My Love Stories From Forever Ago

kevin dooley
kevin dooley

The air is getting colder. I’ve always loved exhaling into the night sky, emitting faint foggy puffs that I could pretend was smoke leaving my lungs from an imaginary cigarette. My fingers are growing numb. It was dumb to buy gloves without fingertips and my fingers feel like they’re going to fall off if I can’t find a hot mug or a warm person to clutch onto. My cheeks are tinged pink and my eyes squint as gusts of wind hit me hard. Somehow I manage to find you and even though your gloved hands don’t do much to warm my own, I still hold tightly.

We make snow angels in freshly fallen powder and they connect at the sides. They’re holding hands, I say, and we laugh and chase each other in the snow until our noses become runny and our lips turn blue.

We ice skate in Central Park because you love it. I can barely stand and yet I still let you lead me, trusting that you will protect me from the incoming wave of children with blades of death which seem to be drawn to my extremities. We skate until my ankles hurt and then we walk along a pathway, surrounded by barren branches and geese flying south for the winter.

You’ve known me for a long time. You know that I enjoy the sound of rain against a window as it washes away every trace of the cold. Every spring is a new beginning to be filled with hot noodle soup and old classic songs. You invite me over when it thunders and I bury my face into your chest to block out the rumble which has scared me since childhood.
We take walks a lot, marveling at newly sprouting flowers and an eruption of flora and fauna after hiding from the winter. You always take my hand forcefully, as if the only way you could muster up the courage to touch me is by showing some sort of false bravado. You keep your hands on my waist as you kiss me, not daring to offend me with roaming indecency.

You call at night and any fatigue I felt before is lost as the conversation continues into the morning. My mother peeks into my room sometime past midnight and I pretend to go to sleep as you hold on the line for the coast to be clear. During lulls in the conversation we lie in our beds and hold the phones to our ears, breathing in silence. I watch the sun rise from my living room window as you search for a good spot to join me.

Sometimes we watch movies together and you let me rest my head on your shoulder, adjusting yourself to allow for my maximum comfort. You always disagree with my preferences and in the end we both compromise, watching a film that is to neither of our tastes. I let you kiss me anytime you want.

We drink wine in a garden courtyard. The air smells sweet as we pass the bottle back and forth between swigs. A boy from my past appears before us and you grow quieter as he continues to regale us with stories. I don’t tell him to leave and you hold in your unease until he walks away. We argue amongst the twinkling lights and flowerbeds until we run out of things to say.

You attempt to teach me how to ride a bike on a flattop. I have no helmet and I’m scared of falling. You go over the rules slowly, reiterating as I fail to leave my feet. We have somewhere we need to be and there is no time to perfect my technique. I step on the pegs of your bike and you carry me to our destination until another day when we can continue on.

We stand atop Rockefeller Center and it is the first time I’ve ever been so high up. The sun is setting and tourists gather around each open space of glass overlooking the city. The sky is a mixture of pink and yellow and orange and I’m content being so close to cotton candy clouds as you stand behind me, allowing me to put my weight on your chest as the sun falls into the horizon.

I like to lie on the grass on my side with my head in your lap as you stroke my hair. I graze my hands along the layers of green and pull, throwing blades of grass all over you. We always laugh.

We sit in your car sometimes before you drop me off at home. We push our seats all the way back and open the sun roof, looking at the stars through the small sliver of a window. We stay there for hours, and you ask if you can kiss me as I stare into the sky. I allow it for the briefest of moments until you drive away.

Hot nights are filled with illicit behavior and I strip down, hoping to receive the type of response one would give to a girl in a magazine. We dance a lot, deciding to let every inhibition go and enjoy the moments we have together before summer is over. I wonder what you’re thinking as you gaze down at me sometimes. I inquire about your life away from me, desperate to glean any information I can about you, to make you less of a stranger.

You call me beautiful even though my face is only partially lit by the white of the moon. You kiss me on my temple and I’m glad that it’s dark so that you can’t see the rush of blood to my cheeks as I shift my eyes away from you. I smile at this statement and let you lean into me, your warm breath on my neck, melting away all of my insecurities.

I sit alone in the backseat of a taxi van and you are in the row in front of me. You casually prop your hand behind you, as if you are just trying to get comfortable while getting squished by other people. You raise your palm without looking at me and I take it, playing with your fingers. No one else notices but you smile at me from the front.

We wake up on white under rays of sunlight. I touch your face and you rub your nose against mine. You wipe away a stray black mark from my cheek, remnants of a night filled with butterfly kisses. Your fingers trace circles down the contours of my back and we are silent except for the steady rhythm of our heartbeats and the soft sighs we release to interrupt our meandering thoughts. You walk me to the door when it’s time for me to leave and as we part, I keep my eyes turned towards you, watching your silhouette grow smaller as I fade away.

Each night at 9:30, you call me to tell me about your day. Your stories are filled with our mutual friends, safe third parties who I know and trust. You meet slews of new people and it’s hard to keep up with the corresponding names and faces. Eventually you stop mentioning them altogether. I come to the realization that if I know nothing of your new friends then they must consider me a shadow on your Facebook wall, some elusive girl you visit every once in a while.

Sometime in October, I spend a weekend with you. I wake up and you are on the far side of the bed, arms hanging off the edge instead of wrapping around my torso. I pretend this doesn’t bother me.

The beach is cold so we don’t go in the water, instead squishing our toes into cool sand as the rest of our bodies are covered in thick sweaters and fleece. You tell me to walk ahead so you can take pictures, photographic evidence that we’re in this place at this precise moment. It’s almost as if we need proof in case we forget each other tomorrow.

You hold me as I cry into the night. My makeup is running and my breaths are choked but you let me wipe my nose on your shirt as your arms wrap around my waist. You’re still beautiful, you say, and your forehead wrinkles up as your eyes squint into crescent moons full of concern. Eventually my face dries and I leave you there, not looking back as I walk home.

I drink hot tea as the weather gets colder and the steam from my mug serves to replace the warmth that you aren’t going to give me. You don’t call me and I don’t call you and we both pretend to be fine with this decision. At first, I check my phone at every vibration, even at 2am when the only reason you might text would be because of a drunken relapse. Gradually, the anxiety I feel after every missed call ebbs away and all glimmers of hope I had before are dashed before they even have a chance to disappoint me.

You pass me on the street after New Year’s and do a double take before coming over to hug me. You ask me how I’m doing and I have nothing more to say after the usual formalities and small talk. You ask me to grab lunch sometime when neither of us is busy but the thought is lost as soon as we walk away. We ease ourselves back into nothingness, into being strangers on the street who walk too briskly to notice each other. TC mark

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