I. All the Can’ts
I can’t do this for much longer, and by this, I mean you. The radiant silences and the incisive looks, avoiding your eyes, darting mine. Put it on my tab; no, I’ll get this round. Why can’t we just say what we feel? Why the eyes, the lips, the promises? It is exhausting, hating you and pretending not to care and chasing you everywhere. It is exhausting. Stoplights change colors, and all I can feel is profoundly sad as I tell you my sincerest sentiment. It comes out masked in sarcasm: you are breaking my heart.
I can’t do this for much longer, eating pancakes with you at two in the morning at a seedy diner in downtown LA, acting like I don’t measure your every movement, memorize each word. Last night at the corner of Sunset and Fairfax, you said I was a bad driver. I can’t say goodbye and then wave from the car as if this is just part of my day, taking you to the airport. I can’t construct my life based on you as the framework and then iron your shirt, hold your hand, board a plane, fall asleep somewhere over Colorado, wake up in your arms and weep from the shame.
Remember that Indian restaurant on 3rd Street? It was so kitschy, Bollywood movies playing in the background, colorful tapestries draped on the walls. We’d go on Wednesday nights after class and you’d order garlic naan and I’d eat it even though I preferred the plain naan, but I never told you, because I loved you, and you were my whole universe, and I’d just sit there cross-legged on the floor and sip red wine and eat chicken curry and stare at you and think about how hard and fast my heart was beating for you. Still, after all those years.
Remember that night in Vegas? It was the weekend of my 21st birthday, all decadence and martinis and cigarettes and powders and fur coats and red lips and poker chips, and we were coming back from some ridiculous club, walking out of a limo at 4 am, me in my cocktail dress, you in your suit, baby we looked like a dream. Do you remember? You went ahead while I tipped the driver and you stood by the swinging doors of the Bellagio and held out your hand, and I ran to you and you grabbed me like no one else would ever have me. I remember feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. Like no one else had ever had you.
Remember that fight we got in on the drive home from Coachella? It was the first year post-graduation, our lives a mess, trying to navigate adulthood, stumbling and bleary-eyed. You got mad at me at the gas station, over something silly, I think it was your coffee order, and I went all red and mumbled something to our friends about having spent too much time together the past few days. Since when was that an issue for us? Just the day before we had been dancing barefoot in the grass, the hot desert air in our hair and in our lungs, and you held my face and told me you felt like your heart was on fire.
I now realize I was in way too deep. I don’t know if anyone should love someone else that much, invest so much of themselves in another human. Literally nothing else mattered. Not the kind of naan we ate or if we took the 405 or the 101 when we drove each other to LAX. There was no such thing as mundane because everything was you. Do you remember?
III. All Five Senses
I can’t forget you: every day is a heartache. And your seismic voice, your booming presence, my inadequacy, my shortcomings and constant displays of falling falling—the thought of you, your voice, your image launches me into a thousand panics and a dull aching that’s my entire life’s experiences wrapped up in your eyelashes.
I’m breathing sterile airplane air again, and the pilot says we’re just over Tucson, and all I can think of is that night it rained in April, the night I knew you were the one for me and there was no going back, you grabbed my hand outside the bar, kissed my forehead and ran your fingers through my hair and traced the outline of the tattoo on my wrist—all the frivolous gestures that said I am in love with you but I am scared to death. The flight attendant hands me a seltzer water, and all I can think of is that night in August, one tequila two tequila three tequila more, dancing to Bruce Springsteen in the corner of the bar, and in the morning you kissed my neck and we got high and fucked to stave off our hangovers, and then we laid in your bed in the marmalade light and I whispered in your ear, love so big we must use all five senses.
Now we’ve got turbulence over St Louis, the pilot’s turned on the fasten seatbelt sign, but I’m still in the rain that April night and Freddie Mercury’s singing, and I’m still in the corner of the bar that August night, and you’re smiling with your eyes closed, your beautiful stoned eyes. In the mornings, through egg sandwiches and spilled coffee, you didn’t say much as I struggled to hold in everything. I wanted your apathy, your detachment, your ability to not give a fuck, because I couldn’t stop caring about spilled coffee and joints in your bed and that Queen song and that fucking Bruce Springsteen song and the desire to just say everything and dive into your stoned eyes. I wanted your silence, your serenity, your comfort, your ease, I wanted all you had, I wanted more and more and then more of it.
