Your Save-The-Date arrived just the other day. I stood there in the rain on my front porch step, soaking in the matching smiles dawned by you and your future bride in the photograph on the back. You’re both barefoot on a stony beach along the North Shore; that was always your safe haven, I remember you would say.
This was the way it was supposed to be.
And I don’t love you like that anymore; I haven’t in many moons. But the irony of how far we’ve come from our days spent tangled up together in your twin bed back at school to the present is not lost on me. I feel it all quite clearly as I tape the pre-invitation to my refrigerator door.
‘Life comes full circle’, they say. In moments like these, if you really pay attention, you can feel it happening to you and believe it to be true.
It’s in this little snippet of time that I’m reminded suddenly of who I used to be and who I am today; I’m reminded you may have had a thing or two to do with all that, too. And I smile now – and decide it’s quite nice to be able to – when I think back on all my stupid times with you.
And once upon a time we meant something to one another – though only in a fleeting way – in just the same fashion as most young love stories start and later come to be. Forgive me, then, for staring now at your photograph with her, arms wrapped around the other, and not being able to help but think of us ten years ago. See, I can’t help but wonder what love must have felt like back then before it was meant to feel so final; back then when it was just you and me, staying up ‘til five and sleeping in ‘til three; back then when worries were still far from reach and no one was thinking of holy matrimony.
And I still feel you in the air sometimes, and always on rare days like today. It comes in a wave so strong that I can nearly taste the cheap boxed wine we thought made us fancy to sip on. I can still hear the footsteps outside your door when we’d get to kissing under the blankets. Even after all the places now this world has led me to, I’ll admit one favorite will always be that old rickety bed in Hunter’s Ridge, lying next to you.
And if I close my eyes I can still see the quarters scattered on the bedroom floor; I can still smell the fabric softener you’d mistaken for detergent most of sophomore year. I can still hear us laughing about it, too.
We would fight, then forget what we’d said in anger and carry on ‘til Monday when you’d call to say you’d lost your keys again. I’d drive you to class and pretend to be pissed, but we both knew I’d have traveled seventeen states away on any day if you’d have asked me to.
We pulled at each other’s heartstrings back then, though it was you who’d broken my heart in half by the end. Time healed it but left a wound (just as all our lost lovers do) that even you could not repair. And years later in Boston when you asked if we still had a chance, I’d responded that I could not go there again.
I just couldn’t anymore. We were done, you and me (as lovers, at least).
All that said, it’s this Save-The-Date that now decorates my refrigerator door that takes me back to the beginnings of the past. It’s this Save-The-Date that offers up the proof that our friendship prevailed through all our self-inflicted drama. I decide we’re quite lucky, you and I.
And I don’t miss you like that anymore; I haven’t in many moons. We aren’t who we used to be; time and life and travels and people have changed us in a decade; perhaps for better but also for worse.
And so it goes.
Yet still I cringe – because it remains to be my nature to harp on the things I cannot change – when I remember how crazy you found a way to make me. I suppose I haven’t quite forgiven myself for that just yet; I suppose I still can’t look your mother in the eye without remembering the night I spent sobbing one bedroom wall away from her into your pillow case. Only you could ever get to me like that. But that’s all behind us now, I know.
That’s all from college.
Despite all this – despite the years that will continue to stretch between – long after you’ve gone and gotten married (and perhaps me too one day) there will still be those speckled moments where we’ll catch the other’s eye across a bonfire at Beach Week. You’ll still mutter some private joke that takes us back to a secret place in time. And amidst the crowd we’ll both know what all the others don’t; they never could and wouldn’t care if they did. But both our hearts will feel warmly nostalgic for those few seconds. This I am sure of; this will not fade.
Though hard to put to words, there’s a distinct difference between still loving a memory and still loving the one you made it with. And I can stand here now and say with confidence I still love all our memories; still love to revisit them on rare days like today. I can love them without loving you anymore.
You’re just a friend now; a face in the crowd that reminds me of a million little things. You’re just a friend whose wedding I’ll soon attend, only as important a figure as the two hundred others on that day. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s fine and good and that’s okay.
But you’ll always be that one to me: that kid from college that turned my world from left to right and upside down; the one who made me fall in love with Bob Dylan and Bailey’s and Boston accents. And whenever I hear Tangle Up in Blue, I suppose I’ll never not think of you.
I decide I’ll never not smile about that, too.