We laid there in the grass, protected by the expanse of stars, and he asked, “We were good together, weren’t we?” It felt natural like this, like the world wasn’t out for us anymore. Our breaths were slow and our hands were so close I could still feel the electricity in our fingertips. His chest was still my favorite place to put my head and it almost felt like my heart was safe for a moment.
“It doesn’t do us any good to talk about the past,” I whispered. I hoped he’d understand I was building walls again. I don’t know if I wanted him to help me add more bricks, or if I wanted him to blow it all down. He ran his fingers through my hair and looked straight into my eyes and I felt my chest quake. He had me again, and I think that’s when I knew a part of me would always love him.
Weeks later, our feet hung off the edge of the cliff, sun burning our shoulders fiercely, the sounds of the highways impossibly faint. “It’s easy to feel small up here, I think,” he whispered, like his voice would disturb the universe. I wound my arms around him, crawled on top and sat silent until I could hear his heartbeat. Sometimes I listened to be sure he had a heart beating in there at all. Today I listened to hear the cracks.
“It’s easy to feel big in the right person’s arms,” I said, and he liked that, but I didn’t tell him that his arms only ever made me feel invisible.
Sometimes he’d say, “Freshen up,” and he’d smile softly. “I want to take you somewhere,” and he’d peel his sticky skin from mine and gesture for me to hurry. I liked it when he bubbled with adventure. Maybe I liked the adventures more.
At 1AM, it was quiet. The buzzing of the speaker in my ear was the only thing keeping me awake at the moment. And his breathing. I wondered how it was possible to breathe so beautifully, but I spent too much time listening to his exhales to think too hard about it. “I like this,” I mumbled, whispers muffled by the pillowcase next to my lips, but he heard me. Or maybe he was just thinking the exact same thing. The world felt like it spun slower when we were on each other’s side. It felt like the puzzle pieces of the universe were all perfectly aligned. It felt like fear was a figment of the mythical world.
“I wish we could stay like this forever,” he breathed out, exasperated by the perfection, relishing the simplicity. My chest hurt with the fullness of my heart.
I wonder if he ever said, “I love you,” like I did; if he smashed it into song lyrics we were singing over the highway traffic, too slurred to be noticed; if he said it to his phone screen but forgot to type it out; if he muttered it after we hung up at night, just seconds too late to make it through the receiver; if he whispered it so quietly in a crowded room, no one would ever know he spoke a word.
I remember when I walked down the staircase and his eyes went wide. It was a look I’d hoped to capture since my young heart decided lust was a game to play, but he never told me I looked beautiful and that’s when I realized he was winning. We spun around and around on the dance floor, and all the moms held a hand over their heart because we were their precious fairytale loves daintily treading on something magical. He smirked with a fascination for me, but he never told me he loved me so maybe he loved balancing on my heartstrings most. When the lights turned on and we ventured our way to a party filled with kids our age and our manners wore off and our dancing eyes glazed over with a buzzed lust, he pulled me closer. When the boys at the party made their comments, he chuckled with endearment, but the knife in my back never stopped twisting when he never told them to stop. I’m wondering now if I was someone he liked or just someone he wanted hanging off of his arm.
It was best when he’d call at two in the morning and say, “wanna just drive?” and I’d run out of the house in sweatpants and his shirt and he’d kiss me softly before backing out of the driveway. When we were four towns down on the highway, he’d say, “I like it like this.” It seems we only felt invincible within time warps. The blur of headlights against the starlit sky messed with our minds and we forgot the bickering and the frustration. I forgot all the times my heart shattered to my feet. He forgot all the times I hung up before he finished his final thought. Perhaps we were dazzled by our surroundings, and maybe we weren’t so much in love with each other than with the beautiful world around us.
Then there was the day I stood at the stove, water boiling, turning the pasta over and over. “Octopus’ Garden” came out dully from the record player, and I thought maybe the Beatles were right. How beautiful an idea: to escape together and live happily without the pressure of the universe.
“Do you ever imagine us, years from now, living in our own little house in our own little town with our own little family and our own beautiful life?” he asked. His voice was meager as he sipped on his tea. You’ll spoil your appetite, I thought.
I changed the dial to let the water simmer. “Don’t talk pretty,” I warned, and he let the mug clatter to the kitchen counter. “Yes, I do often fantasize about a future where we are happy,” I said, and the water boiled over anyway.
That night he asked, “Why do you have to go?” The was air stale, no light coming through the curtains. The counter separated us, his hands gripping the edge of one side and my fingers tapping the other.
“You chose,” I said, shrugged like I still felt weightless, breathed slowly like I still felt breathless. “You chose her so be with her.”
“Come on, I can still talk to you,” he begged, but I turned then, walked towards the door and saw my escape into the real world, into a place unobstructed by fantasy and whimsical dreams.
I opened the door, had a grip on the passage to my new life, and I told him, “you cannot have it all.” And I left.