I have known you for five years. Haven’t seen you in one.
Last Christmas, you asked for my latest address and sent a postcard all the way from Paris. There was a close-up shot of Hemingway’s face on the front. On the back, you wrote: “You deserve all the good in the world.” I took a picture of it but never sent anything back.
Five months later, you texted me out of the blue, asking whether I had watched Portrait of the Lady on Fire. You said the film drew back memories of the stinging sweet past. I told you I cried three times watching it.
We went on double dates, remember? There was the time we went downtown at 1 am on a Tuesday night to grab burgers and fries. I ordered my favorite Juicy Lucy and stole fried onion rings from your plate. There was the time, also, when the two of us went to the mall on the other side of the mountain. I pulled you into my arms and wrapped my cardigan around you as we shivered in the October cold, waiting for the bus that took three eternities to arrive. The soapy, citrusy smell on your shirt spilled over onto mine. How close can two people get without feeling the touch and whirling into a frenzy of fantasies? I wondered. The bus pulled up before I could find out.
I guess I shouldn’t tell you that I never thought much about these moments. That they just sat somewhere in the back of my mind, like an obedient child, never crying for attention. But you probably knew it already. You always knew what I wanted even when I felt lost myself.
I still don’t know when, or why, it all happened—when I started seeing you in a different light. You were 6667 miles, 7 hours, an Atlantic Ocean away. I didn’t dare imagine a new narrative for us, even when I asked you out on a Zoom coffee date.
And your voice. How it pricked the numbness of the stretched-out days with jingling Good mornings and Good nights and the Little Prince read in French. The same wonder found its way back to me. This time I prayed for a different ending.
You mentioned one night that you had a boyfriend, but he wasn’t yours to keep. I said it’s his loss, and we should drink to that. You poured a glass of plum wine and laughed when I found out all I had left was tequila. You loved to watch me when I was tipsy. Less uptight and more opened up, you said. Half a bottle down, I was a cloud rising up and floating somewhere far away. Then I heard you play the guitar on the other side of the screen, singing a song I loved. The night breeze kisses all the lotus leaves, leaving me drunk by the pool. While waiting for you to realize my beauty, moonlight would have dried my tears. Humming along, the thought of your tears made me ache. I mumbled don’t cry and drifted to sleep.
I knew by then the name of the feeling that was stirring in my chest, but love was so sticky a word it got stuck in my throat. Did you hear it when I put on my finer shirts and begged my friend’s boyfriend for a haircut so I looked more decent on camera—a fragile ego eager to impress? When I averaged five hours of sleep every night for months just to be more available for you? When I googled best/cute/interesting/awesome/cool virtual backgrounds and customized ones with our names on it? When I made three date night playlists and threw you a virtual birthday party?
On some days, I thanked god that we had Zoom. On others, I said damn it, all we have is Zoom. Tossing and turning on the edge of my bed in the dark of the nights, I longed to coil your hair around my fingers and touch the mole between your collarbones. Instead, I buried my face into the pillows, imagined the softness of your skin against mine.
To miss someone is indeed an exercise of the imagination.
Try it with me: Imagine the world folding itself, once, twice, until we collapse into each other. Imagine our eyes pulling each other closer like gravity, our hearts beating like raindrops on a windshield in a summer thunderstorm, and our bodies intertwined like a Chinese knot, strong and beautiful. Imagine our lips touching, merging, mixing hot wet breaths and kisses until they become the same thing. Imagine the things we would whisper to each other. The desire. The itch. The days, hours, seconds that add up to nothing.
Oh honey, I’m getting really good at this but also really sick of it.
With all the love a Zoom-ance can sustain,