Every time I think of you, I almost tell you that I do. I almost pick up the phone and dial your number, the one I still have memorized after all this time. I imagine you in your apartment, in your bedroom, in wherever you live now, and I see you the same as you were—messy hair, scruffy face, half-smirk.
It’s funny how when we part ways with people, we always picture them how they were when we knew them, loved them. As if they don’t change, as if they’d still be wearing the same sweatshirt with the rip at the collar, the same glasses with the smudge in the corner. As if time doesn’t play a part, hasn’t played a part in their lives, only ours. And we believe somehow, by some magic, if we ever ran into them again, they’d be the same.
But I know that’s not the case with you. I know you’re different. I know you’ve changed, at least in some ways. I know you’re someone I’d hardly recognize, and maybe this is both good and bad. But I picture you sprawled on the couch, I picture you talking on the phone, I picture you petting your dog between his ears, lazily watching some show on TV. I see you living your life, and as much as I want to be a part of it, still, I put down that phone.
And I remind myself that you’re okay without me, and maybe I am too.
Every time I think of you, I almost send you that text. The one that tells you I’m thinking of you. The one that starts with, ‘I just want you to know…’ and trials off into a thousand letters of love and affection. The one that says, ‘I miss you,’ in words that aren’t actually expressing what I really want. The one that simply says, ‘hi,’ and begs for a response.
But then I imagine all the other texts you’re receiving. I imagine another girl, the thread of conversations, the way you’ve found someone else to say, ‘good morning’ too, since things were no longer good between us for some time. I picture what your face would look like in getting a message from me—maybe a wrinkled brow, maybe a quick glance then turning your phone over because you’re with people, with her, and don’t want anyone to see.
Or maybe, worst of all, indifference. Picking up your phone and having no expression at all, and that scares me the most, so even when the draft’s already written, I erase it. And I put the phone down.
Every time I think of you, I almost put on our song and listen to the words again. The lyrics I have memorized, the melody that makes my heart leap to my throat and get stuck there, beating, making it hard to swallow, to speak, to think, as I remember you.
I want to put that song on and drown in the memory of you, in the way we used to be so young and naïve and happy. I want to pretend that time and place hasn’t changed us. I want to pretend that we’re okay, and always will be.
I want to put on that song and pretend you still love me, but I’m scared to dance alone.
Every time I think of you, I almost get in that car and drive. No destination, but your direction. Because even though I don’t know exactly where you are, I’m sure my heart could be the guide. It hasn’t lead me wrong before, at least not with you.
I have a full tank of gas, snacks in the backseat, the radio on. It wouldn’t take much to tell the world I’m sick, I’m busy, I have something important to do. I’m used to running, no longer afraid of leaving, so would it really be the worst thing if I just up and left, chasing my memory of you?
But then I wonder if you’ll answer the door, if you’ll welcome me with the arms and chest I remember, and if we’ll fall back into old habits, old patterns, and would that be a good thing?
And suddenly I’m afraid that you won’t feel like home anymore, and so I turn off the ignition and wait for a sign from you. One that still hasn’t come.
Every time I think of you, I almost cry. Because I can’t help but think about all that we had, all that we were, and so much time has passed now that I’ve forgotten why we went in opposite directions—and isn’t that what always happens in love? We romanticize, we remember the good, we give ourselves enough distance to forget why it didn’t work and suddenly believe, wholeheartedly that we made a mistake.
But if it was a mistake for us to leave, wouldn’t you have already felt it, too? Wouldn’t you have already picked up the phone, got in the car, told me you couldn’t live this damn life without me in it?
And so I hesitate, I wipe the almost-tears before they run down my cheeks, and I force myself to remember that I’m fine, I’ve been fine, I’ll still stay fine without you.
But every time I think of you, I almost call. I almost shut out the doubts. I almost say forget it to my fears. I almost grab the phone and dial your number without thinking to hear the sound of your voice, the only thing that has stayed the same, so familiar that it actually scares me.
I almost tell you I love you, that I haven’t stopped. But what if you don’t answer? What if all I’m left with is a voicemail, your tone garbled and changed by cell tower static? What if I keep on giving, doing, showing you I’m here and get nothing in return?
What if I’m putting myself out there for a love that no longer exists?
So maybe I’ll just tell you this: Every time I think of you, I almost call.
And it might not be enough, but at least it’s something. It’s an almost. A reminder that even if I’m silent, I’m still thinking of you. Even after all this time.