I see you, often.
I look at myself in the mirror; my heart beats in an effort to escape my chest. I want to escape me too, but I can’t. Breathe in. Out. Rinse. Repeat.
I touch the steering wheel of my car and it feels cold under my slick palms. The sun is up; I have places to be. But I find I can’t move. Some days it is hard just to get in, to admit how close you were. Are. It’s hard to admit a very real struggle, a solid weight that sticks inside of me and refuses to let go. There are more ups than downs on some days, more downs than ups on others. The bad outweighs the good too frequently. I think that it will always suck, that I will never be okay. That I will never be over you. I will always drag this shadow behind me.
It starts with the fingers. Always the fingers. That’s how I know it’s coming, when I feel his fingers. Caressing me. Moving up my arm like a spider. Next the feeling of his mouth on my ear. The feeling of his breath blowing inside. I know that if I don’t do something, it will get worse. I will get lost.
I see you, often. On the stairs, on campus. Down the hall. In the Subway line, ordering a pizza. In the parking lot, getting into a truck. In the grocery store, picking out the perfect carton of eggs. There is a certain verisimilitude to your form—your face, your hair, the way that you stand. But then when you turn, it isn’t you. You don’t see me. You never did, really. But I see your face, everywhere. On the mailman, on the librarian, on the kid who sits across from me in Arthurian Lit. You are everywhere to me, but I am nowhere to you. Nothing. I imagine where you are now, what you are doing. I wonder if you ever think of what you did.
Remember the plan, I tell myself. Remember what it’s for, why you are still moving forward. The only thing to do is ride it out. Ride it out. Ride it out. Wait for it to stop hurting. Wait to not be scared. Remember that I am safe, that I am real. That though it feels like drowning, it’s not. It’s not.
At night, there is a scepter that haunts me sometimes, the ghost of you. Words and emotions and feelings that have no place and no home. They weave in and out of my blankets, through the pillows, into the nightlight and out into the void. There is a gaping wound somewhere that I can’t see, a wound that tries to heal and then rips open again, and again, and again. Little things. A sound, a touch. I imagine it like a scab, something that hardens and then gets ripped away just when it is about to heal. I imagine that it will never heal, that it will bleed forever. I am afraid to believe in good things I know are within reach.
Your words echo and warp, twist in my head and mix with my own words. I’m not worthy. I don’t deserve this, any of this. I should try harder. I should be okay, just be okay, all the time. Never not okay. I should count the good things and be grateful to be alive, but I can’t right now, I can’t see that when I see you. Your fingers. Your eyes.
There is a hawk that glides over the road on my drive home. I don’t see its wings flap, not once, as I drive down the highway. It simply glides over the road, eyes forward, passing over life. That’s how I am—my life passing by beneath while I glide overhead. Unable to touch it. Unable to connect with anything. Unable to voice when I get lost because I am so happy for the moments when I’m not lost that it’s hard to admit the fall. I am in this phase now of moving forward, yet thinking about the past. Because in reality, there is no forward. There is only motion. The past is always with me. You are always with me.
I see you, often.