I woke up thinking of you this morning. I sat still in my bed, trying not to fully cross the barrier from “dreaming” to “awake.” I listened to sad, longing music, all about missing someone — but always someone they had once loved. What is the word for missing someone, for knowing there is something missing from you because they are not there, when you have never had them to begin with? Does that word exist?
You touched my hand. I don’t think you know you did, but I felt it. I felt one finger, then two, run against mine when you walked past me, and I counted the seconds in my head until I could no longer feel my skin burning with you. It’s little things like this that I miss, the tiny bits that make up a whole imagined life, something we could have had, if we were two different people.
Sometimes you look at me, and I wonder what you are looking at. You have these deep, prying, knowing eyes, and sometimes I imagine that they are only this way with me, but I know that can’t be true. I’m sure that you look at me just like you look at everyone else — curious, smart, but ultimately bored. I can’t stand to keep looking at you for too long, to meet that gaze, because there always feels like too much expectation: “Say something smart.” “Be funny.”
When I am thinking of you, I try not to look in the mirror. It’s hard not to wonder — just like we all do — if it isn’t about the way I look. If I was just this much prettier, that much slimmer, would I have had you? Would you look at me differently? It’s easy to hate yourself when you don’t have something you want, when you are looking for any fault to blame it on. But I suspect that if I were just a notch or so prettier, all of this would be easier. You would have to think of me, too.
But I don’t think of my body so much, or yours, for that matter. I think of laughing with you, mostly. I think of sitting with you at dinner, talking with you for hours and hours, falling asleep on the couch because we still have so much to say and don’t want to go to bed just yet. I think of all the things we could have done, the places we could have gone. I wonder if I would have loved them that much more because I was there with you.
Of course, maybe you’re not so great, when one gets to know you. Maybe you don’t live up to expectations, and there is no greater plan behind the pointed way you look at people. It’s always possible that the version of you I’ve built in my mind is nothing like the real you, and maybe that’s why I love missing you so much. It’s easy to miss someone when all we have is imagination, and all we have to confront is what we’ve created in our minds. There are no fights, no long silences, no nights where we don’t touch each other because we’re too tired or too angry.
But I want it all. I want it with you. I want to hear you yell and see you cry and feel you against me at least once, at least to say I’ve seen it. And I know that I likely never will, and I miss it. I miss it as acutely as if I’d had it, in the way you miss the big tree behind a childhood home, or a friend who moved away and never quite stayed in touch. I miss you so much it hurts.
I miss you, and you never even left.