I miss you when we say goodbye for a month because I am going home and because I admit I need help. I already miss you in the cab to the airport and at the airport waiting in line to get on the plane. I miss you when the plane lands and when my dad hugs me tight and says, “You’re gonna be okay, sunshine.”
I miss you when you call and I go outside and sit on the grass in front of my house so we can talk in private and when you text me late at night as I go to bed in my mental health quarantine. “Goodnight, my love,” your name glows on my screen. I miss you then.
I miss you when you go home for the holidays and when you see your childhood friends, your long-time ex who taught you everything about trust and who is the reason you hesitate to get close to people, because you loved her so much and she spent 10 years stomping on your heart and making you work for it in a way you swore you’d never do again. I miss the you you were before she did her damage and I didn’t even know him, but I wish I had. I miss you when you were 16 years old and I was inappropriate for you anyways but you would have been more vulnerable then and maybe you would be less scared of what we have. I miss the you I never knew, who died after the third time she cheated on you, who died when your parents got divorced, who died when they told you it was your fault.
“If anyone else was acting this way about you, you’d think they were crazy,” I say.
“Yeah, but the difference is I like you,” you reply. “So I just like it.”
Perhaps this is more normal: I miss you when I leave your apartment. I walk down the steps, five stories, and when I hit the fourth floor, I already miss you. I miss you when I can’t smell you, when the t-shirt you let me wear because it was summer and I was sweating through the one I brought and I hadn’t been home in five days because we were so wrapped up in finally being together that we never thought to separate — well, when I ran out of clothing — anyway, when it stops smelling like you. I miss you when I can’t see your funny toes. I miss you when your hair is in a knit cap. I miss you when you say you miss cigarettes because I’ve never seen you smoke one and who you are depends on when I met you. Did I show up too late? I couldn’t have been any earlier. I would have been a baby then.
I miss you when your lips don’t touch mine. When you’re across the room playing video games or watching Girls with headphones on. When you’re organizing your meticulous record collection. When I am in the kitchen eating ice cream and listening to podcasts and you are in the shower. I miss you because of the age gap and because we will never line up that way and I don’t know if we would have liked each other in high school — the sad-girl overachiever and the raucous punk know-it-all. I miss you whenever we are apart because I don’t know what the next encounter will bring and I want it to be better than the last.
I miss you when you are right next to me. Nowadays. I miss you when I spoon you in bed and when you close your eyes on the couch. I miss you when you are clearly thinking about something but you can’t express it or won’t tell me what it is. I miss you when you pull back from me even as our arms are around each other. I miss you when you’re putting up walls, building defenses because you have no more trust left. I miss you when there’s fear in your voice. Fear of giving in. Of showing your hand. Of missing someone.
I miss you, of course, when you leave.
One night, I say, “Tell me everything.”
You laugh, “Like what?”
“I don’t know,” I sigh. “Start at the beginning.”
“The beginning? The entire beginning? I have memories from when I was like, three,” you whisper.
“Okay,” I say, smiling. “Start there.”