what it meant to feel like this

It’s been about two years since I’ve heard from you. Three years since you left, and by now, almost no one at work remembers you and I. Hospitals cycle doctors every couple of years, names are forgotten more quickly than you’d expect. But stories linger, whispers in your old ER about what you did before you left, or were fired, or whatever the truth actually was.

I wonder every once in a while, what happened to you? You’re not on Facebook. Nothing on Google. Legends mix with facts mix with memories- leaving a complex jumble in between, just how you liked it, giving me more questions than answers. Where did all those gifts come from? How many admirers did you have? Was I really the only one? Whose phone number was that that you never answered in my presence? Did I get you pregnant once? Twice? At all? I still don’t know.

What I do know is this: I think back and remember some little things- making love on the white rug in the dead of winter in front of the roaring fireplace. Your dogs. In the beginning I couldn’t stand them and it was clearly reciprocated. Eventually the girl stopped pissing on the floor when I showed up and the boy learned to cuddle and I started to adore them. Lying in your bed with your adopted baby between us the month after we called it quits, some part of me aching inside and wondering if this life could have ever worked, lingering in that sweet, oddly familiar timespace and not wanting to leave it. Making love with your hair sprawled across the sheets, watching you smear my semen on your belly with a ferocity and possession I’ve never seen before. Me finding the tiny baby outfit you had bought after the miscarriage, then replacing it carefully under the boxes in the back of the hall closet. Never telling you how I found those pictures, stark self-shot documentary black and whites, bruised face and blackened eye, courtesy of your abusive mother. Your father’s heart attack. Your alcoholic grandfather’s 80th birthday party. Your crashed car. The way the spare bedroom in your parents’ house smelled of fuel oil, and how that scent lingered, low and metallic in my clothes for weeks at a time, just as you have lingered in my mind for years.

I was cleaning out my house before moving in with my fiancée. I found an email I sent you the night of your operation, all bravado, bold love, big declarations. Months after we had broken up, you slipped it under my front door with the caption, “Do you remember what it meant to feel like this?”

I remember and I can’t forget. But I’m still trying.

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