This walk used to be better with you. The wind on Wabash hits differently without you by my side. Instead of wishing this walk back to my train station would never end, I walk through every “do not cross” signal, hoping I have enough time to make it through.
I don’t look up; I do not engage with anyone. I try to pretend that the restaurant we went to on our first date isn’t there anymore, but no matter how quickly I walk, I can never get away from it. I almost texted you last summer when the building next to it went up in flames. I sat there, phone in hand, as so many memories burned to the ground.
Often, I catch my reflection in the empty storefronts, and I am not the same woman I was then. These eyes are haunted now and hollow. If I try hard enough, I can picture your reflection there, too. I can see you walking quickly, trying to catch up with me. You’re doubled-over in laughter after I just told a stupid joke, and we’re both just so unbelievably happy.
But then, every time, a car horn will blare and the brown line will shake the train tracks above my head, and I am transported back to reality. And like that, you are gone again. Sometimes, I doubt you were ever even real.
Would you even recognize me now? The light in my eyes went out the day that you left, and so far, there has been no replacing it. So far, there has been no replacing you. My under eyes are darker now; my nights always seem so endless. I can’t keep my hair dyed the way that I used to. I am not crying from laughter with you at the ballet; I am just fucking crying. I am alone, not because you are gone but because I want to be. I cannot fathom the idea of opening myself up like that again. I thought I had it all, and before I could even realize that I had lost you, you were already gone.
I tried so hard to replace you. I went on countless dates, and I kissed a set of lips I never wanted. I did everything I could do to erase you from me the way that you erased me from you so easily.
But here’s the thing about trying to erase the memories of the people you have loved and lost. Sure, you will shed the skin that they have touched. You will forget the small details about the places you went together and the conversations you had with them. But, you will never forget the way that they made you feel. You will never forget the way they looked at you the first time you met. The first time you ever locked eyes with someone who finally felt like home. You will never forget the joy they brought you. Or the pain. The physical aspects of them might be gone from your life, but the impact they made on your soul will be permanent.
How silly I was to think that I could ever forget someone like you.
These walks might be colder now, and physically, I know that I am all alone. But for those few precious seconds where I catch a glimpse of what we had in a storefront window or the puddles shining brightly in the moonlight, I know that your memory will always be with me. And I think for now that will have to be enough. Just knowing that for a moment in time, I was lucky enough to have you brings me so much comfort.
Love doesn’t have to last forever to change you. It just has to be present. Whether it’s there for a lifetime or only for a few moments on your nightly walk, it is beautiful. And so incredibly worth it.
True love will always be worth it.