Today, I was walking up to my building like I always do multiple times a day — on the way home from wherever I was, about to wrap myself in warm blankets and immediately succumb to the covers of my bed. It was rainy and cold and miserable and also, it was Monday. Anyway, I was just walking, like I normally do, when out of nowhere, I bumped into someone familiar-looking and find myself catapulted into the still healing parts of my heart.
Immediately, my head is swimming with carnival rides and cotton candy in the summer and the way our hands fit together with your callouses and my sweaty palms. I am taken back to 2 pm in the kitchen with soft light beaming through the windows, begging you stop singing Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” while you whisked scrambled eggs. I hear in my head the first “I love you,” the first fight about nothing at all even, and the first time I cried in front of you. I can see the open road from when we drove all the way to Iowa for my aunt’s wedding and with feet up on the dash, I remembered the feeling of the breeze from the open window, and the I-spy game that mostly revolved around corn because that was all we could spy with our little eyes for miles and miles. I can feel my heart pounding from back in the very beginning years ago when I used to sneak you into my parents’ house at odd hours of the night, always afraid we would get caught.
I think of the tension when I helped you move into your first apartment because I was in my aspiring-to-be-an-interior-designer-phase. Box after box, all finally unpacked, I think of the emptiness I felt knowing that you would be all the way over here and not that here was bad or anything, but it was quite a ways away from me. I remember wondering if it was actually going to work. I remember how at first it was okay — frequent calls and weekend trips and always something new and exciting to talk about.
Then I remember the shift from inseparable love to distant politeness. In an instant, I saw our fights that progressively got worse and worse; I heard yelling and screaming and the slamming of doors over and over again. I remember quite a few nights at bars by myself, making friends with the bartender and even better friends with tequila. In my head, I picture the initial way we fit together and then I picture us slowly morphing into who are now: separate puzzle pieces that are in no way meant to be together.
I snap out of it after a minute and whoever I bumped into is now long gone, and I’m left standing in the middle of the walk, staring after them. It has been this way for a while now, though this happens a lot less frequently than it use to. At first, I would freeze and panic like a deer in headlights anytime I spotted someone tall with brown hair cut short, and I would be almost immobilized with the overwhelming surge of memories and decisions made and feelings lost.
Now it’s been a while, and I go days without thinking about you. When it happens now, it’s easier to just let the images run their course. I collect myself, shaking my head, and finally make it into the building.