I saw you walking down the street the other night. You were by yourself, with your hands in your pockets and something clearly on your mind. I didn’t mean to see you, but this town is smaller than it seems, and suddenly there you were, illuminated by all of those holiday lights people string up on their fire escapes and fences. And it wasn’t until that moment that we nearly passed each other that I’d ever felt quite so alone.
Not that we were together this time last year, because we weren’t. We had no holidays together to compare to which I could compare this one, no traditions, no gift exchanges. We’d met in the spring a few years before, kissed a week after meeting, and were inseparable for days at a time. Months flew by that way but then, just as suddenly, you were gone.
Gone were the phone calls and text messages and silly little photos of silly little things you thought might make me smile. Gone was the feeling I got whenever I heard your name, even if somebody was calling out to another stranger on the street. Suddenly, the people I called when I was upset were my friends, not you. Suddenly, the thing I was upset about was you.
And I thought I was fine, really. I did. It took me through October and the rest of that fall, a span of time that felt like an eternity, but eventually, I was. Time does crazy things to memories (like making them dimmer) and anger (like making you forget what you’re angry about) and hurt (like dulling your pain; alcohol helps). I moved on and I laughed again and I smiled again. I slowly stopped talking to my friends about you. I refused to walk down your street or eat at the little Indian place we called ours, but we all have our scars. But other than that, life did that crazy thing it often does: it goes on.
And so when I saw you on the sidewalk, I was just as floored by the fact that I felt anything at all as I was from the feeling itself. I would have hoped I’d hardened, but I didn’t, mostly because I never learned how to be a harder person. You’d said that was your favorite thing about me, my inability to not feel, to not care. And there I stood, shellshocked and feeling, but you didn’t notice me. At least, I don’t know if you did. Maybe we missed each other in small moments, maybe you glanced at me when I looked away. Maybe you felt the same way I did.
But it was cold and so I shoved my hands into my own pockets and forced myself to look away. Couples walking in their pairs, in dresses and ties and blazers and heels, filled the distance between us as we continued in opposite directions. They were going to parties, to dinner, to the kinds of things that are always somehow nicer, somehow more festive at this time of year when you go in twos. When you have somebody to share the holidays with, someone to kiss at midnight and under the mistletoe and in quiet moments when the snow’s falling and the world is peaceful and happy and calm.
I could hear a lone violinist playing Noel on a nearby street in the crisp night air, and I missed you the way most broken hearts miss their fractured pieces: most of all, at Christmas.