I want to work on my backwards walk. I want to call for a do-over. I want to go back in time, Marty McFly style, and prevent anything from happening with you. I want to make sure that if I can’t have you like this, we can still be best friends.
I want to go back to August, on our one-year anniversary, when we decided on the date that you would move out of our apartment. I want to talk about something else at dinner. I don’t want to be crying when the waiter asks us if we want to see a dessert menu.
I want to go back to July and go home at midnight without you instead of watching you put your arm around that Canadian tourist at the karaoke bar. You were wasted, but still. I want to go back to the Fourth and insist that we stay in town instead of fighting all the way to Philadelphia in your car without air conditioning. I want to say I’m sorry for that. I think my blood was boiling in the heat.
I want to go back to April when you got your acceptance letter and tell you that it’s over before you can say those words to me. I don’t want to give you the opportunity to tell me that you don’t want me to come visit you at school in the fall, that you need indefinite space.
I want to go back to March and not kiss your freezing fingertips after carrying groceries back to my apartment with you. I don’t want you to tell me that the best part of your day is coming home to see me at the end of it.
I want to go back to your birthday and not meet that girl that you flirted with at the airport and invited to dinner with us. I want to refuse to pay for your drinks that night. I want to tell you how much it hurt me that you invited her instead of welcoming your new “friend.” I want to go back to the first week of January when I moved in with you. I want to tell you that it’s too soon, that we haven’t been together long enough, that the eight years we spent as best friends doesn’t count. I don’t want you to order that blue silverware that I loved so much in order to make me feel welcome in your home. In our home. I don’t want to build Ikea furniture with you. I don’t want to build a life with you.
I want to go back home for Christmas and not tell our friends in California that we fell in love. I don’t want them to give us their blessing. I want them to tell us what an awful idea it is. I want them to tell us they’re mad at us for hiding our relationship from them for six months. I want them to yell and scream and forbid us to be romantic. I want my mother to hate you. I don’t want your mother to give me rose-shaped cupcake holders for my birthday.
I want to go back to Thanksgiving, and tell you that I’m going home for the holidays. I don’t want to cook dinner with you in the kitchen of that adorable, quaint restaurant that your friends own in New Hampshire. I don’t want to snuggle in bed with you in your A-frame apartment in Vermont. I don’t want to throw snowballs at the back of your jacket without gloves on. I don’t want to drive your car around South Royalton listening to Elliott Smith, watching the raindrops freeze before they even hit the windshield. I don’t want to bake s’mores in your oven and start calling you baby. I don’t want to tease you for using dish soap to wash your face and your clothes. Please don’t kiss me long and slow before putting me back on the train at White River Junction, squishing my cheek against the buttons on your pea coat when I break away to look at you. Your eyes are like celery sticks. Stop that.
I want to go back to the weekend that Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and evacuate the city. I want you to get snowed in at that motel in Connecticut so that you can’t reach me before the power goes out. I want to trek to work in my rain boots instead of calling in sick and meeting you for sushi.
I want to go back to Halloween. Please, don’t drive down from work and dress up like Jay Gatsby. Please don’t tell me that I’m the memory you’ve stored up in your ghostly heart. Please don’t insist on calling me Daisy when you kiss my hair and tell me this is what you’ve wanted since we met when we were kids. Please, just turn around and go to a party at the law school near the restaurant where you work, six hours away by train. I’ll drink a bottle of wine with my roommates and order a pizza. I’ll be fine, really. I just don’t want anyone to snap that picture of us looking like movie stars, smiling at one another, you in your fedora with the feathers, I in my fur cape. I don’t want photographic evidence of the happiest you’ve ever looked in your whole life.
I want to go back to that hotel that we stayed in that reminded us of Batman. You were Bruce Wayne in your suit, and I was Rachel Dawes, looking out over Gotham City at 4am. Only in our version, we smoked cigarettes and drank whiskey. I don’t want you to lift my chin so that I couldn’t look away when you told me you were in love with me. I want to hide under the covers with my fingers stuffed into my ears singing Emotional Rescue by the Rolling Stones as loudly as I could to block out your confession. But you’d probably just smile and tell me how sexy I look making Mick Jagger faces with my tongue against my teeth.
Just don’t. If you have to tell me you love me, follow it up with a punch on the upper arm so that I know we’re still just friends. Call me “dude” or “buddy” or “man.” Please don’t call me “darling.” Please don’t tell me that it’s too late, that you fell for me years ago outside of that bookstore 5,000 miles away.
I want to go back to my first night in New York City. Please don’t take me to that Peruvian restaurant on the Lower East Side. I won’t wear my polka dot dress and red lipstick, you won’t wear your tie. That’s such bullshit, because you always wear a tie and I always paint my mouth like Gwen Stefani, but let’s just pretend that for once, we didn’t. Don’t take me to that mixology bar and get me drunk on liquors that I can’t pronounce. Don’t brush my hips when you slide into that taxi beside me on the way back to your room at the Hotel Pennsylvania.
It’s the most expensive hotel in Manhattan, why did we have to spend the night there? I’m just an intern and you’re just a cook. We can’t afford this. The room was so small, we couldn’t help but touch when we got inside. Please don’t take off your jacket and tie. Please don’t unbutton your shirt. Please don’t leave your trousers haphazardly on the floor in the bathroom. Please don’t cover my mouth with yours and breathe into my lungs.
This time, I’ll tell you that I’m not that kind of girl. I’m usually not. I won’t break my rules. You’ll get bored with the chase, you’ll get bored without the instant gratification of your thighs on my thighs and your lips on my throat. We’ll laugh it off later as a drunken mistake. We’ll go hiking next weekend, and you’ll tell me about the girl you took home after I left.
Please. Please don’t let me see you like this. It changed the way I looked at you. I stopped seeing you as the boy that I used to climb trees with.
I want to go back to that night I got back to Los Angeles from Paris. You were only in town for two days. I want to tell you that I’m too tired to meet you at the bar. Why did I invite you? Why did I wear that yellow 1950’s Mad Men dress that I knew you would love? Why did you wear that jacket with the elbow patches that made you look like Dr. Henry Jones Jr.? Why didn’t you answer me when I asked you if that girl that you brought with you belonged to you? If you had just answered with a simple, “She’s with me,” none of this would have ever happened.
Why did I try to keep up with you, shot for shot? Why did you make me start giggling? Why did I grab your tie and pull you close to me? Why didn’t you pull away? Why did you close your eyes and fill me up with your stars? We could have stayed best friends.
I want to go back to the next morning at the diner, and I won’t order the French toast. You won’t order the omelet. Maybe if I order sausage or oatmeal, that waitress won’t sing to us and I won’t think to myself, maybe this could work. Maybe if your car wasn’t parked on Long Island on the opposite end of the country, you could have driven yourself home. I wouldn’t have gotten out of my car and walked you to the door. You wouldn’t have kissed me on the mouth and said, “See you next week.” Maybe instead, we would have waved good-bye in the parking lot, and a year later I wouldn’t be wiping snot on my sweatshirt sleeves and begging you not to go.
Maybe if I hadn’t said, “I’ll call you when my plane lands at La Guardia,” you wouldn’t have told me today that you aren’t in love with me anymore.