I miss my ex.
I kept dreaming about Him during quarantine. Nothing wild. It would be a normal dream until I saw Him in the corner, observing me. He was not an active player in the dreams He crashed, but He is what stuck with me the most the morning after. I would wake up with my jaw locked and covered in sweat, thinking about how He showed up in my dreams again. It felt intrusive, as if He forced his way back into my head after over a year of irrelevance. At first, I ignored Him. People theorize that dreams are neurons firing randomly. There’s no meaning to it; there’s no meaning to Him being there. I reminded myself of that fact over and over again. After a month, nothing had changed. He was still there. His continued presence told me I had to look back before I could look forward.
We started talking at a high school football game. Our school was in one of those small towns where teenagers drink in Walmart parking lots, because there was really nothing else to do. It made our school’s football games into events. We flooded into the bleachers, pressing into each other in a sea of elbows and pom-poms; the annual Homecoming game. It was a sea of yellow and blue, as students cheered and chanted for the team. There was something electric in the air that night. The crowd all knew it when we scored our first touchdown. When the quarterback completed the pass, I went flying, shoved into the bleachers below me. He grabbed me before I fell.
I knew Him before then. He was my in-class crush. The one that caught your eye from the first day of class. When I would pass out assignments for our teacher, I would always run away from his desk, because I was too afraid to say anything to Him. I never really talked to Him before that football game, but once we started talking, we didn’t stop. Our first date was at the movies. It was packed, where every seat was filled with families and teenagers out on dates. I remember how intensely I stared at the space between our hands, willing Him to make a move, for His hand to grab my own. Everyone was packed so tightly that I could hear the person next to me chewing popcorn obnoxiously, but all I could focus on was this space between our hands and how I was still too afraid to say anything to Him. I was back standing over His desk, wanting to say something but at a loss for words. I started to pull my hand away, but He grabbed it, holding tightly.
One of my favorite memories of Him was when He came to a family dinner. I have always felt odd about introducing my significant others to them. My family is big, loud and Hispanic, which I knew was sharply different from his own. I remember being so nervous to introduce Him, training Him beforehand on how to not piss off my grandparents. When I introduced Him, He went to shake my abuelita’s hand and she pulled Him in, kissing Him on both of his cheeks. He pretended to like our food, when we both knew He could not handle any seasoning at all. When my family moved to dance bachata in the living room, He smiled and tried to follow our footsteps. As He went to say goodbye to my papi, abuelita turned and embraced me, kissing my cheek as she whispered her approval of Him.
We didn’t have a nasty breakup. Some things fall apart as easily as they begin. But I’m still left with this lingering sense of loss. I don’t go to football games anymore. Or movie theatres. Or to my family’s house. Places that were so pivotal to our relationship have become inaccessible. I can’t remember the last time I had my grandmother’s cooking, or the last time I was able to hug her without fear that I could possibly kill her. Now, I sit here drinking with my roommates. They’re the only people I see anymore and I realize it is not about Him. I don’t miss Him. I miss being in the crowd and the thrill of watching your team win. I miss the movie theater and the anticipation you feel waiting for your crush to make a move. I miss visiting my family and the pure love I receive from them. I don’t resent seeing Him in my dreams anymore. I welcome Him. Because it really isn’t Him I’m seeing. It’s a reminder of the time in my life before fear came in. It’s a reminder of what the future could return to.
Katherina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.