I must not make bets on the end date of my friend’s relationships. I must not ask them to give me forewarning when they plan on dumping their significant other because I need cash.
a sharp inhale of breath against my collarbone, tracing veins through the translucent portrait page of your skin—in those first days afterward, you were a child in my arms, boneless, spiritless, with only the thin-edged comforts of my net of a mind linking you precariously to reality. i wished to tether you to what was good and somehow slipped the rope onto myself in the process. maybe i fucked up going from point a to point b but goddamn, it sure did something for my self-confidence when you looked at me, all wide-eyed and beaten down, as if i were your savior. some savior i was, more horns than halo, always looking over your shoulder when you sobbed against me. you were a wraith back then, a lovely decrepit pile of bones, and i felt the bitter injustice of our short lives whenever you looked up, as if extending rays of hope like sunlight towards the heavens, praying for a benevolent god, for one person in your life that did not gravitate towards exit signs and the corner of the booth—this is me apologizing. i could not be that person and i never believed in that god, because when you needed someone that would reign in the stars to gather them in your palm, i dug up dirt from your mother’s abandoned flowerbed and hoped the sparkle of minerals would get the job done. i’m sorry because while you were off looking up words like ‘love’ and ‘forever’ in the dictionary, i was fading away steadily, even as our fingers remained intertwined. i am sorry because i could never live up to expectations, especially not yours, because i did not stick around for a fulfilling conclusion to the disastrous saga that was our encounters and i’m sorry that you gripped me so tightly i worried about asphyxiation—i will give us a clean break and you may eulogize my presence with your eyes heaven-bound; you’ve learned your lesson about looking for saviors amongst men.
This is the worst kind of crush, honestly, S, because I like him enough to be conscious of the feelings but not enough to actually get off of my ass and do something about it. So I’m stuck spending all this time just sitting around, wanting him.
This, it’s an apology letter to the both of us, for how long it took me to let things go. It was not my intention to make such a production of the emptiness between us, playing tuba on the tombstone of a soprano to try and keep some dead singer’s perspective alive. It’s just that I could have sworn you sang me a love song back then, and that you meant it.
i left you in a hallway at your next door neighbor’s house—you were dry heaving against the wall, and i could have sworn your last i love you was caught there, stretched out like a string in the ever-expanding space between our hearts. i love you, you said. goodbye, i said. and when you recover from the words you murmured on a thousand sleepless nights, i’ll be gone, gone gone gone, and you will be left wondering what went so horribly, tragically wrong about the couple everyone knew belonged together.
fingerprints on the dashboard, your name in my mind—if july was enough to give me heatstroke, the first week of august seems to be prepping me for a heartbreak. you know, i tried to write about you once, but i never could quantify our many and varied interactions. i know this because whenever i try to explain us to new friends, they just smile airily and say any one of a dozen generic acceptances, like “that’s nice” or “aw, how sweet,” when it isn’t nice or sweet or even particularly enjoyable most of the time. i try to explain where we are today and that goes even worse. “so he’s your friend?” they’ll say. “how anticlimactic.” and i don’t know how to say that the tension, it stifles, that we’re careful never to be alone in case one of us slips up, that when our hands brush as you drive me home from school, i grip mine to ensure that i will not reach out. i do not say you broke my heart in august of last year, that one year later i’m still picking up the pieces and supergluing them, that i’ve forgiven you because somehow i broke your heart as well and there is companionable silence on the late nights that we both stay up to repair the year-old damage. i can not say that you gave me a purpose when i wasn’t sure whether to eat three meals a day or half of one, that you said you wanted me when i was at my most hideous. i can’t tell these people that watch in judgment about how perfectly our fingers fit together, even after all this time, about how we didn’t talk for four months, august to december, and still our first conversation afterwards was just what i needed. you held me for a full six hours that one time a year and a half ago—do you remember? and you whispered sweet nothings as i cried—but i could have sworn some of those comforts, they weren’t nothing. you said you would want me forever and so far, so good but god damn, why do we never act on these passions? we’re terrified of the burn so we move close enough to the fire to feel some of its warmth, but it’s not enough, never enough, and i swear to god things would get better if we just threw ourselves forward, away from the hesitance and denial, from ill-worded narratives that never really get the point across, onwards to drown in the other full-on, absent of these past indiscretions and worries and half-hearted refusals. and maybe, the next time i must explain you to some vaguely interested acquaintance, i’ll be able to label you something a little closer than friend. just maybe. after all, this romance has been two years in the making and i have never wanted anyone as desperately as i have always wanted you.
it was not wrong of you to want me.
it was wrong of you to love me
so please, just toss out that cigarette
let’s take a moment for you to regret
every fucking glance we ever shared
and every fucking moment in which you cared
because hearts were never a part of this deal
and you ruined us forever when you decided to feel.
