Love Letters to the World We Made (VII)

Previous: VI


If only I could remember you.

If only I had not been so self-absorbed in my depression. If only I had noticed the hundred clues you left behind. If only I had known then… if only. The tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand up as you whisper into my ear. All I have left are the drawings, the paintings, the stories you made for me – and the memories I cannot recover. Jagged fragments of a time long gone.

I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out differently, if only those nameless days had come to be.

You speak into the phone slowly, hesitantly, embarrassed. You tell your story as I reconstruct mine. You admit with a life-changing, world-altering, unfamiliar phrase, “I was in love with you,” and I can’t help but think: this wasn’t what I was asking for.

It’s not fair to ask for it now.

I just want to remember what it felt like when we held hands. I want to remember what it felt like when you kissed me. I want to remember what it felt like to be loved, even if I didn’t realize it. But none of that will come back to me anymore. I know I can’t spend my life chasing my shadow – but sometimes moving forward means coming to terms with what you’ve left behind.

I just want to remember you.

I want to know why it is that today, when I write, when I watch these movies, when I flip through old things I have saved, I can’t help but think of you. I want to know why the absence of so many memories, so many emotions, leaves me in tears. I want to know why, out of all the people, you found me – me, who was depressed and damaged and broken, me, who was never worth your time – why you found me worthy enough to save.

Most of all, I want to know why I didn’t give that love back to you. Now, the waves wash in against my feet and I refuse to write your name, I refuse to let you go. But I don’t know what there is left to hold onto. I don’t know if I’m reaching for something that isn’t there, trying to hold onto the shadowy traces of a hand that, having been offered without reciprocation for too long, already pulled away. You say you still think of me. You say I was your first. And I still think of you, too – but I don’t remember you, and this contradiction leaves me in anguish. It keeps me up at night, tossing and turning as the moon cycles through the darkness. I close my eyes and it makes me want to cry.

Growing up in this world, we aren’t taught to deal with contradictions. But when I think about it, my entire life has been one continuous series of both-and relationships, and I can’t, or won’t, come to terms with it. I can’t, or won’t, learn to survive it. I can’t, or won’t, but I will always come back to you.

“If only I could remember,” I say, and you reply gently, “I have to go.”

I have to go – but I will always come back to you.


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