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 New Haven, acting like I don’t measure your every movement, memorize each word. Last night at the corner of Sachem and Prospect, 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 Ann 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 pink lemonade and eat chicken curry and stare at you and think about how hard and fast my heart was beating for you. Do you remember? You went ahead while I tipped the driver and you stood in the rain by the swinging doors of a Days Inn 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 a few months post our high school 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. 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 the airport. There was no such thing as mundane because everything was you. Do you remember?
III. Pink + White
Your seismic voice, your gentle presence, my inadequacy, my shortcomings and constant displays of 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 our dorm, kissed my forehead, and ran your fingers through my hair and traced the bracelet on my wrist—all the frivolous gestures that said I am in love with you but I am scared to death.
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 Frank Ocean’s singing, and I’m still in the corner of the Waffle House that August night, and you’re smiling with your eyes closed, your beautiful, tired 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 care, because I couldn’t stop caring about spilled coffee and the desire to just say everything and dive into your 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.
Illustration by Janine Rewell