On this outbound flight I have in my duffel bag a T-shirt from you; on which collar you had embroidered your initials. You rolled up the shirt in embossed wrapping paper and scribbled in the best English you could manage: “For have me everywhere.” It didn’t matter that we didn’t communicate in perfect English. Not one bit.
For 5 days I’ve spent in this town I now think of you. You, the buoy of this trip from the shore of memories I have in my head.
You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last, but for now you sit fresh in my head. I taste you not on my tongue but behind my eyes and behind my nose above the back of where my tongue can reach in my mouth.
You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last, but that’s not a bad thing.
That each time I hop off a plane or a train I find an almost lover. Almost lovers that show you their hometown the way grandmothers whip out their best recipes. Almost lovers who once tried to learn greetings in your language just to please you, almost lovers who once boisterously spoke about flying to your hometown knowing they wouldn’t.
Almost lovers that create moments on a trip you try to scrapbook but eventually find no need to. When the chance had arisen that fingers reach beneath hair onto your scalp—tracing your hairline like how you would trace your journey on a globe of your journey here from home. When while laughing off instances where the language barrier seemed impossible to overcome and instead your cheeks rubbed together and whiffs of their hair were caught. Instances where you reached for the hand hanging off your shoulder while they had their arm around you. I started remembering the names of places in the city—your city—for how I felt your touch.
It is romance with almost lovers of a foreign tongue, whose kiss tenderness makes. I will remember how to say in your tongue “thank you” and “goodbye,” and leave with you whatever I had brought (never intended to be gifted to anyone) just to say thank you for being sincere, and to apologize for being merely a vessel for wanderlust.
You might tell me with the comfort of being at home (where you’ve probably spent all your life, mind you), that you found in me the perfect match; and would never have let me go. In the heat of your summer I might have said that I felt the same (and that it was such a shame to have to pack my bags), and I would have meant it from the bottom of my heart. For then I shall remember that I also had at the back of my mind that for as long as I continue to seek out new places, you couldn’t possibly be the only one I felt star-crossed by distance and fate.
You would cross your heart for us to keep in touch and I would agree. You would continue talking about plans to meet me again, and continue planning a trip to my city. And I would know for always that this is the last time I shall see you.
It is you, the almost lover, that I will meet again and again. For how you became the buoy of the destination I spent with you—and I will become a collector of buoys. It is you, the almost lover, whose T-shirt I will keep safe in the corner of my wardrobe or hang up on my wall—that will continue being the scent of the coffee I shared with you in the coffee shop across your teenage hangout that you showed me while I was miles away from home.
It is you, the almost lover, that I will meet again and again. It is you, the almost lover that I shall reminisce, until I stop traveling the world to meet almost lovers, and the buoys of you almost lovers travel your way out of me.