I make more decisions with less thinking.
I eat with my hands, out of plastic, take-home containers, walking down the sidewalk with Brooklyn on either side of me. I eat foods that require silverware, with my fingers. I want to keep them busy. Muscle memory, the ache for a cigarette from knuckle to knuckle. I bought a pack to just feel the satisfaction of ripping the cellophane off with my teeth. The feeling of freshly rolled tobacco, the smoothness of the paper. I got as far as putting it between my lips, before inserting in back into the pack. I want to keep my fingers busy from scrolling through the contacts in my phone, picking out names to default back on. Ones who I know will give me what I want through the uncommitted words that are so easy to just send with one reflex of a finger.
The most difficult lessons I’ve learned to date is that words are lifeless. They mean nothing unless you do something about it.
I wanted you to claim me as yours. But what is enough, really? What else could I have done?
You knew how to dance. I wish you would have stuck around long enough to teach me, to move across a hard grained floor. I would have done it for you. I would have stayed out past midnight. I would have dressed in a silk top for you. I would have made other boys jealous for you. I would have begged you to hold on to me and lead me in side steps and dips. Now I just dream of us being the last people on some dance floor somewhere. You see I am full of clichés and this is just another example.
I don’t know. Maybe it touch that I miss. You wouldn’t hold my hand in public. Only in the movie theater where it was dark, only when I put the pad of my finger on the back of your arm, a signal, “Touch me, please.” I didn’t ask for much. But I just wanted people to know. I had to keep up with you like a dog on a leash. You walked quick, just far enough ahead where I’d have to reach out and grab for a hand if one was free. But you found reasons to let go after a few minutes, my skin cold.
So when you did reach for my hand across the table that night. The night you asked me if you should wear you black skinny jeans and I said, “You own skinny jeans?” and then found myself more excited that expected. When you reached out and asked me to do it for you, stay up late, stay out and dance into the night, if nothing else to just be with you because that’s where you wanted me to be. I’m very good at hiding behind taking bites of food, behind hair I let fall across the side of my face, shielding one eye. “Don’t hide from me,” you would say. You caught on early. But it didn’t stop me.
What was I afraid of?
It’s almost like he never existed, that the stitches were never sewn.
I’m too familiar with the time it takes to unlearn a person. The rug pulled out, a fast food wrapper in his hand to be tossed aside.
Old habits resurface. Detroit resurfaces. I am pulled back into the current of you.
You occupy spaces like chalk dust. A cloud settles. A feeling settles.
Now I must go back over our footsteps, retrace the moments and clear the air. You see, I started a new life void of regret. I don’t regret you. But the what if’s still linger in the air.
What if I never asked you for coffee.
What if I acted on my gut instinct and didn’t finally give you that chance.
What if I didn’t end up on your roof.
What if I didn’t take that drink.
What if I didn’t dare you to push further.
What if I didn’t start leaving things in your room (a phone charger, a silver band, a bottle of water, a bottle of Advil, that book, my favorite pen)
What if I didn’t come every time you asked.
What if I told you no.
What if I didn’t let myself go that night we decided on caviar for dinner? It was that night I realized what was to become of me with you. It was right on the brink of summer, where nights were still outlined in cold, the blue black of midnight required your body close to mine, the earliness of what we were doing still making me nervous to get close to you until you gave me some sort of sign. We were drunk off of drinks we could barely pay for and the brine from the caviar was left over on our mouths. So when you grabbed the lapels of my jacket and pulled me into a phone booth, I felt lost at sea with your mouth on mine.
I knew then.
I forgot your last name for a good 30 seconds today. Maybe that’s how it will happen. Forgetting fractional parts of you. I grabbed for something to hold onto in my conscious, in my memory…a letter, an image of your driver’s license, your signature, that receipt, your name on the schedule. Fuck, I though. It felt like I was running out of air, scrambling upwards towards the surface of remembering.
How could I forget your name, already? Is that how quickly I am willing to let you go?
No. Because deleting a phone number. Erasing text messages. Blacking out the space where your face is…none of that rids me of you.
Because it’s here in the words where you are purged. I am angry. I am so angry. And there is no word to do justice what I feel. So all I can do is write you until I forget you. Write you into non-existence.
They tell me I will hurt for a while. That it will take time. I’ve walked into oncoming traffic, I’ve misplaced my keys. I’ve left the refrigerator door open. I’ve come back to the spaces you used to occupy and stare into a space that you no longer fill. On the other side of this, there is a version of me waiting. I will get there. I will get there by re-writing me story, by writing you out of it.
It’s a matter of days. A matter of hours. A matter of minutes. A matter of seconds. We rewind the tape. We walk backwards. We take our clothes off the floor, we pull away. We come together. Night becomes day. We subtract decisions. We unsay what we said. We stop treading lightly. I stop protecting myself. You stand just beyond me. We remake the bed. We leave our stomaches empty. My heart stays full. You ignore. I pretend. Your eyes. The touch and go. The words you drop on the surface of a still pond. The ripple effect. The between the lines. The hopeful. Your devastation. My wanting. My breath. Your hands. We stop. We stay. We stay. We stay. You leave. I stay.
There are alot of things I’m too much of. But this “too much” leaves me wondering and waiting if this is the last time. I wish I could be the person to turn it off. That welling up, that thickness at the back of your throat when you know it’s coming.
There is one thing I noticed when I first moved to New York.
No one cares if you cry. They don’t chastise you for it, they don’t voice concern. They may hold their gaze in your direction a little longer, pretending that they are skimming the ads in the subway cars, hiding behind sunglasses, picking at their fingernails, an invisible scab, adjusting buttons while you blink back the blurry world.
So sometimes when I can’t choke it back, a chair in my favorite coffee shop is where I need to be with the pieces in front of me, trying to figure out how to rearrange them, put them back together so my hear starts beating again in a different rhythm.
This is the art of starting over.