Do you remember, all that time ago, when I told you that I have a weird tendency to make connections in my mind between people and the seemingly innocuous things I talk about with them? You were wearing a band t-shirt the day I met you, and that band was one of the first things we ever had a serious, one-on-one conversation about. I told you that band would always remind me of you. Once we talked about the jelly company run by monks in Western Massachusetts. You told me your friend buys that jelly, and I told you that when I see it in the grocery store I think of you.
These associations used to make me smile and go all warm and tingly inside until the next time I saw you. Then I’d see you and we’d talk about some more irrelevant nonsense, and my brain would make more associations and I would think about you some more. But that was when I was happy. That was when I was glad I knew you. That was when you were a positive force in my life and not something that makes my heart ache at the very thought, the sound of your voice, the flash of your name appearing on my phone screen.
But now the happiness is gone. You’re no longer here, but the associations persist. I spent enough time with you to know everything you like and don’t like, the places you go, the music you listen to, the things you would say in most situations. I know, and I remember, because I never forget.
I run into your twin brother and he tells me he misses me, and I think of you. That very same day, I run into your best friend. While we are catching up, I can’t help but think about how she must know every tiny detail about what used to be our love—every sappy or funny or awful or hate filled thing I ever said to you—because how could she not? My best friends know all of that about you. When we part ways she tells me she hopes to see me soon. In my heart I know she won’t, but still I think of you. I leave my house in the middle of writing this. While I am out I notice everything in my environment that makes me think of you.
I long for a reason to think of you other than longing.
I scroll through my iPod and see all the music that you shared with me, expecting nothing in return, and I think of you. I listen to my favorite band and remember that you bought me their most recent album before I even had the chance to preorder it, because you knew me well enough to do that for me, and I think of you. I pass by the places we’ve been together and I think of you. I do things I know you wouldn’t approve of, partially just because I know you wouldn’t approve of me doing them. I wish you would find out about me doing these things, just to see you angry with me because that would mean you feel something, and I think of you. I sit here writing this and recall how it was you who inspired me to write in the first place, and I think of you. I see guys in flannel and skinny jeans and pretend they’re you. I remember how I loved the way you dress and I think of you. I buy berries at the grocery store and picture you, too lazy to throw away the rubber band around the package so you wear it on your wrist for days. I put the rubber band around my wrist and I think of you. A bird flies too close to me and I picture you putting your arms around me, making fun of me for being so terrified of birds but assuring me that I am fine all the same, and I think of you. What I wouldn’t give for you to tease me like that again. I take a turn too fast and imagine you sitting in the passenger seat. You would have grabbed the door handle and told me to slow down, because you always worried that I was going to get hurt. Any time someone tells me I drive too fast, I think of you.
But how do I forget, when it’s impossible to forget? The truth is that I can’t, or maybe I just won’t. From joy to memories and pain, you are a part of who I am. So much of the person that I’ve become is based on your influence. And the thing is, I mostly like the person I am today. So why would I want to regress to my pre-knowing-you state? The answer is that I don’t. The solution is to reach a new level of comfort without you, where I can consider what we used to be as nothing but happy memories that changed me. When I can think of you without hurting, that will be when I won’t feel bad about thinking of you.