by Olivia O’Neill
I met you on the last wintry day of 2006. I had just turned twenty and just bought my first bicycle – used. I kept my journal from that day. It was humid and cloudy, and the sun occasionally poked its way through the clouds. The first tree on the block was naked of leaves. You, a glowing body of escapade, glided towards me at eleven o’clock that morning. Some unavoidable power overcame me, and I had to ask where you were going. You had brown eyes that turned golden when you looked at me through the urban sunlight. Your hair was dyed white and it hung above the shoulders of your teal bomber jacket.
Aquiver (adj): Shaking or trembling because of a strong emotion.
You were absurdly pretty and had compassionate eyes, the ones that have seen great sorrow. I wanted to know everything about you – to communicate something inexplicable, to feel something of my bones that could only be felt in them. I wanted to take you dancing in a baseball field at midnight.
It’s the times like these that remind me of when I stayed home on those cold nights and all between you and me was a glass window and October leaves – and maybe a little bit of social anxiety. It’s the one where every aching moment is a water drop of beauty. It’s the one where someone else is listening to the same album you’re listening to, but it feels impossibly personal. It’s the time where writing anything about the experience sounds like a corny gimmick because you don’t know how to describe something so perfectly tragic. It’s the time for anyone who has longed inside a gated community. I had full notebooks I probably should have saved but never did, there was the standing in the corner of school dances with no date, and the wrenching feeling of not being picked in gym class. There’s a knowledge we’re all born with, and I think falling in love from a distance proves that.
I was unbearably shy, and I would have liked to think strangers didn’t need me to confront them either, but I did what I had to. You told me you were taking classes at a SUNY school and visiting your family before going back to school. Before I knew it, we were wedged deep into conversation about what the best Spider-Man comic issue was. You said Spider-Man Blue was your favorite and that you missed Gwen.
Mellifluous (adj): A sound with a smooth, rich flow that is pleasant to hear.
You told me you owned a bunch of obscure game system and you biked to Half-Price Books in the rain like I did. Your honey voice touched my face like a Dandelion flower, each drop of water stopping time before they rolled down. The phantom feeling of nostalgia I had as a teenager has emerged as I’ve written about you. My childhood, the heartbreak, the lonely nights writing in my journals. There was something which its afterglow was worth looking at from afar, and that was enough.
I asked you out for a drink and took you out to a bar my father and I used to go to for football games. I had never felt more sentimental sitting in an empty bar with a complete stranger. We laughed and talked. I sipped on a Stella, even though I didn’t particularly like beer. Our faces were only dimly lit by the flickering bar lights, but I think we both knew what we had gotten ourselves into.
I confessed that I had to meet my mother that next morning, and I had just missed my train. You said you missed yours too. It was too late to catch another train that night, so we decided to go back to my apartment a few blocks down. We drank a half-finished bottle of Chardonnay I had lying around my fridge.
My hands were shaky and we sat at the end of my bed. I put my right hand on your left and waited for something to happen. When you looked at me, I think we both questioned why we were there. My rotted windows rattled, the moon painted the outline of our bodies, and my grandfather’s rocking chair watched us breathe.
I had a conversation about something like this with my mother when I was a child. She brought up a story she read in the newspaper that morning. It was an interview with a woman from Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago on the southernmost end of South America. She was the last speaker of her language, Yaghan. Mamihlapinatapai is one of those lost words, and it is often marked as the most succinct word in the history of languages. Mamihlapinatapai is a look between two people, each wishing that the other would offer something they desire, but neither are willing to act on it. An expressive and meaningful silence. That’s how I felt before we kissed for the first time.
I looked outside the window, and saw a small boy’s figure highlighted by a streetlight. He was leaning on a baseball bat, and his gaping mouth distracted me from you. His converse dug into the muddy earth, and I hoped he wasn’t ruining a new pair of shoes. I didn’t mind him watching us, because I think we’ve all been that kid on the other side of the window. I turned to you, back to the window, back to my grandfather’s chair. And for a moment, everything disappeared. Everything that had happened in my life folded in on itself and I was that kid at the gas station at midnight. I was the father watching their daughter graduate from high school. I was the kid watching and wanting us to kiss in the window.
You looked at me curiously, but agreed to stay overnight. We lay on my bed all night, and you let me read some of my favorite definitions to you. We exchanged ideas on how the universe was made, reached for each other when the clouds blocked the moonlight, and we weren’t scared to disagree.
The next morning, I woke up with your eyelashes tickling my lips. The sky was a watercolor wash cloth, the oranges and reds engulfing the small space of my bedroom. We stumbled into our shoes, and you told me you could only afford one more day in the city before heading back to school. We decided to take a bus to where I regularly drew at the lake. As we walked through the morning fog, I noticed the shadow of your body behind us. Running after the bus proved to be quite the challenge for both of us.
The bus shook down the streets, and we kissed to the rhythm of the bus. Your body fit to mine like a puzzle piece. I felt your heart shake in your ribcage, ready to explode. When we broke apart for a moment, I looked down and noticed that your hands were shaking. I put them on my lap and our palms touched. Your fingers were so long that mine couldn’t match yours. I should have asked why your hands shook.
We walked past some kids who were smoking pot on the stairs to the lakeside. A slight escape of warm sunlight decorated your face as we walked. We got there and laid underneath the canopy of branches that engulfed it. The waves were a nice change of pace from the mechanical echoes of the bus. I opened my backpack and grabbed my journal. I wrote everything I thought of that couldn’t be spoken in English.
The act of leaving a book unopened and unread after buying it. The feeling of being alone in the woods. The speckled light of sunlight shining through the trees. Someone who asks too many questions. A woman who devotes herself to stray cats.
We fought a lot. I think the same amount most couples do. You told me we were moving too fast. I told you we were moving just fine. She was a tinkerer of the heart, she was
Kilig (n): The butterfly rush you get immediately after you fall in love.
Three months ago, I told you I loved you less. Two months ago, you told me I got worse after my mother died. One month and thirty days ago, you stopped sleeping over.
Avalanche (n): a mass of snow, ice, and rocks falling rapidly from a mountainside. A long-term build-up waiting for imminent destruction.
How beautiful snow is when it’s calm, though. Gently tumbling onto the soft earth, letting kids have snowball fights, lovers make snow forts, principals call for snow days. Sometimes I write about how my heart was broken, but I wonder if I was the one breaking my heart. I missed you when you lay next to me in bed, and I missed you when I listened to you breathe on the phone. For my ex-lover: I hope you find a way to keep your tires from popping. I hope whoever you meet next leaves you small notes in your pillowcase. I hope they sigh their love for you into your mouth.
Fernweh (adj): homesickness for a place you have never been.
That place is your ex-lover’s apartment. You hope she’s doing well, but you’ll never really know.
I found a new word today.
Ellipsism (n): A sadness that you’ll never be able to know how history will turn out. That you’ll live your life knowing she didn’t need you and you didn’t need her anymore. A happiness that you knew you loved her all you could and that was the best you could do. Sometimes we have to take that leap.
The day is over now, and I’ve remembered you. I don’t want to look away when you walk by anymore. I looked out my window. I could see that little boy, waiting for something to happen.