Remembering when we met always comes easy to me. I know exactly where I was and when, a bar on the night before Good Friday. I remember the jacket you wore and the way your hair fell across your face in a fashionable mess. You bashfully approached me. Your soft, cautious dark eyes reminded me of those of an animal, weary of danger, pure, and innocent. I’ve studied the image of our first meeting with precise clarity, now capable of painting it in the dark. But I cannot recall with all possible effort the last time that I saw you. I’ve scoured my brain. I’ve sorted carefully through what my life has been between here and there; the long, boring days at work, the vodka-fueled weekends, the hundreds of lazy nights spent smoking pot in front of the television. But no matter how hard I try to pinpoint the moment, I don’t know exactly when you left.
I used to have dreams when sleeping next to you that in the middle of the night you got up, went into another room, and took your own life. I would wake up in a panic, a fright that was fueled further when I’d realize that you were no longer sleeping there beside me. Then I’d hear you rustling about somewhere else in the apartment, watching television or messing around online. And I’d go back to sleep. I never told you about the fear that would wash over me at the thought of losing you like that. I often wonder where you’d be now had you known, had I been able to tell you.
I was born with the curse of sabotage. When nature and circumstance failed to ruin things for me, I did it myself. I have made so few smart choices in my life that I can sadly count them barely using both of my hands. I liked you. I liked how we had our own inside jokes. I liked that you made my friends laugh. I liked how proud I was to be seen with you in public. You were beautiful, quiet, and striking, a sharp contrast to my always loud and over-the-top presence. But whether or not fate had any plans to step in and challenge our relationship, I did it first. You ran into me on the street one night after I’d been having drinks with another guy. We were only about a month into dating one another, having yet to even identify our time together as “dating,” and you were hurt. You told me that I’d made it very clear that I wasn’t ready to even consider us as being boyfriends. And you walked away into the night.
Soon after, you gave me another chance. I was ready then, and in my own perverse unique way I was falling in love with you. In hindsight, your taking me back was possibly only a way of humoring me. Because something happened between then and when you left. One minute you were texting me, on your way to meet me at a street fair. But you never showed up. And the phone only rang and rang for weeks afterwards. You were done with me. You were gone. But when was the last time I held you before the phones went dead? I can’t remember.
Did you meet someone else? Was I suddenly tiresome, ugly, judgmental, erratic? I was hurt by you disappearing but acted like I didn’t care. I went all the way to the other side of the world. But in the cold Scandinavian darkness I longed for you. Walking through ancient Russian palaces I thought of you. I stood mesmerized by gypsy beggars in Tallinn, old ladies in long black hoods, holding out their hands and pleading for change in front of medieval churches. I saw such beautiful things that no stupid boy from Mississippi should get to see. And I wanted you there with me. I wanted to beg you to love me, to give me something of yours. I wanted to know where you were.
A few weeks and one slipped note under your door later, you finally emailed me. You now had a boyfriend. And I wanted so badly to know who he was, what he did, how old he was, when and where you met, but instead of making already bad matters worse, I chose instead to die a little. I’ve been bumping around town for almost a year now, looking over my shoulder in vain for you, Although I’m completely clueless as to what I’d say to you, I know exactly how it would feel to see you. Because I’ve made that mistake several times, certain that someone walking towards me on the street was you. I’ve walked into a dozen coffee shops and swore that I saw you. Thinking it was you standing across from me at a bar, sitting next to me at a stop light, I’ve seen you so many times. And each time it felt like watching my own life in slow motion. Like it was my big chance to save the day, to catch the winning touchdown, to finally do something right.
But it was never you. So there was never a reason to prove any heroism to myself, no need to cross that finish line or make that shot.
I know now that you’re gone, that the apartment you lived in is empty, the one in which I’d wake up afraid of having lost you, but never told you. I can remember how it smelled only slightly of incense, the way you’d arranged the furniture, how you’d let me hang out the front window and smoke. But I don’t, and probably never will, remember the last time I saw you there. I carry everything I knew about you everywhere I go, but I can’t seem to hold on to the exact moment that I lost you.
And this might be why I’m scared I’ll never get over you.