It was hard being back.
Hard going past the park where we stood on an arched bridge, spotting koi and turtles in the cerulean pond before you kissed me in public for the very first time; where I picked a buttercup to brush your chin and adorn your beautiful onyx hair, a moment captured in deleted pixels; where I found how well my hand fit in yours, how our fingers laced together like the tightest corset, asphyxiatingly so.
Hard driving past your apartment, where I first laid my bluebell eyes on your primrose face, first felt the warmth of your hand on my back; where your bed became mine, my lips became yours, and the breath between us became a mutual agreement; where I felt more welcome than I ever had in own skin prison but also more nervous, watching the ice floor beneath my red-hot toes, afraid to take a single step but afraid to stand still even more.
Hard seeing the school where you sang to me on the third-floor balcony in a key no lock would ever accept but I smiled all the same; where you showed me the secrets of nature, how to make snapdragons snap, how to make cupcakes from pansies, and how to make a boy’s sapphire heart metamorphose into a butterfly and flutter between his ribs; where you got lost in the parking lot and I got lost in discerning whether your eyes were chestnut, amber, or café au lait con cream.
“Loving you is hard, but being here is harder” – Lana Del Rey, High by the Beach (look it up).
Memories are horrible creatures. They’re the little devils on our shoulders, reminding us how good it felt then and how much it hurts now. A cruel and unusual punishment, they both scorch us and send chills down our shoulder blades. They dance across the strings of our consciousness with sharpened toes, a grand jeté of swords and playing cards. They strip us down and rub us raw, leaving us with nothing but puffy eyes and regret.
I don’t choose to remember. That choice is stolen from me at two in the morning when I lie sleepless in a bed that feels oddly empty without the weight of your embrace, while I know that you have no trouble dreaming of fairytales and lemondrops between your own sheets, which are just as warm without me.
I’ll pop a pill and hope to forget for a few hours, press a few buttons to hear a comforting voice, wrap around something simple and unproductive. A distracted mind is a happy mind, after all. Memory is the mother of nostalgia, which is the father of heartache, but that bitter grandchild can be fostered for a while, under the maternity of occupancy and retail therapy. Wash your hands, little boy, brush your hair. There are new fish swimming everywhere.
But I wouldn’t choose to forget, either. You were my sun, for an season, and I revolved in insecure circles, unprepared for every solar flare. To erase that from my hard drive would be a gross mistake, a disservice to every ounce of effort I gave to you. The broken zipper, the stuffed showpony, the barb between my clavicles: permanent reminders of who you were. I could burn them, watch the sparks dance against a moonless sky, but that would not relieve the icy insecurities in my heart. Those existed long before you.
The past has passed, the present unwraps daily, and the future is mine alone; the only parts saved for you are the first two letters.
My heart is running marathons
Round and round the Parthenon
Your face is such a paragon
Snapdragons and bumblebees
I’ve tasted all the sourweed
Unhinged my belt of chastity
And tangled up my lace
But who runs fasted, those who chase?
Or those who end up being chased?
Perhaps the ones who’ve been chastened
My feet are running for their lives
The grass beneath is laced with knives
Cause he who runs is who survives
But at what cost?
If it bleeds, just let it be
The Spanish moss on cherry trees
My necklace smells like you
So why am I still wearing black and blue?
Terrified to let me smile
I know that it will take a while
To find the strength within
To let you back out
And let me in.