On our way to the bar, we stopped at the 7-11 around the corner so my friend could pick up a pack of cigarettes. As I wandered into the candy aisle, you stood there waiting, with your arms crossed and your back barely leaning against the shelf that housed the nuts and jerky. I could feel you watching me. Then you tilted your head to the side, raised your soft blue eyes to meet mine, and asked, “Penny for your thoughts?”
"Umm…" was apparently the only word, or sound, I could muster.
"I don’t mean I need a penny, I’m asking what you’re thinking."
"I know. I know what you meant. It’s just…. my mind is blank."
The latter of my response was a lie. I couldn’t make my mind thoughtless, even if I tried. I’m constantly observing and analyzing my surroundings, picking up little details about people. You, and everything else about that night, were no exception.
At that moment, I was thinking how nervous you made me feel. How the way you spoke had the potential to make me question the things I was so certain of. How I couldn’t remember the last time someone asked for my thoughts before they told me theirs. How every interaction I had with you that night confirmed just how genuine and sincere you seemed. How long it’s been since I felt attracted to someone. And how even if I never saw you again, I would be grateful for having met you.
But instead of telling you those things, I just smiled. We walked out and I watched you slowly jog to catch up to your friend.
Even then, I knew meeting you that night was going to change me in some way. And that the curiosity you sparked in me, would also mean you would occupy some space in my mind for the next few days, or even weeks, to come.
I’m not okay.
I feel an amalgam of emotions, none of which are at its full potential, but enough to make me replay as many moments I can remember of you and I. Enough to make me question my actions, words, responses, or perhaps, it was my lack of presence that turned you away. Our time spent was short, much too short to justify me dwelling on you for more than a week, but it hurts just the same. Giving a piece of yourself to someone who doesn’t want it, will always hurt. The first time, the second time, the 50th time, and the last time; it just hurts.
Part of me can’t help but blame myself. I was too cautious, too calculating, too obstructed, and far too stubborn and hard headed to cast aside my inhibitions and doubts to reveal my true desires and needs. I didn’t want you to see my flaws, or that I wanted as much time and attention as every other girl. I can be demanding, and needy too. I made things easy and simple, even if that meant keeping mute with my thoughts and opinions. You are far too wonderful of a person, and honestly, I didn’t think I deserved any of it.
So despite my conscious effort to appear as mostly rational and reasonable, I wasn’t. Because if I was, I would have acknowledged the signs and your lack of effort and dedication. I would have followed my instincts and realized that when you said you were busy, you meant you were too busy for me. But against all logic and my better judgment, I liked you anyway and continued to purse something I never had a fair chance to attain in the first place.
So now I wonder, if it would have been me if I had been more myself. Me, a girl who is clumsy, vulnerable, silly, emotional, naive, excited, impulsive, careless, and always far too hopeful for her own good. Me, who has a long list of past (and recent) mistakes that I’m not proud of, but grateful for, because I know it has only shaped me into the person I am now, and truthfully, I like who I am.
I almost feel like I robbed myself (and maybe you too), the possibility of exploring anything beyond what we had (or didn’t have).
At the same time, I question if it would have made any difference. Or if I am only telling myself this because to say I wasn’t enough as someone I tried to portray, is far less painful than admitting to giving it my all and still not being enough. There is no real answer, none that logic can conjure up.
I get it. “It’s not you, it’s me.”
It’s not even that, it’s not you or me. It’s just the nature of things, and the fact is, there is never a plausible explanation when feelings are involved.
So no, I’m not okay.
But I will be.
If anyone were to ask me how much of us I remember, I would say I remember everything. And I really do. Now I can’t recall where I went last weekend or what I ate for breakfast two mornings ago, but I do remember the first words you spoke to me, and the way you gently held my hand for the first time. I remember the angry verbal exchanges that lasted from sunset to sunrise, and I remember how hard I wept until my eyes were too swollen and too dry to cry anymore. I also remember how excited we were to see the first sign of Spring, and how calm my heart felt when we laid underneath the summer warmth. That summer will always be ours.
I remember the night you took me to the top of the world and how silly we both felt for not bringing a blanket to keep warm. So we held each other instead, and you told me how this used to be one of your favorite spots in the city. It was there that you first kissed me, and it was also there when I realized I would fall in love with you. But I never anticipated just how much and for how long. We walked down the street and you showed me your old house, and told me the story of how you hurt your ankle from jumping off the balcony when you were younger, because your sister had locked you out. We only went there together one time again after that night, but I’m sure I could find my way there just like how my heart always found its way back to you.
You loved taking me on long drives, just so you can feel my hand beneath yours when you shifted gears. And you loved bringing me to new places and showing me new things. I was barely 17 when I met you, and you opened my eyes to all the marvels in the world. I remember the walks we took around your neighborhood, and we would point out what we liked and disliked about each of the houses we saw. It turned out we both wanted the same things.
I remember the gleam in your eyes and the excitement in your voice whenever you would tell me about your photo adventures or a new technique you acquired. Your knowledge was equally as contagious as your passion, and through you, I began to see the world in a different perspective. You pointed out the birds that flew mindlessly with freedom, the orange and red that set the sun on fire, and the stars in the infinite galaxy. It was always the simple things that made you happiest.
I also remember the little and unimportant things, and even if in the grand scheme of things, they play no significance, I still remember. I know your favorite color is green. I remember how much you loved Funfetti cupcakes and Rocky Road ice cream from Thrifty’s. And how you would only use a certain type of soap because it reminded you of your father. I remember the precise way you liked your shirts folded and your socks sorted. Or how you liked your eggs cooked and your rice molded into an upside down bowl shape. And sometimes I wonder if all these things I remember still hold true.
I remember the night when we almost took it too far, but we stopped ourselves, because it meant more to us to take the time to feed the fire in our hearts than to yield to our weaknesses. And when the time came, and the candles were lit and the Best of Boyz II Men were playing, we stripped ourselves naked of all insecurities and inhibitions to let each other in. That night, we held each other in the darkness and the tears began to fall from my eyes. I finally felt what it was like to be vulnerable and safe at the same time. I loved you, and in that moment I thought I could have loved you forever. And well, sometimes, I still do.