It’s odd to think how much time changes. Even more so to think of how little. Sometimes I roll over on a particularly hazy morning and still expect to find you next to me. I still want to kiss your naked torso and lay my head on your chest; to listen to the steady rhythm of your heart as I relay the adventures I went on while we slept. But now I can only dream of you and all of the things we never did, all of the words we never said.
Sometimes I’m knocked sideways with a memory of you. Like the time I slammed into that girl at the bar, spilling our drinks all over her perfectly done hair. I can barely remember the shape of her face, but the way you looked at me in that brief second is forever etched in my mind. There was so much love in your eyes, so much understanding. I knew in that moment, when you chuckled and kissed my lips ever so softly, that you understood me better than any lover ever had, perhaps more than any ever will. I didn’t have to explain my flaws– my clumsiness and sometimes spastic nature– I didn’t have to apologize because you knew. You accepted them. You loved me for them all the same.
I know many who’d argue that you never did love me, only found me convenient in a dark time; a stepping stone towards something, someone better. True as that may be, I knew otherwise. I know it still. I knew it when you’d wrap your arms around me in the kitchen, swaying me back and forth as you buried your nose in the nape of my neck, breathing in my perfume and exhaling a moan that bordered a growl. I knew it when you thought you were being sneaky as you took that picture of your dog and I snuggled up on the couch. Sometimes I wonder if you still have it, still look upon it when you miss me too. I knew it when you’d grip my calf and praise my Cherokee ancestors for passing on the genes to form athletic muscles, fine tuned from miles of running at your side. And I knew it when you’d kneel at my feet, unleashing your demons, allowing me to shoulder some of the burden you bore. Your head in my lap, my fingers running through your long, crimson-streaked mane, I knew.
When you left, you took a piece of me with you. And ever since I’ve been trying to find it, but still I don’t feel quite whole. I still look for you in crowded rooms, and see you on busy streets. I still catch your scent in the heat of summer and feel your lips against mine in the rain. They say that you never forget your first love and it wasn’t until you that I believed them. Though there were plenty that came before, and there will be plenty yet to meet, you will forever hold a piece of my heart that I can never replace.
Every one has been another version of you. A torrid affair of intertwined limbs and whispers in the dark– lip service for the lonely. Perhaps I’m still trying to fill the void you left when you went away– convoluted ghosts of you that never quite live up. Maybe I’ve yet to let you go, and each time they walk away I’m forced to face that reality. This limbo, this lost-love purgatory is hell and I’m scratching at the surface, desperately trying to crawl my way out but the rings are endless and the inferno is ablaze with regret. So I’ll burn in the fires of my unrequited love, and maybe one day that flame will flicker, wither and die, reduced to but a mere ember. Perhaps then, from the ashes, a new me will emerge, a hopeful phoenix with little recollection of the pain produced by empty promises.
Maybe then I’ll realize that you never really took a piece of me at all, but left one instead. And all this time I’ve been trying to fill a space that’s been occupied since the start. Maybe the pieces don’t fit because I’ve been trying to put them in the place you already hold, the part of me that’s always going to love you, to be yours. There are gaps and cracks and chasms in me that ache to be filled– they are the places I’ve yet to go, the things I’ve yet to see, the words I’ve yet to say and the lips I’ve yet to kiss. They are promises kept and words spoken true. These cavities are not the absence of you. They are the lack of me, broken and bruised, but not quite beaten. Maybe one day I’ll know what it is to feel complete without you. Maybe one day I’ll know what it feels to be whole. Maybe one day I’ll know what it is to be completely me. Maybe that day is today.