Is there anybody alive out there?
Some days are worse than others. Some days I don’t think of you at all. I’m grateful for those.
Some days, like today, the memory of you and what you did to me brings me down like a ship’s anchor. I walked through this day zombified, confused, almost-but-not-quite-on autopilot, hoping it would dissipate.
But today is not one of those days. Today, you haunt me. And you haven’t stopped.
It started with “Radio Nowhere.” Your favorite Bruce Springsteen song.
I don’t know why I still remember that fact. I wish I could forget it. I’m sure I never will. That’s just a writer thing, I guess. Remembering all of the little things any “normal” person would’ve long forgotten by now. The memories I’m sure you don’t hold onto are all the ones I’m certain I still have.
My mind wandered to those years of thoughts about what could be, what was, and what I wanted. The good times we shared. The times I thought I loved you and the time I thought you actually might have cared about me. (It’s singular on purpose.)
I snap myself back to reality, and launch into the memory of what you did to me. The bad time. The time I don’t think you realize what you did. What your name to all my friends has forever been changed to.
I cringe, aching with the reminder of how those water droplets felt as they splashed off your chest and onto my back. The smell of your Irish Spring body wash still stings my nose–years later. I can smell it right now. Just the right amount of soft, but masculine. Not overpowering. My skin smelled of it for hours afterward, as I walked home, not entirely sure of what had just happened.
I still hate admitting that I liked that soap, especially as I tried to scrub all of the shame and self-hatred from my skin. Some days, I can still feel it all. The shame, the self-hatred, the soap itself as it slid from the bottle, bubbled beneath my fingertips, and slid across my skin.
But slowly, ever so slowly, I remember how I liked you. The thoughts of your sly smile, your ice blue eyes, the way you were the first boy to ever really pay attention to me. The first one to ever treat me like I was worthy of romantic love and affection. I should’ve learned early on (and long ago) that you weren’t really the romantic love and affection type. I should’ve learned early on that I would never truly believe I was worthy of that. And even years later, married and all, I will never truly believe it.
And yet, I find myself here, behind a keyboard, remembering just who you were and how I cared for you. How foolish I’d been, letting you in with something as simple as a Facebook message and a simple guitar rendition of “Crash Into Me.” (I still can’t listen to that song without remembering that warm September night–almost seven years after it happened.)
Once I thought I’d gotten past this, back to the actual reality of life at my desk and the assignments I faced, it came back. Something else happened.
I saw a photo, of you and the girl you’re currently with. I still can’t decide how I feel about this–and you’ve been with her over a year now.
I’ve written about it before, how I wonder about the way you treat her, whether or not you actually say you love her in the way I wish you loved me so long ago, and exactly how she managed to be the one to break you of your habit of heartbreaking and stomping and general tomfoolery as it pertains to women and their affections or feelings. (I know there were women before me who you’d scorned and destroyed.)
I somehow can’t decide if I pity her or envy her; neither feeling being particularly desirable. How I wonder if she knows what you’d been like before her. If she knows about the hearts you broke, the women you irreparably damaged. If she knows about me. The words we shared. The play fights we had.
I wonder if you used the same trick on her you used on me. The “Crash Into Me” rendition that got you to be the first man (outside of my childhood best friend) to see me topless.
You haunt me still. And I hate admitting it.
I’m at a point in my life where I know I shouldn’t still be thinking about you. I’m at a point in my life where you shouldn’t matter, where I shouldn’t feel anything about you anymore and yet here I am, writing another stupid essay about a stupid boy (a BOY!) who never thought of me as anything more than a piece of ass.
As a writer, I suppose you’re always just a little bit haunted by the ghosts of your past. And I hope that some day, with enough ink spilled and keys pressed, you’ll finally let me rest.
This post originally was published in July 2017 to Jessica's personal blog: Rivers, Streams, and Painted Turtle Shells.