The laptop screen is open, your old profile is there staring at me. There’s a fear in my chest. I feel like you don’t want to hear from me. I’ve done nothing wrong but leave, which might be the biggest infraction. Your eyes glimmer with a boyish touch. I told you how much loved that picture years ago. I can’t help but think it’s why you’ve left it all this time.
My small message sits there, and I almost think you won’t respond. I’ve sat here for half an hour, the laptop open, terrified to close it, with my eyes trained on the television, on the crotchet needle in my hand and the bit of yarn I’m working through. Each time the screen turns dark, jolting me back to you, I feel my chest restrict. I think about you here. I think about the times we’d sit together and everything would be perfect. I’d be terrified, but I’d say nothing. I guess I’ve always known.
It is midnight by the time you respond. I’ve allowed myself to think that you wouldn’t and that you were truly done and gone, but now your profile glows with a green orb around it. I almost can see you looking down at your phone, mocking me for being slower on my phone than my computer.
I send you a message, longer this time, telling you why I’m back. You’re sympathetic.
My sister left us at the start of the year and I was so lonely tonight on her birthday. You must think I’m using you, but I’m almost ready to let you use me the way you’ve been wanting. I’m almost ready to give you anything you ask, if only you’d say what you used to say all the time.
I ask you about yourself, and like I left you, you’re hesitant to give me too much. You held yourself back when you started to feel that I was leaving. It was the right decision, but nothing matters anymore, if only it’ll allow me to escape this feeling. I don’t tell you how lonely and alone I’ve been. I don’t tell you how the only person I’ve been speaking to is my little sister because she’s the only one who I don’t need to keep up appearances with. I don’t tell you how I’ve been spending my days on movie marathons and junk food, how much I’ve been wanting someone to take this feeling away from me. Instead, I try to lighten the mood and remind you of our inside joke.
You send me a laughing emoji. I remember your face when the waitress was hitting on you on our first date, how embarrassed you were, how awkward you felt until we left the restaurant. I spent our whole relationship reminding you of how forward she was. I smile remembering it. You don’t send anything else, so I send you that I miss you.
You tell me you miss me too. You tell me how it took you such a long time to stop your feelings for me. I feel my heart sink. I wonder if this means the feelings are gone. It takes me a second too long to respond, so you send me a message asking to meet up.
I stare at the message, feeling the anxiety I felt when I was wondering how to leave. Last time I left without a word. I couldn't bear to say the words, so I vanished. I remember how hard it was to be with you, how hard it was to do the things you wanted me to do. I guess it takes me too long to respond because your picture goes gray. I feel the worry prickle in my chest and I tell you sure. I close the tab, worried about whether you’d see it, whether it would be the answer I’m afraid of.
I leave the screen as it is, looking at my wallpaper, an image cut in half to show a sunrise on one half and a sunset on the other. I think of how much time has filled up this break with you. I think of how many people you must have known and said goodbye to. I think of how many people you must still be talking to, and I remember why I had to leave without a word. I think of who I was when I was yours. I remember the constant state of worry. I was always scared of both you leaving and of you staying.
I open the tab again, a green glow wrapped around your picture and a red circle telling me three messages were waiting for me.
“You’re leaving again,” you say.
I look into the mirror, you behind me. “I’m not coming back.”
There’s a fear of loneliness inside of me, of having no one but myself to wake up to everyday, but I think of the books waiting for me at home, of my sister needing me, of my own peace of mind that I need back. I think back to the time after I’d left you. I remember why I left, and why I have to leave again. I remember who I have to come back to.
Your face floats behind me, pressing kisses into my neck. I know you want me to stay. You tell me how perfect we’d be, you tell me all the things I love to hear, but I know you’ll be gone too soon. I know everything you have waiting for you. I would have been so good to you. I would have been so understanding. It is not me who is losing and you’ll realize it too late.
I hear your sigh pressed into the crevice in my neck, your soft lips telling me something. I push you away, stronger than I did the first time we met. I hurry out the door, your voice yelling behind me. I’ve left my purse with you, but my keys are in my pocket.