When I close my eyes, I can still picture your apartment—-the kitchen with the dirty stove, the bathroom littered with crumpled tissues and bath soap, the bedroom with abandoned sweatshirts and sweatpants like land mines around the bed. I remember the tie blanket with the football print, the coin jar on the nightstand, your hand with the silver bracelet around my waist.
You were him. The one. Or at least I thought. We spent our nights curled up on the couch—me and my homework, you and Sports Center. Our Saturday afternoons were spent cooking breakfast burritos and arguing. Your stubbornness matched mine in ways that always made me question how we even ended up together. But we did, somehow.
You were the one I traveled with, West Coast to Midwest, swimsuits to wool mittens. We talked about our dreams on plane rides, mapped our futures together on lazy Sunday mornings before church.
You were the one I planned my life with. Graduate. Move. Travel. I fit your life into mine like silly putty, oozing it into the cracks and empty spaces. I was young. I was busy. You were older, your life not put together, but at a different stage than mine. I was ready to sift through my life and make room for you. You were ready to take our lives and mesh them together. But then you were the one who pulled away.
Our lives weren’t compatible. Our arguments turned to fights. Our futures drifted apart, the glue holding them together becoming weak and stringy. I made my life more complicated, my schedule filling with work and goals, and yours, 4,000 miles away, could have been another world.
We broke up on a Saturday, the weekend after Father’s Day. I remember the feeling. I was dressed in a thin tank-top and scarf, the June heat making my hair frizzy. I tried so hard not cry. I was watching the horse races, squeezed between my mother and sister in little bleacher seats. I watched the horses circle the track, their chiseled leg muscles gleaming in the sunlight. They were resilient.
I felt my life crumbling around me, pieces of who I thought I was getting lost in the voices of the racetrack, mixing with the smell of beer, and popcorn, and lady’s perfume.
You were the one I planned my life with, imagined myself at twenty-six, thirty-five, forty-two with children. I shaped my dreams around yours. No longer mine, but ours. And I loved you.
But maybe not enough. Or maybe too much. Our lives were not matched, not in the way they should have been. I still think about you sometimes, wonder if you still have that coin jar on your dresser, if you still have that silver bracelet, and wonder if, in the back of your nightstand drawer, you have a picture of the two of us. And maybe you still wonder sometimes what could have been.