My Worst Fear

Holding Hands

I was trying not to stare. I was mesmerized. The green and grey flecks amidst your blue eyes met mine. I had no idea who you were, as I stood there at the top of those stairs. The night that I first met you changed my life. Your eyes made me nervous – you made me nervous – so I tried not to stare.

And now it was painful. Looking at you, thinking about you, it was painful. An everlasting dull pain in my heart and my stomach. It came in waves – ebbed in and out like the tides, but no matter what, it was always there.

Say things like we’ll keep in touch, distance won’t break us. Tell me I’m your best friend, whisper sweet nothings in my ear, if only for one more time. Make dates, plans, commitments for the future. Try to keep them, but like so many promises before ours, they are broken.

Tell me we will keep in touch – technology will bind us. It will connect us when our fingers cannot interlace, when our legs cannot intertwine. Skype will show me your green and grey flecks, it will illuminate your smile, but it won’t let me hear your heart beat. The texts will replace the whispers and the sweet nothings, but it won’t build the bridge I need to get to you. To reach you. To be with you. Our circumstances made sure of that.

I go on. I carry on. But I don’t move on. I put my heart on a shelf for safekeeping – it’s next to that shoebox of memories I keep closed. Out of sight, out of mind, right? It’s all part of the compartmentalizing process. That shoebox holds you and me – our memories. But I refuse to look at it. I refuse to run my finger across those pictures we took in that photo booth. Last winter, when it was pouring rain in Oregon, and you held the umbrella over me. Held me close – protected me like a shield from those raindrops. You tugged my scarf and I grabbed the collar of your leather jacket, and then your warm lips met mine. And when our lips parted, you could see the remnants of our breath in the cold air. My carbon dioxide mixing with yours. The perfect pair. But I won’t think about that.

I won’t think about the darkness. I’ll just let it surround me. Envelop me. Because it was in that very darkness, lying in bed, that you stared up at the ceiling, held my hand in yours, and told me you were in love for the very first time. And you were in love with me. You sure?, I asked. You laughed, and I told you how very much in love with you I was, and then I cried. And you held me. You protected me – like a shield, and this time those raindrops only hit against your windowpane. That was all I could hear – the raindrops and your heart beating quietly, steadily, in the dark. You made love to me that night so passionately. It was just you and me – it was pure, raw, beautiful.

They say that some people feel the rain, others just get wet. One of the Bob’s said it – Dylan or Marley, but does it really matter at this point? Regardless, I want to thank you for helping me to feel the rain. For showing me how to really live, for teaching me what really matters. You’re brilliant. You’re outstanding.

Distance means nothing, that’s what we kept telling ourselves. Over and over. But in the end, we are just victims of circumstance. We had no control over our situation. Jobs, school, carelessness, selfishness – it’s amazing the amount of things that can drive a wedge between two people who are very much in love. It’s a wonder that anyone stays together through it all in the first place.

I take my toothbrush, my hair dryer, the clothes, but I have to throw out that vanilla shampoo and conditioner. It’s devoid of meaning now. That memory of how you bought those two bottles for me in New York and spent every night smelling my hair and kissing the top of my head – well, I’ll just throw that into my shoebox in the back of the closet. Into the dusty corners of my brain it goes, settle in with the cobwebs and the forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind.

I won’t resent you, I swear. I will miss you, I promise. Apologies are all that can be offered at this point. What happened to the compatibility? The intimacy? Maybe we can get it back. One day, maybe. We’ll try again in a few months, a year, I say. Until then, friends? I’ll call on your birthday, you’ll remember picking out Christmas trees and how I would beg you to build gingerbread houses with me. I’ll remember the warmth of your apartment. Our apartment, you’d correct me. I can hear your voice now. I’ll remember the warmth of you. How I’d bask in it every Saturday morning. Comforted by dreams and your arms holding me close.

I tell myself to go at it alone. No regrets. None. Be stubborn, keep your head up, go on. Turn off those old songs I only listened to with you, send rudimentary texts here and there. Maybe a phone call when I’m feeling lonely. But no, I can’t. You’re worth way more to me than a phone call or a text. You were are worth everything.

Isn’t this what I wanted? The freedom, the independence. No one else hoarding the bed sheets, no one else switching the radio station. You’re in your twenties, I tell myself. Go and explore – make something of yourself. But I won’t think about how you were supposed to be my fellow explorer. My partner. You’re my teammate, I always told you. No man is an island, but this woman is.

Acceptance, I tell myself. It is what it is. Shit happens. We made our decision. No regrets. I go on. I carry on. I don’t move on.

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