did i find you that night in the basement of your home, dear? or was it three months later, wasting away hours in your best friend’s bedroom, when you attempted to unravel me through touch and i responded in kind? i thought i had unbound the roughened contours of your skin enough to take me to your heart, but just when i held it in my hands, it slipped across my palm and down onto my sleeve—no more of our old emotional nonsense, now i wore your heart on my sleeve. but it was restless, and it tired quickly of me cradling it to my chest—it wanted to flee back to you, but you breathed heavily on the bed, and i was too satisfied with my good fortune to return it to you in such a simple way. i stretched out my body and laid it across yours until we matched but we could never match, could we? not with you so tall and i scraping by at average, not with our hearts beating so wildly out of sync, so that my knees were three inches up your thighs and your palms a separate entity altogether. my forearm, it rested casually against the skin right above your elbow, and your heart took the opportunity to come back to you as soon as possible, slipping away until it rested between the two of us. i could see the war within your head—to talk to me in hopes i would stay, to leave us as we were, and then the heart—you felt it, uncomfortable as it was just out of the territory we had coined “sleeve”—if that traitorous organ had found its way four inches downward, this story might have a happier outcome, but it didn’t, because as much as i begged and pleaded and attempted, you never did wear your heart on your sleeve, and somehow mine always ended up back there, beat-beat-beating, spouting useless affection, the type you would never receive, not from me.
i hope you remember the look on my face as i got out of bed forever. i hope you remember the feeling of your heart in my hands. i hope you remember me, attempting to be cruel or funny or something but failing at all the above. i know i will remember you as you were right then, disoriented and dizzy and still so goddamn sure that you had no need for my trademark honesty, that you could just let me leave and be done with it. i hope you realize by now you are not done with it, not done with me.
I’m back from Georgia, guys. Over the span of the past three weeks, I’ve lost some friends, including a few that I thought I never would. I danced on the top deck of a parking lot at three in the morning. I programmed a video game and I fell in love with a thousand acoustic songs. I also met a boy. He’s six feet and nothing else with dark brown hair that is, in my expert opinion, softer than anything you’ve ever felt. He has the most striking green eyes and although he swears his nose is too prominent for his liking, I think it fits his face just right. He remembers moving to Florida in the sixth grade, says all the boys called him “pretty boy” because the girls loved him. He covers up all the things that hurt with the way he looks, the way he thinks. He loves the waves back home, texts friends to find out their exact height while he is gone. He pulls out his phone during quiet moments to monitor his stock portfolio on some stupid app, proudly announces he’s up a hundred dollars. I think he’s most charming like this, dorky and awkward and incapable of keeping up a conversation about anything typical. He says he wants to major in finance. I make fun of him for it—what a boring goddamn major, all those finance kids in their fucking suits, selling their souls to the capitalist devil, and I forget that every joke in the universe is a little bit of truth packaged prettily and hidden down deep. He tells me before we leave that the day I called him boring, he was depressed. I wonder why he can never just tell me that it hurts, why he insists on pretending that he isn’t affected by anything at all. He lost his virginity at age fourteen. He thinks it makes him cool and I ponder the amount of therapy he’ll eventually go through and the number of girls he’ll fuck first. He has two sisters at two great schools and he shamelessly picks a favorite between them. He looks me in the eye when we talk and asks my opinion on his many vanities—glasses or no glasses, the blue shirt or the green. When we meet, I’m vaguely hoping I’ll fall for him, this uncomfortably good looking kid with the penchant for soccer and low-quality jokes. It doesn’t turn out like that. Somewhere amongst breakfast table conversation and slow dancing with the whole universe watching and writing letters and avoiding hard topics but straying back to them all the same, he morphed from a hot boy I wanted to know to a hot boy I did, no longer a stranger to hit on but this awesome person that makes me smile and feel safe and comfortable, regardless of what else is going on. Like him, I have two sisters, although I could never pick a favorite. I’ve never understood why anyone would want a brother, the strange, hulking, mocking things they are. My sisters were quite enough, demur and unassuming as they are. What would be the purpose of a brother? And then I met him. He told me I looked like a cow and mooed at me across the dinner table. He let me play with his hair, even though he doesn’t like having it touched, because he understands sometimes I just need those casual gestures. He introduced me to his other friends. He helped me program when I thought I couldn’t work any harder. He stalked his exes on Facebook with me and said mine were all ugly when the action was reciprocated. He made me think about God and sleep and bad pop music when thinking was the last thing I wanted to do. I came to him looking for a fling but I found something so much more profound than anything I could have ever hoped for—a brother.
you had a heart sketched in red sharpie on the inside of your arm, right below the elbow—i had one drawn on my knee. when we pressed them together i forgot the world for just the briefest of moments. you held my hand all the time, even when i didn’t want you to, just because you understood my urgent need to know someone was there with me. it was great then but now i find my fingers tensing at a thousand random moments—phantom limb, or something similar. my body will remember yours, how well it fit against me, even when my mind has repressed the heady scent of your skin late at night, sweat and cologne and something i couldn’t identify, natural, striking. i swear even if i forget everything else about our time together i will be able to recall the feeling of your fingers interlaced with mine forever.
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