Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Desire Lines

I used to count how many cities I had visited since he'd left. I last counted nine, but I know there have been many more since then. Perhaps when I got to 10, 15 or 20 cities, I would lose that compulsion to report to him. I would no longer stumble over those various reminders that'd compel me to reach out, swooning with some references that only he would understand. Perhaps, then, I might have seen enough to convince me that there was more to life than that love.

The on-road associations used to rattle in my chest until I communicated them to him. It was the same even when we knew each other, I'd rush to tell him all I had seen in Stockholm or Budapest, all the neon, the cheap vinyl and all the model buildings, poorly constructed in balsa wood. It'd all be filtered through his tastes and persuasions, because I had lovingly retained all that he told me. All reports would be met with the same remark: "That's awesome! I wish I could have been there with you!"

He used to say that a lot to me. In fact, he used to say it every day. It started when he declined going to Tower of London with me. Instead, I went alone, quietly resigned to the dynamic that would always exist between us. He would always decline any prospect of a tacky adventure, citing lack of time and logistical difficulties. I would always go forth unbegrudgingly, earphones in place, prepared to tell him every detail of the day's mission when we reconvened that night. It was an operation that was on his terms, but then I was always prepared to accept whatever was offered to me.

In our last conversation, I detected a tone that almost resembled rage: "Look, if there was anybody in the world that I could spend time with, it'd be you, OK? But I just don't have the time." It's perhaps one of the most familiar components of any friendship I've ever had, this ambiguous sense of unrequitedness. It carries on from the first friends I ever had, refusing to come with me to Scienceworks to Laur's handwritten letter, explaining she doesn't want to go out with me on weekends because she's more of a "stay-at-home kinda girl". When Gav flaked out on going to a Smiths night at Ding Dong, my disappointment overshadowed any joy that had preceded it. My hope managed to fracture the love I would historically value most.

I tend to forget those days when they relented: they went out, they actually did what I wanted, the things I had dreamt of. There are three particular days which seem eerily similar to one another, even though they happened in 2006, 2012 and 2016. On two out of the three occasions, they would scald me for being "unable to walk down street properly". On each of the occasions, we would eat at a cafe and they would openly yearn for some other girl. They'd be distant and distracted, irritable and pissed off. As we walked down High Holborn on the third occasion, the familiarity of it overcame me. I choked out that had to leave and for the first time ever, I volunteered to be alone.

The friends that remain want to shake me, they want to rid of my desire to make associations, to create reports for these people who simply don't care. They want to rid me of a plague that consumes me, that occupies my heart in lieu of any functional attachment. When I'm challenged on the subject, I say that the difficulty is that he never actually mistreated me, the greatest brutality was his silence. I begrudge others for so much less, but in this instance, he's left with me with enough evidence to suggest that he would have wanted to have been here, he would have wanted to hear all about it, still. I suppose it's up to me to choose how to reconcile those proclamations alongside the fundamental truth that he could have been here if he wanted to be.

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