Many years had passed. I grew old without you.

I’m staring at the cross-beams in the ceiling and your mouth tastes like fresh strawberries. You’re pulling my face toward yours a little too roughly, and I’m certain your advances mean nothing but drunken desire. I cannot find it in myself to care either way.

So it goes.

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I bet these memories follow you around

I’m staring blindly at the speckled patchwork of farms miles below, untouched ginger ale on ice fizzing steadily to flat before me. The Atlantic rests forgotten on my seatback tray, pages flipped to an in-depth spread about a restless Chinese military initiating scuffles by land and by sea.

It’s 700 miles to an unexpected descent in Salt Lake City, and I can feel something dripping out of my heart with every new inch of distance. I am lost in the image of you crying in your living room, ice-cold water in an emptied tequila bottle, popsicles on a shoulder-to-shoulder N train, your hand resting on my thigh a beat too long, my arm looped easily through yours, laughing because anything else feels too much like goodbye for good. I wouldn’t let you say any of the words you’d rehearsed, knowing I’d fall apart if you said anything at all.

Somewhere over Reno, my hands stop trembling, my heart stops racing. My mind is hundreds of miles behind my body, and I’m not sure it will ever catch back up with the rest of me. The same songs repeat a third time in my headphones, and I’m 16 again, full of all the wrong emotions and hormones, distracted and certain I’ve lost my ability to focus for good.

I am too far from you. I don’t know how to manage the day-to-day — how did I function before?

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Get a little closer, let fold.

Cut open my sternum and pull
My little ribs around you
Through arms, or maybe under,
Under you.

‘Fineshrine,’ Purity Ring

I loved you like instinct.

Cigarette lingering in my mouth after every kiss, your teeth tearing at my lower lip, water and scotch on loft steps, suffocating August twilights. We were glittering eyes and gasping breaths burning through the longest nights.

In my mind, you cried when you talked about your darkness, about your mind that lost track of everything, that turned blank and abandoned you. And I knew, before so long, that you would forget me too. We both knew I’d be alone at the end.

Your body crashed into mine at 2 AM, my head against the wall, my shoulders lost in the crack at the edge of the bed, your roommate stumbling through the kitchen next to us. I pressed my fingers to my mouth to hold back a laugh; you pulled me up from sliding off the mattress and, just once, you held on.

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‘You were in love with him.’

Max made it a statement of fact. A long silence followed.

‘No. But maybe before so long, yes.’

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7. If it’s too personal, call it fiction.

‘What are you scared of? I’m right here.’

So I closed my eyes and gripped your fingers and learned to let go again.

Autumn overcomes me like a sickness, a pressing melancholy each year that I wear like a coat, silky mink that turns my stomach. This year, every taste, smell, arch of sunlight is the end of an era, that one where I wandered through a haze of whiskey and bursting colours and wine on Midtown steps, all with a mouth that tasted like cigarettes, my lips tingling and swollen from hungry kissing and a thousand chemicals. The darkest hours passed with my head pressed to your chest, whispers of where we’d been and where we were going, staring into the acknowledgment that we had no future together. Matter of fact. I pretended you might last.

My whole life built to that summer. The years before were the dabblings of a child: a long-distance military boyfriend, a first love, a first ‘real boy.’ And then you. I lost my senses to childish infatuation. Living out my dreams, echoing my past, you were like looking into an ugly mirror. I fell into you so hard.

And you are all I can bear, this lingering weight I’m ready to slough off at last.

Senses expand, filling to bursting with the fullness of everything you were. Humidity frizzing my hair into a halo around my head, a beer bottle perpetually pressed to your palm, your friends trying to sleep with me, and me, me laughing it all off and playing the fool, stumbling along with my aching autumn heart in the parking lot where you told me I was so special, but you wanted her more. That metallic taste settling into the crevices of my mouth, oozing between teeth, swishing in with every breath through parted lips. Three hours before, I watched my childhood best friend bury her father after lung cancer claimed him. Then we sat in the grass and I stared at my knees and you wore a green t-shirt and smoked in the September shade.

‘Sitting here isn’t going to change anything. I have things to do today.’

You let me leave first and we called that a goodbye.

I can still taste you, and your best friend, and the boy with the basement full of bicycles, and the slip ups and in betweens and wastes of time. It’s all here, this constant reminder of how I was, for a minute, for a summer, everything I ever longed to be.

You were a whirlwind, a walking wreck, a fucking disaster.

So was I.

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Someday

I want a quaint little house with you.

One with lots of windows and wood floors. It will have a big backyard that we’ll fill with plants and flowers, and a porch where we’ll hang lights and spend warm evenings drinking shandy or wine.

We’ll have a big basement, or a great big room, where you can set up all of your recording equipment and I will never complain how much noise your bands make, because I’ll be so in love and so happy watching you do what you love the most. I’ll bring beers and snacks during breaks, and I’ll read in the corner while you guys track.

I’ll have an old wooden desk where I can spread out papers around my computer when I’m working on articles and editing. I’ll have a typewriter table, too, for those nights when I feel so inspired I might burst.

We’ll spend the most time in the kitchen, cooking and smiling and talking over hot coffee and vegetables from our yard. A baby dachshund, or a pug (because honestly, I’d cave on that and let you get the pug, even though now I whine when you suggest it), or maybe even both, will bounce around our feet, and we’ll lay down on the hard floor to cuddle and play with him until he wears himself out and falls asleep. Then we’ll smile, and your eyes will have that look that say I’m the only thing that matters in the world in that moment, and we will lay so still, so as not to wake our little pup. It will be perfect.

And maybe this will be here, not so far from where you live now. Maybe it will be far away, in Chicago or Austin or San Francisco or France. It doesn’t much matter where it is, as long as I’m there with you.

This is the first time I’ve pictured a real future with someone, had a definite goal, had the focus and drive to spend my days off plowing through job applications for reasons bigger than myself. I want things to be better, for you, for me. I will do whatever I can to meet you there.

I’m on the pursuit of happiness
And I know everything that shines ain’t always gold
I’ll be fine once I get it, I’ll be good, good.

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I shift my arm beneath the sheets and, for a moment, you stir awake.

‘You’re a sweetheart,’ you mumble groggily.

You turn your head to the side and immediately fall back to sleep.

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