We were together the summer I listened to Cat Power and Dolly Parton. I was so sad that summer, so full of generalized anxiety and an unshakeable feeling that something horrible was about to happen- I still can’t listen to Jolene or a certain Cat Power album without wanting to cry. I had a little attic room, with a window that looked out at the garden. I slept in a twin bed. Sometimes in the morning I’d find small gifts on the porch that you’d left in the night- a mix CD, a picture you’d drawn. I’d bike to your house, which was narrow and dark, and we’d make vegan sushi and homemade peanut butter cups. I’d always show up late.
You called me your Young Lover, and in a lot of ways it was true- you knew what you wanted, and I didn’t. You knew who you were, and I didn’t. I existed very much as a free-form ball of energy, sometimes shiny and wonderful and sometimes awful, being pulled by everything that would pull at me, not knowing, yet, how to grab what I wanted and hold on. I think I understand, now, how it must’ve been for you. How horrible and yet magical, how ultimately tiring.
They say that solitude is the most basic human condition, and that much of our suffering in relationships comes from an expectation that the other person will somehow solve this solitude. They say that another person can relieve this solitude, but only for brief moments- they can give us a glimpse of something else, some place beyond this experience of reality. Some other, less lonely thing, that we can only see in flashes. Some place that we can not, as long as we’re alive, ever know.
I have a daydream where I’m slow-dancing with you, even though that’s not something that we ever did. I’ve got my arms around you and you still smell like drugstore roses. You’re still shorter than me, you still have the same small, beautiful, tattooed hands. And yet I can feel, even while I hold you, that I still can’t give you what you want, that I’ll never be able to.
Two years ago I apologized to you, and you accepted my apology. That felt like something. I didn’t know how to be with people, I said. I still don’t. But I’m trying.
What happens to old loves? To messy romances that were never finished, that were never meant to be finished. Are we meant to live our whole lives trailing these loose threads, their colors more tangled and indistinct with time. Is the world really a thing that’s made new each day, again and again, in spite of what we left unfinished yesterday.
I think so.