My friend thinks I mourn you because I’m mourning your potential. In a way, I understand. “You weren’t together, but you imagined an entire future with him,” she tells me, matter-of-fact, on the phone. She isn’t wrong.
The life I imagined with you wasn’t far from what we had. At least, not completely. I envisioned us stumbling down the street, wine-drunk and high from the strange energy that always seemed to pinball between us, but instead of our fingers itching toward each other’s in vain, you would have pushed me against the brick wall of the alleyway and kissed me hard; knowing me, I would have waited a minute before pushing away playfully, my eyes telling you to wait. I envisioned waking up to coffee in the morning, made exactly how I love it, but instead of delivering it to me on the couch, you’d set it on your nightstand and tunnel back into bed with me. I envisioned all those quiet moments we spent together, when our eyes would meet and all of our words would get stuck on our tongues, but this time, we wouldn’t dare look away.
This time, we would admit that everything we wanted was right in front of us instead of pretending we never noticed it there.
You used to talk about me meeting your sister. (“She’ll love you as if you were her own sister,” you assured me when I worried she wouldn’t like me.) You used to talk about me meeting your mom. We used to laze around in the afternoons and talk about how badly we both wanted to jump into my car and drive away as far as we could and start a new life together; once, you’d even found an apartment in DC you thought we could afford. (“It’s just a hypothetical,” you said, your eyes sliding away from mine sheepishly, but I saw that you kept the tab up on your laptop for weeks.) Instead, you jumped in the car on your own and moved to Chicago, a city we once said we’d visit together, and never returned. I knew there was no invitation to follow.
And it’s funny, because even long after you broke my heart, I still imagined a life holed up in a tiny city apartment with you, eating cheap takeout and watching stupid shows while we lay together, wrapped around one another like twine. I would be the artist, the visionary, the shoulder to cry on, and you would be the rock, solid and unmoving, logical to a fault. I imagine arguing over semantics and talking about hypotheticals and secretly planning our entire lives together, the way we always did once it hit the early morning hours and we were free of inhibitions. Sometimes I felt like I knew everything about you, but I still always wanted to know more; I wanted to listen to you speak until you ran out of words. In a way, I guess I got my wish—when you left, neither of us seemed to have anything left to say.
I tell myself that even if we did have that ending, even if we got all those sacred nights in some unknown city, things still would’ve turned out this way. We’d grow irritated of the things we once loved and resent each other for things neither of us can control—our cultures, our politics, our families. Maybe we would have fallen out of love all the same. But there are still nights when I close my eyes and see the whole future in front of us, and maybe that’s what really hurts. It’s not just the things we lost or the way their absence left a gaping hole inside me; it was all the beautiful things we dreamed of, the ones we we never got the chance to have.