Love is a strange premonition. Love is like religion, I think. It hops from person to person, changing every time. Some people can say “I love you” after two months and some people choke trying to say it to their kids. People always like the idea of love. But the thing is, the truth that they don’t want to accept - the real thing only works for a select few.
You wish for love, like everyone else. But what can you say? You haven’t found love. Not in scarlet-stamped letters, not in silver teardrops at the train station. Not under black umbrellas or in opal eyes. Probably the closest thing you have ever felt is the rain, plunging down hard, dying with its head thrown back and its eyes rolled up. Because at least that’s real, right? And it screams onto the hood of the car, an ageless Chevy taking three tries to start. I’ve seen you. You with your hair down and your eyes lazy, flying down the streets. So crazy and free. It hurts to look at you. I press on the bruise. What a sight you are - with every street lamp your spotlight.
I’m made of a different stock and we know it. If you are forever dancing, I am the one tying trash bags after the party ends; if you are a cloud of smoke, I am the ceiling fan, whirring away. It’s just the way it is. Now that you’re gone I don’t know what to do. Life was so easy with you. You drove by in that car every time it rained, and it does rain here, often. I started watching by the window, then I moved to the front door, the steps, the porch, until you finally ran out of the car, laughing and pulled me in with you. Look up, you said, after we had gone a bit and the silence had settled comfortably. Look at the clouds and the stars, aren’t they beautiful.
Keep your eyes on the road, I said, and you grinned. It lit up the night like a thousand fireflies.
I guess it is kind of pretty, I said.
I think so. It’s nice to look at.
I noticed that you were looking in the rearview, not the sky at all, and I snorted, what, are you talking to the gutter?
No, I’m talking to you.
And you smiled this little smile, caught my eye in the mirror. The fireflies relocated to my stomach.
I climbed into the Chevy a year later. My childish, bubbling feelings still flowed over whenever I saw you. We’d kissed once, held hands too many times to count. But you were always too lost in your own mind to carry it any further. I should have known that you didn’t care about me. It was like you barely even saw me anymore. But I was happy and willing and blind, so on it went, whatever it was that we had.
You didn’t greet me as I clicked on my seatbelt. Your eyes were hard, and you flinched your hand away onto the steering wheel when I tried to settle my hand over yours on the shift. I’ve been thinking, you said, eyes on the road, palms steady at ten and two. I’m leaving.
Leaving? To where?
Anywhere. Away from here.
You spared me a glance, not a line of guilt on your face. It’s not enough.
I wasn’t enough for you, was what you meant. I didn’t say anything.
Hey, I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. I’m just looking for something bigger. Something bigger than here? I thought. Something bigger than what we had?
Like what? I said.
I don’t know. A purpose. Love. I don’t know.
And so you really can’t blame me for worrying, not with a sentence bracketed with those words. Youth is about joy. It’s about finding yourself. That’s what they say, isn’t it? But there’s something just so ugly about the not knowing. You knew that too, but apparently to you, this was worth it.
I have dedicated the last eight years to understanding you, and have decided: I’ve had it with guessing. I don’t know you, really. It’s okay. Your mystery, after all, is the main piece to your charm. But there is so much you don’t know, too. You don’t have to be the one to find everything. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe you should slow down and let someone else do the finding?
You came back months later. Mission failed. Haven’t spoken to me since.
It has been so long. Truly. Far too long to regret anything, but my heart still hurts for you. I’ve dated other people. I’ve blushed and snickered and kneaded my hands together in nerves for people who are not you. I’ve seen you around too many times for it to keep happening - the feeling of something like guilt, or hurt, or whatever, in my chest.
It has been too long since I fell in love with you, yet somehow I can’t heave myself out to shore.
I heard stories about those six months you were gone. You drove for hours, they said, but that shitty Chevy died on you halfway to glory - California. You had to bribe the man to try and fix that piece of crap station wagon, with money, or not money, who can say? And when you got there, California was hardly that sunny yellow it looked in the pictures. You threw yourself into a slew of adventures - adventures with girls with scarlet letters and opal eyes, men with black umbrellas and a cigarette by the train. But that couldn’t change a thing, couldn’t fill any sort of hole in you, because California was gray, an unchangeable sort of gray. A gray that didn’t like to move. A gray dump. No rain, just fog, and locals said to go South for nice weather, but you were dead out of money and hope so you settled. You were far away from home, but you had never felt like you belonged back there more.
Now you’ve lost the charm. The stars go unnoticed. Congratulations, you finally fit in. Is this what you meant by finding something bigger? The disappointment looks big enough, and ready to swallow you.
I saw you in your car yesterday and promptly felt sixteen again. You looked at me. Your eyes were still like walls, keeping you trapped in your own little world. You’re here, but you’re not home. You’re still looking for it.
Something bigger. What a load of bull. Nobody would give a shit about something bigger if they knew that they had everything they needed already.
I may not know you, not fully, anyway. But you’re going to kill yourself looking for this love that you’ve made up in your head. Getting out of that head is the biggest something you could do. Boys and girls fling themselves at you every week and you try it out, you take them for a ride in your car, smile that brave, insatiable, irresistible smile, and throw them out the back door by the end of the week. And I’m still here, standing at the porch and waiting for you to turn and grin and melt me down all over again. Offering a lifetime of silence like dust and easy laughter and a sputtering old car that I’ll never mock; I’ll love it like you do. Because I haven’t changed a speck, and you’re looking for something you had all along.
No, you haven’t found love, not where you’re looking for it.
Maybe if you came back to me. You wouldn’t have to work so hard looking for yourself because I’d have finally found you.