For the longest time, there was heartache perched like a night bird behind my eyes. You could see it, sea-dark and throbbing. I’ve become an expert at conversing with the latitudes of my grief, the thrashed atlas of my wounds. The hours of heartbreak were no longer a strange sight. The way that the sky of it would erupt without warning, the visibility no longer fazed me.
But I grew sick of this dialogue with grief. With all the bone-deep hypotheticals that would arise, even after I’ve determined that I’ve attained enough closure—whatever that means. We’ve caught only the briefest glimpses of each other over the years, but they’re enough for me to skate crooked circles around. Yet while crossing and recrossing orbits, I’ve seen you in every season except spring. There must be a metaphor lingering in that truth, a truth lingering in that metaphor that I’ve known for a while now. Last week, I wrote in my journal that there is no end to grief; in grief, something is prolonged. I went back to last December to memorize some things about you, about me, that I was beginning to forget. I went back to last December, and I thought about how we never apologized. Stranded in the clock-noise, listening to the carpentry of it slowing. Something closing, something splitting. I wondered what you’d say if you were here. I wondered what I’d say back to you. And then, I didn’t let myself plummet farther down that rabbit hole; I let it go.
This year, I was prepared for a December without you in it.
I wonder if I cursed myself because I was doing so well. Because you have never been the first to say something, anything, and I always tried, more than you ever did. Yet, you reached for me in the dusked colors of this godforsaken year, and I cannot help but search for something beautiful in that, to call ours again. I wonder if this is instinct or desire. I never learned the difference between remembering and falling. I didn’t want to think about your words floating through the witched hours, skidding into my grasp. Into the phone-light. Knife-glint, wish-stained hands. But I could hear your voice through a single text—too clearly. Running loose through my ears. I didn’t want to think about you because I have always overstepped the fault lines of nostalgia, tipping headfirst into a river of ghosts. Breath taken. But you were thinking about me at 3 A.M., on a Saturday night in December, and I felt, I feel like I won something.
And something within me gave in, just a bit. A bit too much. I was suddenly covered in the winter glow of past holiday seasons in suburban coffee shops in our hometown, all too ethereal in a meteor-blue haze. Submerged in a moon-flushed haunting. An opal vision of something wild and hopeful and incandescent. My coffee, your chai latte. A glass-blown affair of small talk about our families and the things we love and our lives. Memorizing the way it felt to make you laugh. Thinking it was adorable when you pouted. Reminiscing about the days when we were up to no good. Diving into the thick of it, of who we’ve been and who we are. Flying through conversations that circled my head for days, weeks, months. I combed through the veins of our voices and the dust-lit years between them with fractured fingers. God, I was marvelously fucked.
I could not tell whether I was homesick for a feeling, or for you. Everything was a dangerous blur.
The moments that hold us together remain holy and tender when I forget about the sharpest cut when I watched you go, when I forget about the wreckage after it, when I forget the way it broke my ribcage open. I forget and suddenly, I am missing your voice—no longer weatherproof.
I say that it’s a sudden yearning, but it isn’t. It’s always been there, dormant.
I just want to hear your voice. I want to hold it with my mouth, and nothing more, and this wish is already dangerous enough. Already bloodstained. I am prone to wanting the luminous touch of something blue, and I am prone to surrender. I want to go missing in my dreams. I suppose it’s predictable that I want to run away from myself. That I want to sabotage the divine length of everything I’ve learned, for a terrible high. One that will be fleeting and unforgivable and godless, a dreamland that will smother me again because you always leave. I stay, you leave. The tremor of my bones exposed, wrecked. You always go back to your town.
You never mean to ruin me, but you do. You did.
And I can’t do this anymore. I won’t.
So here I am, a year later, at a coffee shop we’ve never been to. Sixteen miles away from last December. It’s December again, and I’m still longing for a love without you. I’m still longing for a love without grief. A year later in solitude, I am tucked away in the December shadows of an old garage framed by a red wall curtain and vintage jackets and ridiculously cool prints and mirrors and motorbikes and planters of golden pothos hanging from the wood rafters and light, beams of light everywhere. It smells like roasted coffee beans and motor oil and smoke. Everything is warm here. Lamp-lit and perfect, with the guttural throat-sound of a motorcycle roaring to life—louder than the music singing in my ears. I feel the floor rumble beneath me, a vibration of something changing. A vehicle of moving hands, a songline taking off. I am no longer ruined open. No longer static. Nothing here is ruined, and everything here feels like home without trying.
I want to know how to want, and to love, again. I want to know that feeling again. My hands are so cold. Stilled with distance. But I am sick of this dialogue with grief, and I am sick at the remainder of who we are. We’re friends now, but barely. And I think that you’ll always have some part of me. There are some things that I’ll never lose, that I’ll always have, like the last time your kindness landed on me before we saw each other again four years later. I want to know that feeling again. But I want this to stop, I want this to end, more than I want to see and hear you. I know how it shatters, bluest shards of love-light dying, when I mistake violence for love. I want the epilogue more than the prologue because I already know how the beginning ends.
It’s December again, and I’m longing for good love.