The People We Used To Be


I remember we used to lay on the hardwood floors of our apartment with The Libertines playing on the speakers. We’d lay there and talk and drink cheap beer while looking at the glistening Christmas lights, revealing truths about our childhoods we had long tried to forget in the hometown we both abandoned years ago.

We had found ourselves in this space, an hour or so away from the streets where we grew up, just far enough to rid ourselves of our past, yet close enough it still weighed heavy on our minds. It was obvious. Wasn’t that why when everyone else had left the party and it was just the two of there on the floor these were the things we always went back to?

We had made it out somehow. Looking back it was all sort of a blur but at the heart of it we were survivors. Or at least we thought so, right? Survivors of what, though? A disaffected youth? Non-existent families that orphaned us in different ways? Things were tough, awful even, but it all seems sort of laughable now. We would have made it out no matter what. I know this now.

So we’d lay there and talk about where we’d be and where’d we go. We could feel the warm rain coming in from the lake if we sat on the balcony and reached our hands out to the sky. I never understood the dying plants in the windowsills or the bell jars all over the kitchen filled with silver spoons but I could have stayed there talking or singing over the music filled apartment all night, reminiscing on our times in a moment when everything seemed so possible.

I guess things still seem that way – possible – but in a different way, with different people. I’m not talking about other lovers or girlfriends or boyfriends – I’m talking about us. I’m no longer the college girl you met who wrote her number on a piece of paper at 19 and you’re no longer the guy who used to call me on his lunch break or between classes just to see how things were going. Sometimes I still yearn for that innocence.

It’s been years since the break up, since the parting of things – a time when I’d look at a coffee mug we bought on that trip to the East Coast and wonder what box it was going into. Sometimes I still think about you, about us, and what we would be like in the now. Would we even be us? Could we ever go back to the way things were?

But that’s just the thing – of course we couldn’t. I’m not sure if I’m still the person I was back then. In fact, I’m quite certain I’m not. So much has changed. I don’t think I’d even recognize her if I saw her on the street. That’s just the thing about your 20s – everything is in flux.

Looking back we had so much potential if only…if only…yes, those are the words I tell myself but I know better. So much of myself was lost in you, in us, in the idea we could be this great thing if only we…or I…tried harder. But we were broken at that point. There was no trying left to give.

I remember how we sat on the sofa on that last day, with boxes all around, only the record player sitting out as the last thing unpacked. You picked out my favorite Harry Belafonte record and asked if we could have one last dance. It was all very sad and movie-esque in a way, as we danced with tears in our eyes, yet still laughing about it all.

How am I supposed to get used to sleeping alone? You whispered so quietly I pretended not to hear.

Those words haunted me for so long, and my answer to the question even longer – complete silence. I didn’t have answers. I stood there taking in the music, the moment, until the question floated off into the distance.

That was a few years ago and I still wonder if you ever think of me, of what I’m like now, what we would be like if things were different.

I suppose none of it really matters, does it? Yet somewhere, something inside of me is still thinking about the people we used to be and wondering if they’re still out there – dancing to the sounds of Harry Belafonte, wondering about all of the possibilities. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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Former senior staff writer and producer at Thought Catalog.

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