I went off to see the world without you.
(I’d hoped to see it with you.)
I keep leaving spaces for you. I put my bag on the train seat beside me to save it. I say two at restaurants when I only mean one. I turn to the person sitting next to me on the plane to point out the mountains, to point to the sunset, I almost lean my head on his shoulder, and then –
It isn’t you, it won’t be you.
It took a long time to turn my feet in the direction of forward. I had a pillow stashed in the curve of the rearview mirror – I made a bed of it, a home. Forward was further away from you, so I stopped where I was and I kept my eyes on the road behind me and I said no to anything that meant away.
My feet sunk into the dirt, leaves sprouted from my fingertips, birds nested in my hair.
I grew roots, you see, I grew roots.
So I missed you there, for a long time, and I thought the world had stopped with me, except it didn’t. It kept playing, only silently.
(I kept screaming, only silently.)
Mute instead of pause.
It’s so hard to pull up roots. I know because that’s how I store all of the things I most want to say – they’re rooted, they’re deep. They have to be yanked free if they ever have a chance of making it to the air.
I had to be yanked free.
I don’t know how. Some combination, I think, of the birds flying over my head and the way summer rolled in on the back of the wind and the way my phone lit up with possibilities that got harder and harder to say no to.
It was inch by inch. Not all at once, never all at once. Inch by inch, I was uprooted.
And now I see the world without you.
I see mountains and I miss you. I see palaces and I miss you. I sit on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower when it’s all lit up at night and it’s something like magic, something like a dream, and I miss you even more. I feel the rope that is tied from the center of me to the center of you pull taut with every step I take away, but I don’t stop. I feel it fray, but I don’t stop.
The world isn’t you, you aren’t the world, no matter that I’d thought it was, no matter that I’d thought you were.
There’s too much more to see, to feel, to want.
I tore off the rearview mirror.
And someday the rope will break.
But I think I’ll be too busy living to feel it when it happens.