Eight Years Bygone

Hoping the stalker in you meets the writer in me.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget- that look on your face that last time you looked at me, or the way your words fell face first like a stack of cards dropped out of the hand of an amateur magician. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that felt like the adrenaline rush during a free fall that I was forced to take. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment, that sudden rush of wind as the curtains blew away, or that silhouette of you walking away, the serving of the butterscotch pudding that you never ate, the headache you said was from reading too much. I don’t think I’ll forget.

And they say eight years is time enough but the concept of time was something we could never agree on. In that impeccable mind of yours, you made impenetrable theories that defied those of Einstein’s and relativity, but you always flaunted an expression on your face when you told your friends that I was not as smart as my image stains on people’s memories. I laughed it off because every day was your day and I knew better than to ruin it for you, but all the years from then I still can’t bring myself to believe that I could maybe be that one inch smarter than someone else even if my test scores are the highest or my favorite person’s telling me over and over again that I am. Every day is still your day, and I’m still laughing it off because you asked me not to ruin it for you.

I’ve spent days wondering why, more amazed by the brilliance of your mind that day than the throbbing pain it left me with on my right temple. I’ve spent years trying to figure out how you came up with an idea of a perfect world without me in it even when you swore that words like perfect had my initials engraved in them. Took me long enough to realize that my initials are the same as yours and you’ve only been speaking about yourself. All the days, the weeks and the years in between have not lead me anywhere but to scattered thoughts, depressing writing and memories of you that I walk to and from. So I’m left to type your name on web searches once more today hoping I could catch a glimpse of the life you are living.. maybe this time I’ll see you in all the ways that I wish I could forget, maybe you’ll say something about me on a caption to a picture or an introduction to your profile that I wish you couldn’t forget. But the pictures that I scroll through, and the elegant descriptions of the dinners and the dates you’ve been on sound exactly like you, but a version so distant that I can’t help but wonder if there’s anything about you now that feels like the home we built at all.

We were never on the same page but we were always on the same chapter and that was good enough for both of us, and I always disliked make up but I adored you, and I don’t know how you always managed to find the right shade of red, the exact colour of blue that matched my world, and sometimes your words. You never let me tell you how much I loved the reflection of the stars in your eyes when I was atop a tree three feet closer to the sky than you, but I don’t walk near bottles of nail polish anymore because the smell’s too sharp and poignant and the memory is too much like you. I cringe from anything that reminds me of you because sometimes even bottles of olives on a store shelf, even whipped cream, even the things you hated are things I loved about you. Walking past them or stopping to read the label feels like a crime I’m committing even when you’re the one who once left tire marks behind while I was still looking under beds and between walls for where you could have possibly hid.

I’ve met a thousand people since then- a number I can’t keep track of, and maybe they don’t know that I’m trying to run away from every last memory of you but when they look at me and read in my face all the things that you and I share, I can’t help but wonder if the world is still your playground and I’m still the Bobo doll in your experiment. I never won those games against you, and my dad told me that I wasn’t here to fight back, so I’ve tried to enjoy the show but there was too much agony for the price I had to pay even when my mind’s the saddest place there could be.

And I don’t know why I’m still writing to you, storing away these painfully drawn words into books and folders that you’ll never see, but it’s the only way I’ve got to your memories anymore. You’ve sang songs that you’ve received standing ovations for but I stood there, a tear in my eye as you gave me one last look and you walked away. I haven’t been to one of your staged performance since but my YouTube search history is a confessions page on its own with every syllable of your name spelled out. You always had a thing for stage names and for pseudonyms and your Facebook name tells me that hasn’t changed. It’s a small world, and my timeline every now and then has a picture or a video of you that my friend was tagged in, and I listen to your voice belt out a tune. It feels like I’m watching your life through a key hole.

