You remember what it is like to have your shit together, emotionally. When innocence wasn’t lost and it felt like everything was new in the world. When it felt wonderfully fresh to have feelings for someone and have them reciprocated, unequivocally and with no strings attached.
Now, ‘no strings attached’ carries a whole different meaning. Somewhere along the line, you were broken. It wasn’t violent, or savage, it was subtle. Without quite knowing how, you became damaged in a way you never quite wanted to be.
Now it is an all too different world for you. It is a world of cold nights interspersed with dry days. You have become adept at navigating the varicolored light, the musky smells of the next bad party, or the bar around the corner where people go where things get really bad. You know how to watch your step, avoid the odd sticky splashes of alcohol mixed with jell-o that stain your shoes real badly. Your movements are lithe but your eyes are alert. You spot her from across the room – or did she spot you first? Wait, does it even matter?
Not quite, you tell yourself, as her body slides next to yours and she places her hands on your shoulders in a way that makes your heart skip a beat. In a corner of your brain, a voice will tell you that she’s no different than the rest, but then you realize that you don’t need different. You need safe; you need the same.
When the night runs itself into oblivion and the first rays of morning tickle your eyelids through your window shades, you’ll awaken with a dry taste in your mouth that is unpleasantly familiar. You’ll look to the side and see her still sleeping. Stare at her for a moment; brush that brown lock of hair away from her eyes and pause at the slight smile on her lips. What does she know that you don’t? Maybe she knows why the warmth of her body next to you does nothing to thaw out the cold you feel deep inside. But you’ll shrug it off, because it’s the start of another day and you both have things to do.
Wake her up with a gentle shake of the shoulder, maybe even a kiss on the forehead with a tenderness you cannot feel. Get on with the routine that has become second nature to you; hunting for clothes, gulping down some juice to get rid of the taste in your mouth, lend her your coat, and walk her back home. Pause outside her door, smile awkwardly with a hint of resignation, maybe even exchange numbers, knowing that you’ll never call and neither will she. Leave, and inhale a mouthful of the frigid air by the side of the road. Let a small smile touch your lips. It is a smile of gratitude and of resignation that you have another day.
But on other nights, you’ll be alone. Loneliness is a feeling you’ve gotten used to, even embraced, like that strange uncle no one really talks to but whom you feel an obligation to hug every Thanksgiving and Christmas. And as you’re alone, maybe, just maybe, you’ll give in your demons. It’s okay to shed a tear, maybe two. The darkness outside your window is absolute, but your room is warm. Indulge in your emotions for a bit, because you’re human and that’s what makes us quintessentially human.
Tonight, there is no shame in being afraid. Because the future is wide and open and openness is something you’ve learned to fear a long time ago. That’s why you shut yourself off, after all. That’s why you prefer the transience of the night over the blinding light of the day, to seek the safe haven of physical comfort over emotional passion, something that was lost to you a long time ago.
Tonight, there is no shame in being afraid. Because the night might be darkest before the dawn, and you might be alone and afraid in a place so familiar and yet so foreign and you might be momentarily be overwhelmed by the weight of mistakes, past, present and future, burdened down by the curse of what-ifs and have-nots but remember – just for tonight, there is no shame in being lonely.