so I thought. My brother, Junior, once told me that people don’t always show love the way we want them to. They love in the way they know. Junior was the first to tell me that he thought the Ex Factor loved me to destruction. I couldn’t see it because I always went by what the Ex Factor said and reminded myself that we had no future. But we did have inside jokes and laughed a lot. WE DID HAVE EACH OTHER but I wanted and needed more. First two years of us dating, we made love anywhere and at any time. That’s the passion we once had. Even though our communication was off on so many levels…even sexually at times…he had become my deepest friend and lover in one. I just didn’t realize it…until now. Junior said the Ex Factor did not know himself well enough yet as a man in love. He was still at a stage in life (the early 20s) where being in love wasn’t really cool or widely accepted amongst his peers. And even though Junior is the one person that supported us as a couple emotionally and financially at times…I still thought my brother was trying to spare my feelings. How could the Ex Factor love me? He never said it! And while I had never said I loved him in person…there were at least 5 times in the 5 years that I text “1 4 3” or “Love You.” You see, I too was afraid of being transparent with my heart. What I truly felt no words could ever express. There were times I was sleeping with a broken heart with the Ex Factor right next to me. I had never experienced anything like this. Julio loved me first and professed it. There has been numerous guys who showed me love and tried to reform me from “my feminist independent I’m not trying to marry your ass ways.” Still…I chose to move on. With the Ex Factor…I could run but I never got far until June 2015. I turned cold. But since the Ex Factor was down with me when I was financially on my face…spirit broken…I had to stay down with him until he got a new job in September 2015. He held me down and I did the same for him. I could have wasted my entire life waiting for him had my spirit not turned cold when my friend Michele died unexpectedly in June 2015. Her death pushed me into rebirth mode and in September 2015…I didn’t need to run because GOD taught me how to FLY. ?? And so I flew to my new destination without shedding a tear while knowing I could not take the Ex Factor with me. Elijah boarded my plane that same month and I thought my heart would get a chance to warm up and heal. At almost 40 years old, Elijah was very different from the Ex Factor. The games became more psychological and something always seemed missing. It wasn’t until I heard from the Ex Factor this week and finally decided to respond to him that I figured out what I could not find in Elijah: a laid back guy, my friend, my lover, and the only man I would have married on the spot and given birth to any number of his children without complaints. I RODE for the Ex Factor…mentally, emotionally, and sexually. I was a MAD SCIENTIST in a lab and he was my specimen to mold, to turn into my heart’s desire. My ULTIMATE CLIMAX. ?? Fast forward to present day and I think he’s finally realizing what Beyoncé told him…“Hold up…they don’t love you like I love you…slow down…they don’t love you like I love you.” So he’s in my life…whispering those sweet nothings that only took 5 years and 11 months to hear. I teared up a bit because I believe he means it. The Ex Factor doesn’t ever speak of love unless it’s of his family and his dogs. I’m no longer angry so I reminded him that HE WAS LOVED by me. I don’t know if he purposely missed the past tense of if he just decided it was now or never to put himself out there but he uttered “Love You Too.” It took 5 years and 11 months to hear him say those words. At this point in my life…it was understood. I wasn’t loved the way I needed to be by the Ex Factor but I walked away last September knowing that even with all his fuck ups…he loved me the best way he could. And I accepted that and chose to move on. Just like when I noticed some major changes the Ex Factor made in his life the last 9 months, I accepted the fact that those changes are for a future woman in his life…perhaps his future wife…but they weren’t for me. Maybe I’m wrong about this but once a man knows the depths of how much a woman loves him…some will unwisely take her for granted. If I ever decided to take the Ex Factor back, I could see him reverting back to his old self within a month. His love…in a sense…is a day late and a dollar short. It belongs to some other woman and I’m okay with knowing that I was the catalyst for it all. I’m okay with knowing that she will not have to go to sleep with a broken heart while laying next to him. I have accepted that we have gone as far as we can. And while I know soon…I will have to cut off communication with him again so we can both have healthy love lives…it feels great to have my heart and my friend back. We laugh at our inside jokes and reflect on our favorite places to spend time together. We…love…from afar in our own special way. It’s been a beautiful feeling to go from Kelis’ “I hate you so much right now” to Beyoncé’s “Sorry…I ain’t sorry!” For anyone going through it out there…broken hearts do heal. ~KJM on Throwback Thursday saying I’ve no clue if I’m still in love. I actually don’t want to find out. Right now, I just want to enjoy our laughter.?