I’ve been asleep for hours by the time I let you down again. It’s after three am on the wrong side of the country when your mind starts to wander and I miss your call again. When you apologize the next day, your voice is raw and breezy. We are casual in our nihilism. We are jokers, the both of us, indestructible and smiling. In the spaces between your laugh, I know you can hear us both bleeding. When we talk, we are together again and nothing hurts. There’s no room for it, drowned out by the immensity of your gallows charm and the warmth of your naked affection. This is the side of you that only I get. This is the side of you unfazed by the silent months since we did this last, undeterred by the miles we put between us, by the useless walls I put up to protect myself. This is the side of you that’s greedy for me. This is the side of you I can never resist. There are others.
When we exchange goodbyes, I reel for days. You are an event that requires recovery. You are a child with a razor blade. You have become my favorite trauma. I run my hands over the scars you’ve left and I fantasize about the next one. I have stopped running from you. Our hooks are too deep into each other, and we both know it. This is who we are. This is what we will always do to each other. The side of me that belongs to you makes me stronger, tougher, larger. Surviving you has left me afraid of nothing. This is the side of me you’ve left tender, an infrequent bruise only you can cause and only you can mend.
I have stopped blaming you. When you claw at me, I know it’s only because you’re hungry for me like I am for you. When you’re inconsistent and cold, I know not to take it personally. When you lash out, I know it’s because I’m not the only one that’s hurt you. I’m not the only one who’s left you, betrayed you, failed you, rejected you, tasted you, begged for you, broken you, promised you, caged and coveted you. I know I’m not the only one who still misses you. I know I’m not the only one you call after midnight.
I have stopped judging you. I know there is no cure for who you are. I wouldn’t want there to be. There is a side of you that is sullen and unhappy, where I am irrelevant. You are defeated and exhausted and hopeless. You resent positivity and suspect kindness. You are exquisite in your sadness. There is a side to you that is painted with scars, that is hurt and mad and screaming in the background of everything you do. You are belligerent and fearless, with fists that will never unclench, driven by a fire that consumes everything you touch. You are a monster, reckless and beautiful in your abandon, wholly unconsolable and unconcerned with what you destroy in the process. This is who you are. This is who I can never turn away from.
I have stopped looking for your saving grace. I have stopped reminding myself of your finer points. I have let all of you in, because all you can ever offer me is every side of you. The sides of you that hurt me on purpose. The sides of you that seek me for solace. The sides of you that make the best parts of me. The sides of you that have nothing to do with me, that live on without me, that love and fight and miss and fuck other people. The side of you that no one but me knows. The side of you that everyone but me knows.
There are sides of you that glare at me. The sides you curate, carefully adopting guises and verbiage, lovers and coffee shops and secret all-night dance parties. You were always cooler than me, but you never made me feel it. There are sides of you that everyone loves. The animal lover. The stoner. The cuddly sloth. Everyone’s favorite bartender and barfly. The loud one, the friendly one, the friend, and the avenger, ready to throw drinks and throw down and let’s get a round afterwards. I remember these sides, in theory, but they’re foreign to me now. I know that you’re still whole. I know that you’re still a real person out there, alive and awake in the real world, far from our distant memories and missed conversations. I know that you’re still you, all of you, in every brightly burning iteration of yourself. This is what we do to each other. I can’t explain you. I can’t hide from you. I can’t forget you. I can’t excuse you. I can’t forgive you. I ache for you, but I don’t miss you. I reach for you, but I know it’s better that you’re out of my grasp. I’ll never have you, but that’s why I’ll never leave you. This is who we are. This is what we do to each other.