from the early days of a breakdown, 2015

You’re in their bedroom and it feels like the end even though it’s not.

It’s not the end because it never started, not really. You never put a name to it, and then they put a name to it for you, and the name was friends, and it should have been enough. You’ve spent more time in this room than most people you know, watching cartoons, your head on their shoulder; it would have been enough for anyone else, and it should have been enough for you.

You think about all the things you’ve talked about here, all the small terrors and long-ago nightmares you’ve given shape and pressed on them like gifts. You think about the time you high-fived across the table at a restaurant, and you were drunk enough to tell them you have such soft hands. You barely knew each other. But now your head is on their shoulder and they’re touching your hair and maybe it’s not just a metaphor, when people talk about a safe pair of hands. Maybe it’s real; maybe you understand it now.

The walk home. Photo by Waverly SM.

There are so many places in your city where you can’t go anymore, because you went there with them and that’s all you can ever remember. There’s a table in a cafe down your street that’s your table, yours and theirs, and whenever you glance in and see it occupied you feel a little sad. There are streets after dark on the way to your house that belong to the two of you, the impressions of your footsteps worn into the pavement. The ghosts of conversations hang in the air like fog.

It should have been enough.

It should be enough now, in this moment. You shouldn’t be elsewhere even for a second, even in your head. Your head is on their shoulder and they’re touching your hair and everything is silent but your breathing, together. You think about that. You close your eyes. If you could stop time right now then you think you would. You wonder what would happen if you said that aloud.

And you think about the quiet late-night walks back and forth between your houses, purplish streetlight haze in the sky, your footsteps and your breathing and the strange detachment that always takes you after closeness like this. Soon you are going to put on your shoes and straighten your hair and go, and it is the last thing you want. Everything but this is the last thing you want.

You understand so much of each other and it should have been enough.

You’re going to leave and in the morning you will regret everything you thought. You will wish you’d been more present; you will hate yourself for forgetting the precise rhythm of their fingertips on your scalp, or the perfect warmth of their shoulder against your cheek. You will keep wanting, as quietly as you can, until your ugly messy oversized heart comes to heel again and it’s more than enough to be friends.

But right now you’re in their bedroom and you’re trying to stop time: your head always on their shoulder, their hand always in your hair, always just about to walk away.

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