I think I might love you. Sorry.
I didn’t think so until last week. It was Friday. I was driving up I-87. I hadn’t thought of you all day, all week. The trees lining the highway had lost their leaves already. The sun wasn’t participating that day. We decided to turn into Harriman State Park, because we woke up late. Instead of being on a mountain to watch the sunrise, we were in the car, on the Garden State Parkway. Passing through Clifton, New Jersey.
I decided a few weeks ago that I needed to get out of here. I knew I couldn’t go to Vietnam, like I wanted, but I knew I needed to get out. I thought Cristina and Heidi might want to come, and they did. We said we’d go North. We didn’t know what else.
I drove, naturally. Not only am I the default driver, literally and in whatever other sense, but I’m also the only one of the three who can drive stick. We left at 6 on Friday morning. We wanted to make it somewhere by sunrise, but like I said, it was a failed venture. Snooze will be the end of us all.
We had just passed into New York from New Jersey. Neon Bible was playing, because it was the appropriate amount of epic. We picked a random forest-y looking exit and we watched the red and orange blur by. The back of the truck driving ahead reassured us: “SECURE ECO SHRED: COMPLETE DOCUMENT DESTRUCTION.” I was annoyed until I realized it was kicking up the yellow carpet of leaves in such a way that I felt constantly tickled in the wake of the truck. We wound blindly up, down Bear Mountain. This way, that way.
I thought of that weekend that summer that year. You remember, right? You were there. We were on that island. And we had just met. I was sitting behind you on the motorbike we rented from the hotel manager. His friend loaned it to us for 100,000 VND. It was monsoon season, and we were wearing those ridiculous ponchos. You were wearing mine. It was green.
We had just met, and we were trapped for hours on that motorbike together, Jon on his own bike somewhere behind us, nowhere to be found. We were two little people on a little island, and the huge world was hurling a rainstorm in our faces as we raced up, down, this way, that way. We didn’t know much about what was going on, and I kept thinking I knew where we were. It was August in Vietnam, and everything was perfect. I didn’t even know you.
We kissed that night, and I don’t know why.
As we numbed out to Win Butler’s haunting voice, and the road was skipping by outside, I couldn’t help thinking about that night. Even though I said I wouldn’t anymore, for all the usual reasons: It’s too hard, you’re too far, I’m here. She loves you, you’re there, you love her now. Maybe it was all just for fun. I’m the one who left, but you’re the one who feels gone. You’re still there in the Escapist East, and I have to live in the Wanton West, and I feel stuck stuck stuck stuck, and you get to do whatever you want, and you get to do it with her. And you love her, and I know that, and I never loved you, and I have no claim to your attention. And plus it was all just for fun.
I needed to get out of there, and I did. We drove up through New York to the Adirondacks. You were the last thing on my mind. The road stretched endlessly in front of us. The clouds built a horrible canopy, and I couldn’t see what I had come to see, but I didn’t care. The three of us were together, each caught in our own bright yellow morose cloudy horrible wonderful destructive surges of romance and terror, eyes straight ahead and unmoving. For a while there was nothing to see except for the scraggly trees, all the same brown. I told Cristina and Heidi what I was thinking, about you and the island, and they understood even though they couldn’t really. But that’s because they’re them. I wish more people could understand me the way they do, that intuitive almost animalistic feeling that comes from years of being girl friends, like a dog and his master, except we’re each other’s dogs, and there is no master.
I know I don’t love you. You live 9,000 miles away. You’re almost ten years older than I am, and you’re still a kid. You lie, and you’re selfish. You hate guitars, and you don’t read the right books, you can’t dress, you’re a bad kisser. I could never take you anywhere in civilized society. And you’re with her now. And I know I know I know it was just for fun. I don’t love you, I love that moment we flew down that mountain on that island on that day. There’s nothing to save, and I know that, and now when I think about you I try hard not to. I know that over there oceans away it’s not me that you’re thinking of.
It’s obvious that it wasn’t meant to be real. It was meant to be one well-preserved, beautiful, eternal moment, like a piece of art that you can put on your mantle and think of warmly and fondly after too much wine. You can pick it up, turn it over in your hands, muse over the craftsmanship, and then put it back when you’re done. Instead it was seven months of obsession and anxiety and games with the highest stakes. Now it’s the dullness of a heartache that from far away feels empty and meatless, but on some mornings, on mornings like that one, like this one, it’s a fresh wound.
It was all a dream.