I didn’t expect to think about you when I walked into this shitty hotel lobby bathroom, but here I am. There’s a weird stale sterile smell in the here. It’s so heavy in the air you can taste it. Just like it was back then. If you were here you’d know the smell. We went to that stupid gas station all the time because you knew they had the best Dr. Pepper. Everyone had fountain drinks but you knew that shop had the best. At first I didn’t want to believe you because why should someone know that, but it was true. The taste was so pure. It was perfect. Just like you. Like us. Like we used to be, at least.
A million years later and a thousand miles apart, I’m thinking about you. It happens every once in a while. I won’t admit that it’s everyday even though it feels like it. I think about what you must be doing now. Because of my job I don’t get on social media very much, but every time I check, you’re not there so I’m left to imagine what you’re doing. I was so sure you could do anything that someone could tell you were doing anything and I would believe them. You’re a model now? Okay. You’re Paris living as an expat? Sure. You run a quiet bed and breakfast in Vermont? Why not?
There are parts of you is burned into the deepest corners of my mind. Our first kiss. It felt natural and casual yet that kiss sparked my soul and sent shockwaves through my body. All the nerves I had leading up to it had disappeared and I felt like I was finally at ease. I didn’t need to worry anymore. I felt a tremendous feeling of joy that I idolized and chased for years after you left.
I’d like to say I remember the first time we had sex but I can’t. All those moments have blended together in my head to the point where I just remember tiny things. How your body felt. The way you looked with that streetlight coming through the blinds. The smell of your head as you nuzzled into my neck after everything was over. I would close my eyes and think of that and my heart would swell. Being that close to a fantasy, knowing that it’s real and it’s irreplaceable. Like being able to grab a cloud with your hands and hold the impossible.
I think about you and I wonder if you think about me. In my vanity I hope that you do. In my reality I imagine I don’t cross your mind much. We had amazing times but they were so long ago now. Each year that passes it gets harder and harder to remember things. I remember strange things, that excited little jump you’d do when things went your way. The way you would walk on the balls of your feet when you were hyper. How you cried when I helped you buy new glasses. I remember these happy things and I believe it must have been like that all the time but I know better.
I remember when I got so mad I punched the wall and you didn’t talk to me for three days. I remember we were going somewhere and you stopped the car and made me walk the rest of the way. I don’t even remember what it was about, I just remember being so angry as I walked down that hot ass stretch of road. There were bad times and I know that, in the end, they outweighed the good times so we finished it.
I’m sure at the time we pretended it was mutual but we both knew the truth. You were leaving and I couldn’t blame you so I didn’t try to stop you. My self-image was terrible then (not much better now) and I knew you deserved someone better. We were on different levels and for those two years I got to pretend I was up there. On your level. But in the end I wasn’t and I’ve accepted that.
For a long time after that, I let those two years and that break up define me. I used you as the reason for every dark day. I used it as the reason I couldn’t find anyone else. I compared everyone to you. I held them to you and none of them were you so I would toss them aside. I was so obsessed with it that I didn’t even realize I was wasting my 20s. The year I turned 29 I thought I messed up I hadn’t done anything and then realized that I had done it all but because I wasn’t with you it didn’t count. I was an idiot.
Now here I am, 32. You’re out there, 30. Did you feel it? That hump from 29 to 30. I didn’t. Every day is just the same. Time marches on whether we want to or not. We’re dragged along if we don’t go willingly. I’m married now. I’m sure you are too. You’d have to be. No one would let you go. But maybe you’re not married. You never seemed too keen on the idea when it was brought up and in the end you were right, it’s a big expensive piece of paper. It’s more of a hassle than an aid.
It’s best not to dwell on these things. I know that. I’m happy now. I think about if we had stayed together would I be happier? Maybe, but that’s hypothetical. And hypotheticals are dangerous. If I spent my life thinking about “what ifs” I’ll miss everything else and life is more than memories. I’ve forgotten more than I’ll ever remember and that’s disturbing and comforting at the same time. I know I’ll never lose you there. In my mind.
Part of me wants to see you again. Nothing formal. Maybe an accidental run in at the coffee shop or passing each other in the airport. It’s a tempting offer and if I had the chance to arrange such a serendipitous meeting I would probably jump at the chance but I know I need to stay away. I’m a hopeless romantic and I’d cling onto anything you would say. I’d make some big explanation behind a shoulder shrug or I’d overanalyze prolonged eye contact. And I would make something out of nothing.
I’m sure me standing here replaying our relationship from start to finish in a questionably clean men’s room is not the way you’d want to be remembered. It’s creepy. I’ve been in this bathroom too long. The smell is strong. Just like it was back then. Shitty aerosol spray made to be pleasant but entirely not so. The thought of you has made me forget what I came in here for. Your memory, usually light, is on my chest making it hard to breath. The room is tightening up. I’m gonna blame the CFCs. I’m sure it’s thick enough in this room to put me on the moon.