Remember when you would sit on the floor of my lavender painted room when I was 15 and you were 21? You’d twirl a dreadlock around your finger looking up at the wall of Teen People Magazine pages, and ask me if I really liked those kinds of guys.
Remember when you bought me a harmonica? Remember how you taught me to blow on it properly so it didn’t tickle my lips? We passed the E major back and forth, and I considered what love meant. How old would I need to be to have it?
Remember eating McFlurries on the curb in the parking lot? The asphalt was hot and we started sentences with, “If we were the same age…”
Remember when the phone rang and rang while we watched Turner Classic Movies and tried to talk like them? We gritted our teeth and became Transatlantic for the night, and you never called that girl back even though you were dating.
I wish I hadn’t worn a red bra that New Year’s Eve. I wish I hadn’t stayed up after the ball dropped. I wish I hadn’t had so much champagne even though you had abstained. But you always abstained. I wish I’d let you go to the basement alone. I wish you hadn’t insisted the lights were what was bothering me. I wish you hadn’t turned them off.
Remember when you kept telling me how happy you were? I’m happy, you spoke into my ear, my eyes on the ceiling. I can still hear you.
I turned eighteen and you were twenty-four. Remember how much you joked about being excited for me to be legal? Remember how it was less funny after I blew out my candles in a dusky park while the bounce house deflated behind us? I do.
Can you hear me then? Telling you the good news. That I would go to your alma mater. I wanted to be you. To be yours. For you to tell me who to be. For you to tell me when I could be loved, for real.
Remember when we discussed it? We asked, how many years were too many now? And neither of us knew when to laugh anymore. If not for love, what were you for in my life? But that’s to assume there is a reason for why people come and why they leave. You and I always assumed different reasons for each other. And we both held strong to our assumptions until we became not ourselves in the other’s mind. Until we started remembering things differently.
Remember how you gave me your grandmother’s bracelet at a diner in San Antonio after we forgot how to laugh? Remember how the place smelled like overused cooking oil and the vinyl seats fused to the back of our legs? I do. On our way home the hinge broke on the silver cuff that felt like a shackle, and I lost the pieces halfway through New Mexico.
Remember how the palm reader told me I had two soul mates and I had already met them both? Remember how I told you you were one of them? I regret so many things I said to you—but I was still a kid and you taught me to lie.
“Remember,” you said, “college is an opportunity to be whoever you want to be. You can tell people you lived in China or built a yurt or hitchhiked through Costa Rica.” You never really understood consequences, did you?
I brought the Polaroid camera to college. The one with the little drawer in the bottom that allowed photos to develop in their due time—in their dark privacy. The camera that we covered in the stickers we bought from every sticker vending machine we came across, which turned out to be so many. When I was sixteen and you were twenty-three you asked me to photograph myself with it. Mom found one of the pictures and I told her it was just for me, and it was. As soon as I slid it from the drawer, I knew I didn’t want you to have it. I knew it wasn’t for you to see.
Remember the Halloween cookies and the art shows and the drive-thru lessons and the dart games and the nude park and the collages in the dolphin notebook and the long skirts you wore and the poems? What is love if not this? How old would I need to be to have it?
Can you hear me now? Telling you the good news, that I have arrived at adulthood at long last. And that’s how I know we remembered it all differently. Like the walk from my 35th street apartment to my job in SoHo once I was nearly the age you were when we met. I wore my uniform: a collared shirt, a tie, an apron on my hips. You wore heartbreak. Remember the way you looked at me when we said goodbye—like it was the last time we’d see each other and we were in love? It was the last time we saw each other, but we weren’t in love.
Do you remember who you were before we met? I don’t.