i’d been watching him pace back and forth through my mind in a black shirt and chunky shoes with a pensive hand on his chin for the past few days when he texted me this morning.

we were never together, but we had each other, the way one has a tattoo; under the skin, painful at the outset, painful to remove, but satisfying, cool, complementary, could be permanent. all of a sudden he was always around, his boxers were in my apartment, he was asking me about lunch, inviting people over, calling me nicknames. and then he was gone before he’d left.

was there love? does a story like this one merit being classified as a ‘love’ story? i don’t know. i know that for a brief moment last summer he was a spectacle to behold, a walking talking sparkler, and i couldn’t get enough of him. we spent three months on paradise mountain staying up to candle light drinking gin and playing cards with the lost boys. he had a witchy way of making everything more magical, of knowing what i wanted, what everyone wanted, of making people (me) squirm. it was inspiring and dark and transformative. the grimier it felt, the better i wanted to be, the higher i wanted to go, always my best self, always rising, even as i felt everything decay around me, including him, even as he broke my heart again, and again, and again..

but by the last heartbreak, i had crossed over from infatuation to obsessive compulsion, and what i truly wanted was to hurt him. i think the spiral down into this began the first time i stuck around after he’d hurt me. every time i forgave him, i loved him more, and every time he hurt me, the pain was deeper. it was almost as if i was testing myself, to see how much space i had, how patient i could be, what it would take to move me. and perhaps, after that first time, instead of loving him, i started harboring a kind of grudge that i didn’t notice at first, but that started to grow nonetheless in the less visited corners of my self, until that very last time, that day he came back, after only a few days away. i spent the next two weeks withdrawing, suffocating without him, reaching out in desperation for an explanation, a call, a hug–something. but nothing. he gave me nothing. it felt like grieving a death.

today, i spent my day listening to the vaccines, manchester orchestra, to kill a king–all the beautiful music that reminds me of him. i’ve been remembering the little insights he’d make into movies, imagining him make fun of gilmore girls for being too chatty, looking at my phone every few minutes, almost hoping for more, knowing that that was it. we had made peace. his initiation, an apology, my response, forgiveness.

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