I really can’t. It sounds ridiculous but it’s true. I can’t go a day without thinking about you, you’re in my head and I can’t help it. I know people say that about their first loves all the time, but I really can’t forget you because you taught me so many things. And people say that about their first loves too but I literally can’t forget you because you taught me so many things I can’t unlearn.
When we were together I carried around an industrial-sized bottle of Excedrin, and you kept telling me I didn’t need it because I probably got headaches from being dehydrated. I didn’t trust your science for years but now that I drink more water I mysteriously don’t get headaches anymore. I never liked to admit you were right about anything but this time I kind of wish I could tell you.
When we were together you never wanted to talk on the phone because you said it didn’t feel real. I thought it was because you just didn’t feel like talking but then you said you didn’t like it because even though you were hearing my voice, it was a wire voice and when we hung up I still wasn’t there and that made you depressed because sometimes trying to close the distance only widens it. I know that hollowness now and just stick to texting.
When we were together you said you didn’t have a plan because it was pointless to have one, and it used to infuriate me when you said things like “things will work themselves out” and “the universe will take care of it” because I thought that meant you weren’t trying, that you were happy to just leave everything up to chance, but I get it now: you can try all you want but that still doesn’t stop the universe from happening. I don’t have plans anymore but I do have a few possibilities.
When we were together you taught me what love feels like, and when we weren’t together too, and it was comforting and scary and kind of a relief, but now that I’ve known for awhile I just feel weird about knowing, like I’m missing something else. Whenever I see people my age who have never been in love struggle with love, I feel out of place and awkward like that kid in elementary school who skipped a grade whose opinion no one wants to hear.
People move on from relationships and find ways to compartmentalize, categorize, assess the damage, make distinctions between their past and present selves and do better in the future, but sometimes it doesn’t work like that. Sometimes we look at the past and say “I don’t do that anymore” or “I’m a different person now” and either way it stays with us, dead but not buried, a calcium carbonate skeleton attached to an ever-evolving coral reef. I can’t forget you because you’re in my bones.
When we were together I never got a ring or a tattoo of your name and thank the life force for my good judgment but I still feel you next to me when I smell cigarettes or touch leather, and maybe that’s why every day I wear my jacket and smoke.