You sat next to me on loud yellow vinyl. I remember the way it sounded when you moved in closer because I couldn’t hear you. I wore a silk floral shirt, and right now I’m not sure why I ever got rid of it. I got rid of a lot of things I wish I held onto, but it’s probably for the best because right now I’d be clutching onto them and weeping into their seams. I’d be wearing your brown zip up, curled into myself, wishing my life into a past I can’t ever relive. I missed it. I miss it.
Your eyes were wide and you asked for my number that you plugged into a flip phone which was by our standards a bit dated. You didn’t care much for convention, even if you had the means. I didn’t care for your means, because you were unconventional.
We ate pasta and salad and you told me about your hikes through the Appalachian and talking to trees and I could tell you felt unsure about these confessions but I wanted to know more about this Marine warrior who drove tanks through foreign towns, the guilt you wore heavy on your shoulders and spread through the creases of your hazel eyes.
You kissed me in the rain. You wore a grey hoodie, and I wore a blue dress. I listened to Young Blood on my drive home and cried, and heard your voice saying, “It just sounds so happy.” You held my hand when my grandfather died and we watched a blockbuster hit before I boarded a plane and stared at coastlines and sunsets aboard a ship in the Mediterranean. I drank wine and ouzo and wrote about you, to you, promising myself to tell you all of these things. I never did.
And when you weren’t ready and promised magnificence I held onto it. And I saw you holding my cats in your lap even though you’re a dog person. And I cleaned up the wet bathroom floor after you’d shower. And I’d buy groceries for the two of us, grateful to cook for you and pull basil from my window plants. And I towed your hockey gear into the basement after you left to your retreat, and towed the bags back up after you’d died.
After you left. After. There’s the before, the during, and the after. It’s segmented like neatly dissected portions of worms, but maybe that’s a bit graphic.
I miss you and I remember you. Every day. And I talk myself into and out of conversations with and about you in my head when I’m driving along the coast, because I know you’d love it here. You should be here. We should be here.
I keep hoping I’ll run out of words but every now and then my heart will wrench and I’ll find myself in tears for no other reason than I felt you and the hollowness echoes for days and days and I smile harder and harder, and instantly regret letting anyone else in who can read past the platitudes because then I’m offered a hug and you know how I felt about those.
Rest well, Marine. Until next time. Let’s keep no. 121 on repeat, yeah? It’s a mighty good tune.