1. In a way, I still want you. Yes, you—boy of my past, who called me on New Year’s eve, drunk, alone. In a way I still want you. In a way I still want to answer your calls, twirl my finger around an imaginary cord and say, “No, how was yourday.” In a way, I want your slurred response, your hiccup, your big dumb laughs. The way they bloomed like the pink promise of dawn.
2. In a way, I miss the way you used to laugh and cough in the back of movie theaters, or when I tickled you behind movie theaters. In a way I miss the tendrils of pot smoke. In a way I miss the way the brownies warped the room and made our bodies heavy like waterlogged sods. “Drugs are our rain,” you said, poking me, giggling—I miss all drugs, in a way.
3. In a way, I miss cartoons. Don’t think I forgot—Inspector Gadget was your favorite. In a way I miss saying, “Dude you were born in the nineties.” In a way I miss wasting those summer days in front of a TV and a pint of dripping fro-yo, because even though you were the active type—the “let’s rent tandem bikes” type—you would let me be the lazy type. The Garfield type.
4. In a way I miss those hats. Those Nantucket hats. Remember? Those hats?
5. In a way I still walk down the pier here in Maine, except now I don’t buy fries and a slice first. It reminds me too much of us. Plus, in a way I don’t have the money. In a way you always paid for me. In a way—well, that was the only way it ever went down.
6. In a way, I’m sorry I was so cheap.
6a. But in another way, I’m not sorry I was cheap. In fact, I wasn’t cheap. I’m sorry you were the über-proud good ol’ boy type, who told me to put my wallet away and explained: “The man should always be the one to pay.” In a way, I’m sorry you were the tobacco-chewing, Hemingway-enthusiast I fell for in the library. I’m sorry you felt I need saving.
7. But maybe in a way I do need saving. In a way I still wake up broken: hitting snooze after snooze, binging on episodes of The Office, and living with my parents in the post-college grey area before whatever comes next. In a way, my parents, who shake their heads when they see me in pajamas at noon, are right: I do need a life. But they are, however, wrong to say, “Maybe what you need is to meet another guy. Maybe that’ll motivate you.”
8. Besides, maybe missing you is having a life. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with notes to no one, to the hypothetical you. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with wearing hoodies and yoga pants to Starbucks, or sifting through our past to find moments in which I could’ve been better. Maybe it’s healing. Maybe life is just that, anyway: a perpetual healing process. Claude Debussy, a composer my dad likes, once said, “Music is the space between the notes.” Maybe life happens when we’re not listening. In the quiet spaces.
8a. But actually, maybe life is measured in the loud, the unforgettable. Maybe life is a symphony of big moments: births and deaths, first dates and breakups. I remember how on our last date, I wore the same thing I did on our first: my tiny black dress and grey heels. The only difference is that on our last date—when a pack of teenage boys on a stoop whistled at my cleavage—you gave me a once-over and said, “You have to admit, it kinda makes sense,” instead of, “You look cute. Does coffee sound good?”
9. You said my exposed skin might inspire “perversion.” Your word, not mine. I wonder what that says about you, pervert-wise.
10. You should know I’ve been using these notes as bookmarks. They’re my little symbols of progress. I’m currently reading Hemingway, but I don’t see the appeal. It’s not that I feel disappointed by the tragedy of a story like “Indian Camp”—trust me, I know better than to expect happy endings.
11. My problem, I guess, is with the language. The language of pain. Too much is often left unsaid.
© Greg Letellier