That Thing You (or I) Do

You always do this thing, and it’s so manipulative but no one sees it because you’re you and so wonderful and funny and everyone loves you. That’s why it’s so difficult. You get in touch, or maybe I got in touch, and there’s this reminiscing over email or text, complete with old pics and references to inside jokes and remember when, and it’s not fair because it brings us back — or maybe I should just speak for myself but I’m sure I’m not the only one you do this to. And maybe it brings you back, too. I mean how could it not?

It takes me back to this place and time when everything was — if not perfect —close enough that the memory is infused with all these feelings of hope and joy and love, and all those young promises we made implicitly (we didn’t need to actually say anything because there was always going to be an “us”). We had things to look forward to: the trip to Barcelona to see La Sagrada Familia, the months-long road trip to Tierra del Fuego. And little flashes of memory from the trips we did take: bracing against the wind looking down at the seals in Cambria —you always in that itchy blue sweater — holding hands and looking at our reflection in the pool at Hearst Castle, later “I’ll Stand By You” loud in the car, windows down, the sentiment in the lyrics hanging heavy and strong and i-love-you-forever between us.

It was freezing the whole time on that trip.

It all comes back in the way you write to me, even just a text. I can almost hear your voice, the crack, the giggle, and even though I’m here and you’re there, and I’m not really hoping for anything— I mean we’re much older now, basically different people— but somewhere in the back of my head is this tiny flame: what if? And I’m pretty sure you’re feeling it too. We’re both excited to see each other, and I know you’re nervous and you say you’re nervous but it’s cute and adorable like everything you do.  I’m going to be in LA on the 16th and you’re free so let’s get a cup of coffee.

Okay, great.

I’m thinking of a book I want to bring you and trying to remember what you liked at Starbucks. You tell me you’re getting a haircut and not to be too surprised when you look exactly the same as you did 25 years ago.

I’m disappointed when you tell me your kid is sick, but I get it. I don’t know exactly how it is to be a parent, but of course I understand. It’s okay because I’m in LA every few months, so next time.

You’re traveling that weekend? That blows. I know, I’m still really looking forward to seeing you too and I’m so glad we reconnected. Next time for sure. Later you send me a pic of you and your kid at the Space Needle, looks fun.

Then the third time, wow, this is such bad timing but you have a project due for work and you can’t get away. You assure me it’s just bad timing, we’ll figure it out next time.

It’s been almost a year since you contacted me through my mom’s facebook account — I resisted the emergence of the internet and never got the hang of having an online presence, which you remembered (you remembered so much, so much more than me)— and I’ve been excited about seeing you every time I come down.

This time, you don’t have anything going on but you just decided you’re too nervous and feel weird about it and you’re “not ready.”

Not ready? What is that? I’m not ready. I’ve been “not ready” for a year, for 10 years, for my whole life. I want to tell you to get over yourself but I don’t want to hurt your feelings.

I know, you say. I know I’m being annoying and I’m sooo sorry. I can still hear your voice, the crack, the laughter. I don’t know how to respond. I’m disappointed again and I’m tired of the come-down after the rush of anticipation. It’s more than annoying, it’s manipulative. I hate that you’re still cute even as you manipulate, getting whatever it is you seem to need from this.

You’re still cute as you’re walking away. You’ve always been cute, even when you’re breaking my heart.

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