When I saw you again it was suddenly and exactly as I feared or hoped, which is to say it was exactly the same.
You walked into the room you’d walked in the year before and we sat close pretending we always sit close, and we went to dinner with mutual friends pretending we always go to dinner with mutual friends, and our friends tried to pretend I would not be going home with you until it became ridiculous.
At the holiday party the entire city’s enthusiasm kept coming between us. I was just waiting for everyone to leave. I didn’t care that the year was dying, I didn’t worry that I was leaving anything behind.
Because all of my grand gestures were neurons train hopping on thoughts of you, you couldn’t see them from the other side of my skull or country.
And I didn’t blame you because no one is a mind reader, I hear.
And we all get busy.
And you got very busy.
It became hard not to imagine, in heartbreaking detail, that busy was somebody who moved you from one all-consuming task to the next. From the bed to the floor. From the specific taste of their body to the books they inspired you to write.
Soon, between the flights I took in my mind to your room and the ways I held you in my mouth and the monuments you built to our hours together in your living room, there was this someone else, who would occasionally step out of my own fantasies of you to remind me how far away I really was.
During long periods of silence I convinced myself that nothing had transpired between us. That my willingness to undo my life at your feet was ordinary.
What we were calling “inevitable” turned out to be debilitating sadness.
Alone in bed I’d say, “I’m dying” over and over again. But nothing happened. My cells regenerated at the same rate. I refreshed my empty email inbox. I was dying while making breakfast and that turned into dying while washing dishes which turned into dying in the shower and then dying in the bed again and then later, over a glass of juice. I was dying on the floor. I was dying while listening to sad music on headphones. I was dying while looking at personal ads on Craigslist. I was dying while watching videos of sleepy kittens on youtube. I was dying while watching two women taste each other on a different website with a similar name. I was dying while making popcorn for dinner and sending smiley face text messages to friends and Liking things on Facebook. I was dying while looking at the ceiling and then the wall and back at the ceiling again. I was dying and wishing I would just die.
No one could see it, but I was very busy. I was dying all the time.
I couldn’t help but notice that you were probably not in love.
Not with me, anyway. Which is not to say I would have promised I was. Not yet, anyway.
But I was noticing both the lack of you and the prevalence of mosquitoes in the yard and it felt like being alone at a party. Like watching my phone as if I had friends on the way. But I was just pretending to nature that you’d show up.
Tatiana Ryckman was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the author of two chapbooks of prose, Twenty-Something and VHS and Why it’s Hard to Live. These linked vignettes are an excerpt from I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do), a novella forthcoming from Future Tense Books.