It’s almost the Fourth of July, which doesn’t inherently mean anything to me. Independence, I guess. But that doesn’t feel celebratory this year. And so I have no plans to celebrate it. I have no plans. I won’t see anyone. I won’t go anywhere.
Last year, I’d have texted you right away. I’d have gotten the email- “The office will be closed Friday, July 5th”- and I’d have sent you a message.
What are you doing the 4th weekend?
And you’d have said
And I would have. I’d have packed too many pajama pants and not enough shorts and I’ve be sweating the whole weekend, because the only air conditioner was in your room, and I’d have been too steadfast in my sensibilities and resistant to seem needy or vulnerable or I don’t know what to ask you to turn it on.
You’d be bad at making meals. You always were, even though eating with you was my favorite thing, besides every other thing with you. You’d put half a loaf of a recently-frozen Trader Joe’s baguette on a cutting board next to a bunch of grapes and, if you’d really planned, some sharp cheese. I’d eat it, carefully and stingily, and I’d tell you it was enough, but I’d still be starving.
We’d watch a movie, and the whole time, I’d hold my tongue when you shit on a part or a person I really loved, because it was easier when you were right. It’d get harder for this to be true, as the months went on, but I’d still hang on to it as if it were as true as the moon’s phases.
You’d yawn, or noticeably stir in some other way, and I’d pretend not to see it, and I’d make you be the one to suggest it was time for bed. I would never suggest it. I never have. Anything to stay the way we were.
I’d go to bed, hot and hungry, and I’d lay awake, for the first time in my life, already wanting to wake up the next day. I’d think about everything I’d said and didn’t. I wondered if the next day, something more meaningful would finally happen, and I’d consider what I meant by that, and I’d fall asleep itchy, dizzy, unsated.
I’d wake up and hear you in the kitchen, a podcast playing or a playlist you’d so meticulously and pretentiously curated, one you’d brag to me about even though all music was the same to me unless it was showtunes. I’d slip into the bathroom, brush my teeth, my hair, put on a t-shirt that maybe showed some of my midriff, because I always wanted to feel more confident around you. I thought it’d make you see me in a different way. I thought it’d make you see me.
I’d sit down at the table, and you’d have neglected to make me coffee even though every time, every day, we do this play.
Do you want me to make you coffee?
I guess. I can make it.
I can make it. Do you want it or not?
And you’d make it, and you’d suggest I prepared it in the way you liked, and even though it sounded repulsive to me, I’d say
Because saying no didn’t mean saying no to organic heavy cream, it meant telling you your tastes were wrong, which meant insinuating you’re not worth listening to, which meant flashbacks to your childhood bullies, which meant I was the enemy now. I’d tell you I didn’t mean anything by it; I just don’t like heavy cream. I’d remind you that I love you. You’d remind me that I was being insensitive. So I’d drink the coffee you’d forgotten to make me the way I didn’t like it prepared. To avoid causing you a second of discomfort. To avoid my being the cause.
We’d go out. You’d drive, and I’d rest my arm on the back of your headrest as you took us through country roads where we didn’t have service. We’d talk, or I’d look out the window, willing you to ask me something, or I’d say
I forgot you were even here
Even though I didn’t forget, because I didn’t want you to know that I really wanted to say
I feel so safe and whole and magical when I’m with you, in a way I’ve never felt before in my whole life. In a way that scares me. In a way that makes me wonder if I’m okay, or if you wonder that, too. In a way that makes me feel like shattering when I think about leaving, and makes me feel like exploding when I think about staying, which are synonyms, only they’re not. Here.
Even though I did want you to know. And you’d say
Well, I am here
Like I could forget.
And we’d wander around, or we’d go into a store, or we’d get lunch, or we’d just keep driving, and we’d get back home, and we’d do the same thing all over again.
And there’d be times when I’d go on your porch, and look out at the yard, and breath in the air, and remember that New York City was so far and so close and so good and so bad and my home and an absolute mystery to me, and I’d cry, partially because I couldn’t help it, partially because I wanted you to ask why.
And I’d leave.
And I’d get on the bus. And you’d say
And I’d say
Love you too.
And I’d mean it more, and you’d never know, and you should’ve.
And I go home. And I sit. And I wish I was still there. But I know I should be here. And I text you. I miss you. And you reciprocate. And it doesn’t fix anything. And I feel the same as I did before I left. And I consider saying, out loud,
I forgot you were here
Even though I don’t forget. Even though I want to say
The absence of you has made more room for me, and in this room, the air conditioner is on, and I have coffee.
And so I stop texting. And then I stop going. And then it’s Fourth of July. And exploding and shattering might mean the same thing now. And I am both. But I am here, without plans. And I think, that might be fine. That might be right. Even though I wish it were different. Even though I wish I could reach you.
I miss you
And I wait for a response, but there is silence. And so I say
And it’s empty in my apartment. And there is no music. And I don’t think about the t-shirt I’m wearing, and I am well-fed, and when I go to sleep, I dread the morning, just like I’m supposed to. Just like I used to.
And I hear it back. Even though no one else is here. I hear it, finally. And it means what I need it to mean, and nothing less, and nothing more. And so I stay.
I choose to stay.
About the Creator
Tina is a queer writer in Brooklyn, who uses Google mostly to image search 45-year-old women in suits, and Twitter mostly to report on her findings. She has a deep obsession with narrative, a CAROL tattoo, and, relatedly, a degree in film.