It’s always when I’m in the shower, hot water opening up my pores and soap sluicing down my skin, cleansing my body, soothing my mind, that it hits me that I won’t ever be able to wash you out of my soul.
Neither of us did anything wrong. I suppose that is what makes it difficult because we both, in the short time that we engaged with each other, did everything right.
I remember when we first messaged each other online: I had no expectations around you because I suck online. I, as a person, as probably it stands for most people, don’t translate well to text unless someone already knows me, knows my voice and my tics and my rhythm. But you responded, clever and quick, and fun! oh it was so wonderful for someone who was able to be so delightful in a flat set of characters on a glowing screen. I don’t know how long you labored over those few words but it was time well spent and it worked.
You didn’t even tell me your name and I didn’t give you mine. We’d exchanged numbers and assigned nicknames in our phones – gosh, seems silly now, but that’s heady stuff, you know? That’s heady and playful and fun, something out a children’s book or a fairy tale.
We felt a little like a fairy tale.
The first time we met in person I had been holding my breath. Because messages, email and text, and even a phone call could be disarming, even inviting and exciting, but it only mattered if when we met if it carried through. Grand Central Terminal, a cold December day, Vanderbilt Hall, and–
Wow. I breathed out. I watched you breathe out. I was stunned, not so much by your beauty–even though you’re probably one of the prettiest people I’ve ever seen in real life–but by you, how you, how you you were. You had the expression on your face that probably mirrored mine and that’s when I knew that this was it. I don’t believe in soulmates or finding “the one” but if there was such a thing, a soulmate, a “one” to be found, I had found it.
I was sober, do you know that? I was stone-cold sober that night. This wasn’t the result of alcohol or pharma or narcotics. This was feeling something shift inside of me, like a dislocated bone sliding right back into place and all of a sudden everything feels right.
That first meeting, that first date, was magical. The second was whimsical and fun. Our third was random, unexpected, but peaceful. And our fourth, well, that never happened, now did it?
No, it didn’t. Because life, your life, crashed in, like a runaway train, like a helicopter falling from the sky, like a comet hitting the ocean and wrecking the seabed, and lifting the ocean up into a tsunami crashing down on an unprepared, low-lying, innocent city.
The morning of our fourth date I was anxious. Anxious because I hadn’t heard from you for more than two days, which was odd but not excessively odd but a little odd–and my antennas were up. The night before I had wanted to text you, I was a little buzzed but far from drunk, it was the holiday season of friends and coworkers, and I’d let myself be pulled away from thoughts of you and messages to you. I let myself be lulled.
Then the morning as I tooled around West Village with my best friend who was slightly irritated about my anxiousness and about you not responding to me, I knew something was up. Past hurts and letdowns seeped into my mind but I struggled to hold them at bay. I knew that we felt right so there had to be an explanation, yes?
It came just as I was about to part ways with my best friend. I was stung and upset, but then immediately worried for you after the story rolled out further. I was hurt that our date had to be postponed but I understood and I still, stupidly, thought it would be okay. I didn’t know that this was the warning shot across the bow. I didn’t have any inkling what the next four months would bring.
The end of this Grimm’s fairy tale was that we never went on that fourth date. We did meet up again, one or two more times, and talk and enjoy each other’s company–that part never went away because we were right for each other, fundamentally right–but the truth is that your eating disorder, and its other gremlins, had taken over. And I can’t hate or blame you for that; it’s life, shit happens and it will be a long time coming, if ever, that you disentangle yourself.
There are only these truths that remain: timing is everything, logic has never truly won the battle, love doesn’t conquer all, and I will miss you, even if it’s in the tiniest of ways, for the rest of the days of my life.
You come to me, O, you come to me always in my showers, when the heat has made my conscious mind weak and lifted the veil between reality and fantasy, between this life and the life to come, and you have been woven, permanently, into my being. I will never wash myself clean of you.
I will never even try.