I longed to see you for so long because I thought I had so many missed years to share with you but now here we are sitting in the same room and I’m not comfortable in your presence. Your words stick to my skin like the salty breeze from a beautiful ocean, but this time they don’t wash away. I don’t look at you because I don’t trust myself with how many minutes I could count before I break down and you haven’t seen that happening since the day you wrote so obviously on the mud that I was never going to be good enough to complete your pact. In fact, I don’t look at anyone anymore because sometimes I catch a glimpse of you elsewhere and I’m afraid of chasing after the wrong person yet again. I might be mistaken but you seem so at ease sitting there talking about your favorite TV series and your best friend’s graduation and I don’t know where your thoughts wander about when you aren’t speaking, but mine always go back to that day. The day when the skies seemed too blue but we didn’t notice, when the bag on my shoulders weighed me down but I couldn’t care, when every word I heard was a question about you and the sudden realization that someone you thought you knew inside out was standing a stranger in front of you. I think about how they said you and I were parts of a past lost in the sudden rush to the future. It’s a snowy day here today and everything’s white as far as I can see, but there’s not a day that makes me feel indifferent to that alarmingly blue sky eight years ago. I don’t trust the weather anymore- sunshine is deceptive, rain clouds are obvious and rainbows are temporary.

To them all it was you against me, but this was two sides of the same page and I only knew the one you were on- from your emergency contact to every rose petal you had shredded before you threw away. So I stare at the same page I stared at eight years ago trying to figure out how a story that started so beautiful could end so tragic.  I’ll always remember you as the shooting star you promised to watch with me but never did, and you’ll probably remember me as the one who stole the spectator in hiding at a football match you never got to know the score of. But we were incomplete storylines written in pencil but scratched off in pen, and you said I was a blooming bud growing between the cracks in the wall of your backyard. You loved roses, but I always knew I was out of place.

So maybe all this time you placed like a thick blanket between us has played its role- pushed us so far apart that I stare at your instagram request and I type out a message to you before I delete it. I tell you we’re done trying to bridge what broke us because the last time I told you we ran out of glue you offered me thread instead and I tied up the broken pieces of us so they didn’t look too broken anymore. But the very next moment you set it alight and all I was left with were my words and a thousand consoling voices that asked for an explanation instead. I’ve walked past too many closed doors to your life, too many shadows cast on yellow walls, too many voices hidden behind piano notes that were built with enough space for childhood dreams to crawl across.. but I guess I wasn’t one of them.

I sit for coffee with a friend eight years later and I ask her “who stole your thunder?” hoping against hope she wouldn’t ask me the same. But then she does, and I look away. I tell her it’s always nice to look outside a window and she follows my gaze. I’m staring at nothing and everything at the same time, and that’s how I can best describe you. You’re everywhere- in the conversation I’m having about someone I’ve never met, in the quick steps of the person walking past store fronts to reach home on time, you’re the hand holding the bouquet of flowers and you are in the words I read. You’re also nowhere, and that’s how I remind myself that I’ve got to stop seeing you in every other person I meet.

When it’s you and me and the awkward silence in between that fills up all the things we refuse to speak about, you tell me the one thing you still know about me. You say you’re writing, but this is no surprise to me. I smile because that’s the only way I want you to remember me, but you’ve always written words about people and places and we both know that. I don’t remember the lines to your poem about me, but it’s still amongst my favorites that I talk about. I tell them about that night when lightening split the sky and you sat next to me reading it under the light that reflected off about how I was a star in the night sky and how I was part of your favorite constellation. You said you’d always find your way back as long as the stars were above you. Maybe the lightning lasted too long or the clouds never cleared, but that was all it took for me to fall in love with an eclipse you lied about. The same one that I’ve been looking out for every night.

I always loved watching you- how you moved with the kind of grace that I never possessed. How when you walked there was always an air to you that made sure everyone knew you were the one built of glitter and glamour. I took to the job of dusting off anything that shined too bright, and maybe that’s why it feels so strange to stand for a picture next to you. You loved the stage, and you left no space for doubt in it. Microphones never scared you, and life was never too large, and I loved that about you but somehow ended up pushing away everyone else who did.

I watch you today and I’m not so sure anymore- so much has changed, but so much hasn’t. You’re talking- about how your exam was so tough that you barely passed, and you lean towards me and tell me you once failed my favorite subject. I don’t know how you know what my favorite subject is but I watch your words fall face flat like a stack of cards dropped out from the hand of an amateur magician.
Eight years and you’re still working on your card games.. I must admit you’ve gotten so good that you’ve got the world believing you. Life, to you, was always a pack of cards upturned and you knew exactly how to play under the radar. You play your Ace this time, and all I have are words to offer… so I give them all.

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