I’m writing this in hopes that it’ll dilute the taste of metal that shows up in my mouth every time my mind wanders to you. And it wanders often.
I’ve always been obsessed with finality. With endings. When I was younger, I spent so much time trying to sear beginnings and geneses into my mind because I knew they dissipated so easily. I’ve always struggled to recall the moments where life begins anew. It should be easier to see it. There should be an announcement when newness is taking place. But it often comes like a whisper, like a silent conjuring.
Endings though, they linger. Endings are the lasting things that do in fact, last. I’ve always been obsessed with what it means for me to finish. I often feel like Lot’s wife, who couldn’t just keep her damn head facing forward. She had to turn around and see the life she’d built for herself going up in flames. As a child, I sat in church pews where pastors would chastise Lot’s wife for her inability to trust the darkness of her future. It was always odd to me, that the end of a life she’s always known had to be a mystery to her. It makes perfect sense to me why she would turn back. It is far easier to begin again when you get to watch what was once yours die a fiery death. It is far easier to begin again when you see that there is no possibility for a “what if” to blossom and overtake the life you will inevitably build in the wake of the loss you are suffering in this moment.
I didn’t get to watch us die. The us that we were exhaled for the last time and I wasn’t there to see it. I missed it. And the mystery of that end keeps me enraptured in a ghost town. I feel like I’m standing in the ashes of what we once where, trying to see how we got here. You hold so many answers that I’ll never be able to get from you.
I often wonder if I fell in love with you without even knowing it. I don’t believe in that kind of love though, which is the only reason I dismiss it. Love is not an accident. It doesn’t trick us into finding it. We don’t stumble across it. Love forces us to choose it. To decide. And I don’t think that you ever let me choose you. I don’t think you were ever willing to let me land on you. I think love hung above us like a cloud filled to the brim with all the shit we would never be able to say.
Our first date is always so heavy in my mind because I didn’t have to burn it into my memory. It lasts, just like our ending does. And for a person who thinks everything means something, that shit fucks me up daily. What does it mean to remember the history of a day, to return back to it, to exist within it from afar? We listened to every single song on my favorite playlist that night. The duration of four hours. When you came back from the bathroom halfway through the night, you strode back to my couch with intention and purpose and before you sat down, you bent over to meet me where I was, and you kissed me. Nothing felt like that kiss. Nothing before and nothing since. What does it mean for a touch to feel like an awakening?
It is not lost on me that every poorly written love story starts this way. The kiss that stopped time and made everything disappear except that one person. I am aware that I’ve walked directly into an artificially constructed trope of the romance genre. But when I open a new bottle of wine now, I am transported, even for a moment, back to that night. I read somewhere that the magic of champagne lies in the accumulation of moments it represents. So that every time you open a new bottle and toast to something new, you’re actually reliving a part of the joy that has accumulated over time from all of the other moments you’ve toasted in that past. And at the bottom of every bottle of wine I buy is the bittersweet taste of every sweet red we opened together (there were many because I’m pretty sure you’re a functioning alcoholic. What are you running from? What are you trying bury? I think the answer to this is part of the answer for why you set the us that existed on fire without even telling me before you did it).
The memory of us that is imprinted into my mind is of a Sunday. It was a sleepy day. Cloudy. The road was still wet from rain earlier. God, I think every single time I saw you felt like the very first time. I think that’s part of the reason why I forgave your shit for so long. You were so beautiful to me. Looking at you was itself a story I kept revisiting over and over. You always wore neutrals until you didn’t. And when you didn’t, you always went overboard, with button down shirts that had entirely too many bright colors screaming for attention. You got these white jeans from a thrift store a few weeks into us, and by the next day they were ripped and muddy because when you live your life on a goddamn skateboard, nothing you own stays pristine. On that Sunday, you came out in those white jeans and a black plain shirt. I could tell that you’d turned it inside out. You told me once that you hate logos on clothing because you hate the idea of being owned. I thought it was a very white man thing to say, as though pretense could possibly make the reality of all the things that own us just disappear because we simply want it to. But I loved the sentiment. On that Sunday, I brought all of my assignments in my book-bag. For the next five hours, we listened to your favorite playlist while you painted and while I read. We took breaks every once in awhile to get high, get drunk, and kiss a little. It was the best day of my year. It saddens me that my memories don’t do it justice. I was so enamored by you. By how you saw me. By how to you I wasn’t a scholar. Or a beauty. Or someone good enough to fuck. Or any one solitary thing. You saw me. In ways I never intended to show you. In ways nobody has ever seen me. You saw a me I’ve never met either. And I think in falling for you, I fell for that version of me too.
When I clicked on her Instagram page, the most recent post was four days before I’d happened upon it. There you were, beautiful as ever. When I saw your lips find hers in this video, the thing I immediately thought was, “I wonder if kissing her feels anything like kissing me felt?” This moment was the first day that taste of metal stained the inside of my mouth. The video was black and white. You stood on a bridge with her. Water beneath you. Your arms clung to her as you kissed her fiercely and jump into the water. When did you kill us? Because we were dead long before I saw that video. I just can’t seem to move backwards in time with enough precision to find the moment of our last exhale together. Because on the very day that this post had been affixed onto a digital wall somewhere, I was in the middle of a three-hour long phone call with you. And the us that we were felt very much alive. Were we dead to you then? The longer I keep walking backwards, trying to find the moment of impact, the more I think that beginning that I can’t seem to forget was also the moment of our end too. Maybe that is the only something it means.
I know. In your own gentle way, you reminded me of this time and time again. You didn’t want to lay claim to me only because you did not want me to lay claim to you. You were never mine to claim. It was the most noncommittal nine months and 25 days of my life. But when another person carries stories within them that do not exist any other place except the depths of your mind and soul, you claim them in ways that are not as superficial as statuses and labels and titles. But you killed us. And on my best days I am perplexed by this. We could have ended without dying. And yet you set the us that we were ablaze. You killed us in a way that makes me afraid that you carry a me that has never existed any place, or any time else, inside of you. You killed us in a way that makes me want to take it all back.
I guess this is why Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt. Because the looking back, the seeing, must have been goddamn excruciating. I think the bravery in asserting the agency it took to get all the answers she was looking for made actually getting those answers so fucking hard to live with. I think she was being spared the trauma of having to see a death every single second of every single day. The end was more survivable to her as a block of salt than as a living, breathing, thinking thing. I think if she had to do it all over again, she would have looked, even now. Because finality is not the worst thing that could happen. A death, a fiery ending is not the worst thing that one could endure. The mystery is far worse. I envy Lot’s wife. For she got to see what I never will.
The girl who wanted so badly to love all the parts of you that you let her know.