I don’t like to talk about him.
It is December, the last month of my first semester of college. When people ask about him, I say he’s doing well. If they want to know what happened, I say that his life ran out of time for mine (bullshit). When they ask if I miss him, I say yes, very much. My cheeks pull my lips into a smile, closed-mouthed, and I duck away, in search of a solitude seldom found in Ann Arbor.
The flashbacks return as soon as I find that space. I feel the warmth of our first few weeks spread through me, the revelation that comes with finding someone who understands everything about you. It is my last night at home. I’m kissing him on his porch, and I don’t stop until two in the morning because I know it will be the last time. I feel my eyes burn as my mom moves me into my dorm the next day. I dry-heave on my bed just as I did that afternoon, re-experiencing a torment too severe for such a privileged young girl. I am crying now. I go back to September, when he tells me he’s addicted to a very cruel drug. It is over, but I am crying, encaged in glass.
My phone buzzes. He’s texted me again, asking about school. My heart sinks and jumps. I say hello, that it’s nice to hear from him. I tell him classes are great (ha!), that I’m making friends (not a complete farce) and that I’m getting over everything that happened in the summer (complete farce).
The glass breaks and the flashbacks bleed to the present in incoherent waves. I peck at my screen: Nothing is great. I miss your eyes. I want to know how your kitten is doing. Remember when you flew to New York just for me?
When I left for school, every conversation became an argument. I was walking through life in a sickly state of anger. To him, I was irrational, my opinion invalid. I didn’t understand, he assured me, I’d never experienced true hardship. He talked down to me. My best friend was turning me into a lunatic — and a recluse, too invested in one person to reach out to any of the 40,000 around me.
But then it came. I think we should stop doing this, his text read. It was my first weekend back home.
I don’t write well enough to explain that pain. It’s a burst of tears each time he posts on Instagram; a borrowed shirt I never returned. It’s going through photos I took when he wasn’t looking, just to twist the knife. It’s a pair of eyes that I can’t stop imagining, knowing they will never look at me the same.
I hear his name and I want to hide. On that first day in Ann Arbor, I examined every bump and crack of my dorm’s white ceiling in my fit of panic — I can’t even look at it now. Right now, I’m breathing fast. I made my friend stay in the room with me to write this.
Memories of him no longer seep into my everyday life, though I miss what we had every once in a while. I feel like I’m finally living again, catching up on a semester’s worth of risk-taking, friend-making and happiness. At least I finally made it.
I still don’t like to talk about him. But now, it’s not such a point of weakness. I just have more important things to say.