i. i study your details like a photo i don’t remember taking. your teeth, your cheekbones, the crinkles around your eyes. the fingertips i kissed, the boy i barely understood, the heart i knew perfectly – those were some of the best times in my whole life, ever – i say, and sound like some recording echoing in a room far away. i don’t know why i left and didn’t feel the absence. maybe my love is always misplaced. maybe i like cracking people open and drinking the insides. maybe you were different.
ii. there is still a part of me in love with you. watching the lights of the bridge winking by on the train and my head feels like it’s underwater. we spent the last hour reminiscing, tiptoeing the field of mines between bites of indian food on clarkson and bedford and when i hugged you at atlantic i felt the slightest movement of your face deeper into my neck – we kissed each other’s cheeks and you were gone – head now shaved but same slender boy in pea coat, too-big wool hat and corduroys – the boy i went to buffalo for, the boy i walked half the length of manhattan for, the boy i gave my compass to, the boy who made magic real again. sometimes i think about you more than i should, you said, and i couldn’t do anything but look at the floor – maybe i should’ve gone to fat cat with you to see some jazz but i am halfway back to astoria and you have a girlfriend and i am the wolf who couldn’t stop watching your lips because i still believe in magic even though you probably shouldn’t still believe in me.
iii. i’m going to jump back, you said, and do something i probably shouldn’t – and we stood there like two nervous children lifting the lid on something they weren’t yet ready to see. i knocked my boots against yours and felt my own heart pounding through my chest as i held you against me. i love you too and thanks for the magic, i said without looking at you, unsure if i should’ve said it at all – and you left after kissing me – sweet and tender – once, twice, and again – back to your girlfriend upstate.. wondering why life is so strange, wondering why we are always standing at harbors of each other, watching the ships pulling in and out, getting on as the other leaves.
iv. we sat in the restaurant after 9am eating ice cream. the memories haunt you but only sometimes haunt me. why did it go the way it did? why did i leave so suddenly? i could write it down on paper, see the pattern, still not know. you were different. you showed me a world i didn’t believe in, locked up tight like a glass menagerie, glittering in some corner of my memory. i thought you couldn’t stay and so – i left. i thought i couldn’t hold onto you and as it does, old love ripped your page from this book and set it aflame. now – gently on the phone, in between spaces of silence, you told me you loved me for the first time. it’s almost spring again, i felt, the way i did when the wind kicked up and brought you to me for the first time.. but winter is just beginning. we sat in the restaurant at 9am and you had the waiters sing me happy birthday over ice cream. it was january and i am a summer baby. but you always had a way of switching the seasons, in the end.
all i can do now
is watch from the outside as you bar your windows, build your walls. light the candles and close the curtains so i can’t see. spark your flames without me, come alive again by the sea. you have no place for these memories of me.
the waves came up and washed away what was left of that castle we built. all those years, come to nothing – my hands dug deep in the sand, but you’re the one trying to bury it all. you can’t remember. all my words couldn’t pry open your heart so tightly locked – the key i once held now tossed to the bottom of the sea – rusting. waiting.
you don’t want to remember where you tossed that key. you don’t even want to stand on the same beach – the water rushing up to your ankles, the sky darkening all around you. you don’t even want to believe it’s the same sky.. you can’t keep anything that was ours. not anymore.
but me.. i can’t run from the memories. can’t slip around the corner and duck against the wall until they pass. i have to watch. even in the pain, the pain.. they’re all i have of you now. my hands are outstretched, but not like yours – not to keep my distance.. the ghosts of you keep passing through, through, through..
i have to remember the way you chased the train as i pulled away from the platform, smiling your little boy smile, waving at me. your pink hair, your sweet words, your beautiful, electric love. the life we had – swaying in the music and singing our songs, clasping each other’s hands, pushing the crowds away.. the way we drank on the beach and slow danced, snapping pictures with the coney island lights streaking across the frame. the mirrorball lights circling around your room. the christmas lights, your neon sign. the apartment we never got to have that i can still see in my head – as if, somehow, we could still walk right in. the pictures of the ring you never got to buy me, still sitting in a folder on my desktop, waiting for nothing. the pictures of us in our clashing patterns and silly poses, taken down from your wall – it was only the beginning.. you didn’t want to remember.
how can i stop?
maybe someday, someday – one night on the beach, burning bright – surrounded by others, your friends and maybe even lovers – that key would come back to you, bob up in the bubbles and the tide.. maybe you’d throw it back. maybe you’d let it drift out, pretend you never saw it, pretend with all you are that this place didn’t belong to us the way it did. the way we always wanted it to.
or maybe. maybe.. you’d hold it tight in your hand and feel the warmth of those days overwhelm you. you’d feel the spark of a smile, my smile – and the way it used to make you feel. maybe everything could come back to you at once, like thumbing through a flip-book of photos, worn but well-loved – cracked along the edges but just as beautiful as you remembered, or even more so..
all the fireworks and lightning, the color and the sound – your hand in mine, walking the boardwalk, the beach, the streets in the city, your town and my town, and all those places we never got to see – year after year. talk after talk. dream after dream..
i can’t make you come back – unless you want to.
even you know –
a key in the lock can’t turn in the heart of a ghost.