By Jamie Delos Reyes
Tell your friend you think that girl’s pretty.
You say it casually, and think no more of it because you don’t really know her. You just saw her pass by one morning and she looked so fresh during a really warm day. Forget. Go to your class a week later and see her sitting in the front row with a mutual friend who introduces you to each other. She has a nice smile and a nice name. Think about how small the world is.
Ask your friend how they made the visuals for their report. He tells you to message her instead because she was the one who made that part. You do, and you get the information you need. Thank her. Wake up to a wrongly sent “Good morning!” a few days later, and reply that she must be mistaking you for someone else. She apologizes and you say don’t worry, but you save her number on your phone because you know she already saved yours.
Start to talk every day.
Listen to her talk about the guy she’s been in love with for five years, and tell her about the boy you’ve adored for four. Go for swims and study together. Spend most of your free time with her. Fall asleep together at your friends’ houses, and wonder why they start teasing you both after a few of these nights. What’s so amusing about hugging in bed? You’re sleeping next to each other. You’re both girls. It’s a natural thing for friends. Keep talking about boys and cry over them sometimes. Hold hands while walking and think it’s cute because your hands fit perfectly.
Share a bed again but this time it’s just the two of you. Speak of small things and big things and feel comfortable in silence. Tell her “Goodnight” and hear her say it back. You face her and she gently draws you nearer in a hug. Notice how close your faces are even though the room is dark and black and you can’t see anything. Feel her lips on yours. Press closer. Your heart begins to drown you and you’re afraid she’ll hear it beating. Worry about this being your first kiss and not knowing what to do. Realize that this is her first too.
Completely forget about those boys.
Remember that night she was more exhausted than you were, and she fell asleep seven minutes after you both get into bed. You know exactly how long it took. You do not turn the lights off immediately; you aren’t ready to sleep yet. You are not tired. So you stare. You stare at the tiny, almost invisible golden hairs on her left cheek. You look at her nose and trace the raised ridge it made on her face. You carefully inch your mouth closer to hers and try to breathe in the air she breathed out. You feel grateful that she’s already unconscious because she might think you’re a freak, but you know that she won’t. She smells faintly like cherry and mint. You stare some more and you kiss her hair while your heart overflows and you think “I cannot lose this.”
And then one day you do.
You stare at her crying and asking you what went wrong. She tries to hug you and you move away because you can’t breathe and you need to get out and get away. She goes frantic and she asks you if you don’t love her anymore and you bite the inside of your lower lip because you still do. God, you still do. But if you say that out loud now you will never be able to leave. It’s been two years and you know you need to go because the days that hurt now outnumber the days that don’t, and she tries to listen and you try to talk but the meaning gets lost in between.
Never find the words again.
Think of her a few weeks after and get assaulted by the violent beating in your chest and way your stomach drops to the ground. Wonder if she has met someone new and imagine them holding hands and her laughing at jokes that aren’t yours. Feel an intense heat creep rapidly up the back of your neck and want to scream because you hate the other person even though there might not be any and if there was, they’ll probably be good for her. Breathe deeply. Go to a café and get hot coffee, take out your book and don’t read. Feel calmer and think “I did the right thing.” Doubt this strongly sometimes. Be thankful for the days when you are sure you’ll be alright.
Be amazed by the way her echo can still move your pen several years after.
Know that your heart will always have a special crack in it that doesn’t need fixing, and eventually accept that sometimes, letting go is love too.