first time.

in december, i left my lover in canada and flew to a sunny place for the winter. for the six years preceding, we hadn’t been apart for more than a month or two at a time, and what is ‘apart’ in an era with smartphones and wifi? we hadn’t ever actually truly been apart, removed from each other’s minds, living independent lives, since we’d come together. who were we?

we found ourselves trying to answer this question with other questions, redirected our curiosities from ‘why do i like you?’ to ‘what else do i like?’. gave our eyes to other people, but only our eyes and let our imaginations do the rest, appeased ourselves with quiet fantasies. we were satisfied until we weren’t, until we were hungry for more than illusions, for new skin and love and adventure and most of all ourselves.

so i left. spent the winter on the south-west coast, having noon-time coffee and smoking cigarettes in the sun, meeting travelers from all over the world, learning how to skateboard, falling for everything and everyone around me. i’d found my path, my people, my tribe. i was finally the traveler gypsy i’d always known myself to be in my soul. he was worlds away from my mind, and only haunted me for brief moments when i was sober or alone for too long.

then i headed east in march, supposedly for the spring but the lock-down warnings were so urgent that by mid-march i had no choice but to head back north, not to our old home this time, to my brothers’ house on the east coast.

but there he was. waiting for me. surprise.

and it was like i’d never left, like not a day had gone by without us having seen each other or kissed or held hands; and at the same time, we were meeting each other all over again. we were familiar, but changed, more interesting and interested. we’d learned things, we’d grown our hair out, we had stories for each other. for the next month and a half we would spend every day like this, waking up to the novelties of one another, working in parallel throughout the day, eating and smoking with the boys at night, having political debates with our coffee in the morning, and laughing. laughing till our stomachs hurt.

today, we separated again. he headed west and i stayed behind. drove him to the airport and cried like i have been for the last three days.

somehow, it was harder this time, creating this new connection with someone i’d already loved with a previous self, and having to let go all over again. i loved him more. i loved him more because i’ve loved him before and know who he is, where he’s coming from, which way he’s going. i loved him more because he was becoming himself, and so was i, who has more self to love him with.

tonight, i return to this house, his corner empty, reminding myself of the traveler gypsy, while absorbing, for the first time, what sextus meant when he said that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

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