I’ve been forgetting, which is what I ought to be doing. But just now, I remembered—and it snuck up on me, spreading outward from the glow inside of me I hadn’t known was there, it wrapping its thorny tendrils around my organs until they pierced my hollow chest, myself stopping in the corridor, pausing at the too-bright threshold which led to leftover February snows—how your arms felt around me.
I remembered I wasn’t sure at the time what your touches meant to me, and that many times I felt them only reluctantly as a result. Months spent (or saved) hiding from them:
“Can I kiss you?” you would ask. A strip-mall car park. Pink neon-lit Taco Bell conversations about your brother’s girlfriend (I was still eating at that time).
You liked the way the rose illuminated the left-side state line of my face.
Good night, I would say. I didn’t think about you as I fell asleep in those days.
Longer ago and for longer than this—years, it might have been—I was complacent in the unfelt ambiguity of the way we were connected. Was it worse that I wasn’t sure?
I remember your touch now with clairvoyance. I remember it in the way it might feel to me today, or perhaps in a tomorrow that will never come to pass—not a phantom limb but the soft light of your presence just as it was that day.
In my memories, I feel something that wasn’t really there; not at the time. These memories I no longer half-dream of in the early darkness of the bed that swallows me whole without you there to fill it while a hammock peels off the walls of your bedroom; these memories I have drowned with chlorine at their roots, following your example—are you proud of me now?
In them I stand in cold periphery, the frozen mists and icicles beneath the suicide bridge laid across wire that will break your legs if you try, and in them I feel the breath of a warmth that might have been startling had I not known you would be behind me. A thousand moments that will never come to pass exist in my mind, idealist as I am, and I’ve never known anyone else to make one real. And yet I knew you would be there, for the tug of your strings was the only sensible inaction in the timeline of our dimension or in any parallel to it.
A different night now, in the East Village, New Year’s Eve. I’m sorry I ruined your evening—admittedly, I should not have had both the whiskey and the Guinnesses at the bar, but to be fair, there had been a fifteen-dollar credit card minimum.
I didn’t want you to follow me, I told you.
Then why did you turn around? you asked me. You looked back to see if I would be behind you.
I did, didn’t I? I must have known you would be there.
We find ourselves in New York often now, our hometown summers replaced by near-misses and not-the-right-times. Winter ends and I am still in love with you, though lately I have been forgetting.