The year you broke my heart, it felt like a death. Yours, or mine, or both. Someone’s, somewhere. I realize that’s hyperbolic, but what else could equate to the enormity of that loss?
I felt lost and gone forever. Despondent, complacent, indifferent, so irretrievably apathetic about everything and everyone that wasn’t you. Couldn’t move myself to feel anything, because all I could think about was how much I missed you. There was an immovable sadness to me, a gravitas that wasn’t there before, which only became more pronounced when you would pop in for brief, transient encounters every other month, 24 hour visits where we’d go to our favorite bar on Sunset and drink that bourbon you loved and live in the in-between, pretend like we weren’t slow dancing in a burning room, and then you’d leave the next day, catch the redeye and fly to the other coast, and I’d be alone again, reminded of how wonderful you were and feeling acutely how quickly you were unbecoming mine.
I was so noticeably sad, monotone in my voice, slow in my movement, heartbreak ravaging my whole body, splayed across my face, pulsating in my bloodstream, informing every move I made, directing all my outward expressions, so fucking clear that my loneliness read like a book to anyone who knew me.
And for what it’s worth, you knew me. Or at least you knew the way I loved you, which, then, was to know me completely. You knew the things I’d done to be with you, you knew the shots I’d taken to be with you, to numb all the wanting to be with you, you knew the days I’d missed you and the whiskey-soaked phone calls and the trips I planned and the gifts I gave and the tears I cried. And because you knew all that, you knew the gravitas, the monotone and the loneliness, the change in my demeanor and the new-found hopelessness in my voice.
You knew my new look, of regret and remorse and disappointment and such straightforward sadness. The way I looked at you post-heartbreak wasn’t of pride or optimism or recklessness as it once was. The way I looked at you after our coming undone was of utter defeat. It was painted with years of loving you and drinking with you and growing up with you and the sheer exhaustion that comes from giving entirely of yourself to another. The way I looked at you post-mortem didn’t scream “love me back,” didn’t scream at all, it just whimpered, begged quietly for any sort of attention, just wanted you in my company, in the same fucking time zone for God’s sake.
I didn’t know how I was going to get through the next six months, the next six seconds, or God forbid, love someone else ever again. Oh, the mere thought made me cringe. All I wanted to do was fly to New York and ask you to love me again, demand it, from deep in my belly, sobbing at your doorstep, in the most dramatic way possible, so that at least I had tried, so that I could get out of bed in the morning again, speak rapidly and with conviction again, have something, anything to look forward to again, and shake this pesky gravitas from every laborious step, shed the weight of this sadness that I swear to God was breaking my heart in half.
V. Nineteen Again
You’re the only person I’d ever do this for, stay out until two in the morning on a Wednesday, throwing back glass after glass of whiskey and wine like we’re 19 again, as if nothing has changed since the year I fell in love with you. But everything’s changed. And yet all these feelings come rushing back, suddenly awakened from a long slumber, pulled without warning from their dormancy. But it doesn’t feel like it did before, the longing so urgent it feels muted, colored by nostalgia, and far away, a faint memory of a person I used to be informed entirely be the person I used to love: you.
And as I sit here at this dimly lit hotel in Greenwich Village and listen to you tell the story of proposing to your fiancé, I don’t feel regretful or broken or even jealous. I’m genuinely happy for you, and I feel an odd sense of calm, of closure, like this is finally all over and I can shut the chapter on us. There’s no going back now.
But yes, if I’m honest, I can’t help but think that could have been me what did I do what could I have done differently you could have been mine. And the pang of sadness hits me like a car, and I’m full of hypotheticals and revisions of the past. Reliving, retelling our memories tonight makes me realize my impact on your life but I’m also keenly aware that all that lives in the past, years ago, and thinking back to the time when we were each other’s most important person makes my just-put-back-together heart break all over again.
Story image credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Roger Schultz