I hope the people who did you wrong have trouble sleeping at night.
Because I’ve been sat writing you these bottled messages for the better part of a year now, and I know you’ll never get them. I know that there are too many glass shards on the beach you’ve been walking on anyways, and time has made you extra cautious in deciding where to step. I know it gets harder every year for something to feel like home. And I’m almost sorry (though who am I saying sorry to?) for even feeling like I could ever be that for you. But I’m done being angry with you. I’m done being sad or frustrated over it, and I only want good things for you now. I’ve written a lot about it, and I’m finally coming to terms with it all.
I’m not gonna lie and say it hasn’t been hard for me. I see you in a lot of things that I wish I didn’t. I see your face in textbooks, old VCR movie sleeves, mall crowds, house party dance floors, airports. I see a lot of you in my dreams, resulting in a fear of sleep as I beg my subconscious to find a new hobby. I see you in the reflection of my shadeless kitchen window at nighttime, usually while I’m listening to our radio station and washing the dishes. I mostly see you while I’m reading and writing public restroom graffiti.
I feel stupid for trying so hard to hold on to something that was barely mine to begin with. For being jealous when I had no right. I just hated that you were the highlight of every week. I hated that when something good happened to me, you were the first person I wanted to tell. Because I knew I wasn’t that for you. And I hated that I had allowed someone to make me feel so small.
I miss your balcony. I miss you telling me about your anxiety and your family and your future plans, because that made me feel like a piece of you. I miss holding your hand under dinner tables. I miss being drunker than you and forcing you to catch up. I miss getting butterflies whenever you’d reach across the back of a crowded cab to tangle your fingers in my hair. I miss being so high with you that I could swear you opened your mouth to say something and actual trumpet melodies would come pouring out. I miss you asking me if I had gotten a haircut (which in case you were wondering, since we’ve seen each other last my hair is long again). I miss standing with you in my kitchen, spaghetti sauce on your shirt, my hair down because my hair tie had broken, everything smelling of burnt cinnamon, and just laughing. I miss telling you about my writing and looking forward to the idea that someday maybe you’d read it. I miss kissing you after I had been studying for hours, closing my eyes and letting you wipe clean the slate of words and equations engrained into my mind.
And I really miss you at night. I am not being fair to myself. But I do think of you when it’s dark and I’m in my bed and my hands are cold (they’re always cold) and I wish I could reach over and yours would be there to hold. I miss when we’d just lie there, not touching, not speaking, barely breathing, but still feeling everything. Two shadowed commas in an empty stretch of blackness. I never wanted to make you hold me if you didn’t want to. I miss lying there and not having to ask any questions (because it had already been realized that there were no answers). I remember sharing lips. I remember burrowing myself within the folds of your lungs, and letting your fingertips graze along every bump of my spinal cord until all the smoke cleared and a stream of foggy light was able to shine through. I don’t know how you feel about it now, and I don’t know if you’ll dust off those memories like crumbs off your lap. But, to me, those nights we spent laying together were so real. They were not just smoke and mirrors. They could not have just been lines out of a Bukowski poem that a college freshman thinks of getting tattooed. I refuse to believe anything other than the truth, even if the truth is one of the more bitter pills to swallow.
I will miss writing about you on planes, in lecture halls, in my kitchen. Hastily typing a few things to remember in my phone while waiting for a bus to arrive. I miss how my phone would ring and I’d slide across the floor in my socks and bump my knee against the coffee table, even when I knew it wouldn’t be you. I’m sorry for how it ended, for yelling at you and cursing you out, for trying so hard to hurt you just to ease my vulnerability a little bit. You have no idea how hard it is to see you now and not end the conversation with “see you later.”
Maybe the worst thing you can do to someone is not let them love you enough. If that’s the case, I don’t know which one of us has failed the other more (though I’m guessing we’re both on losing teams here). But now I have a few scars I can talk about. And while there are so many things to worry over, it’s comforting to know that tomorrow won’t be as bad as yesterday was. I’ve been asleep for the past four months, and I forgot how good it feels to be awake. Because the best dreams happen when you’re awake anyways, right? And I know that one night soon before I wash the dishes, I’ll turn off the radio and turn on my record player. And it will play all the right songs. And it will be good.
There’s a story somewhere in the dog leash tied around the tree in my parents’ front yard, where my dog used to lay in the summer and watch cars drive by. My dog passed away in 6th grade, but my family keeps that leash there because, why would we untie it? Untying it would mean something final; it would be a goodbye that, more than 10 years later, we’re still not ready to give. Anyways, this letter is a kind of untying of that leash. I hope someday if you’re walking around some city at night and there’s a live street band playing something with trumpets in it, you think of me. Until then, it was a pleasure to have written all these bottled letters for you.