Even when time spins onward, there is always part of me looking backwards.
This is my open secret. I skew towards melancholy and I love everything best when I’m looking at it the rearview. All writers—especially poets—have a disposition to romanticize the past and I am no exception, but my ego thinks I have 20/20 vision on the good, the great, and the gutting. When something ends, it still lives on in the theatre of my mind. I can replay a moment, a relationship, an era to no end. I leave behind pieces of myself like a stamp—and that’s what writing can be, a postmark or proof of existence.
I have been trying to let a friendship end for over a year. I want to put it down gently and let it float down the river Styx to a gentle death. But reason falls wayside when my stupid brain reminds me of a memory or a dozen: all the laughter and inside jokes and small ways we revealed ourselves to each other. There are thirteen reasons why we don’t work anymore, but they co-exist with the many more of why we once did.
Here is a question I have been pondering forever: when you leave someone, or someone leaves you, where do they keep the parts of you that you shared? Do we pack it with us until there’s somewhere safe to unload? I’m still holding the paper-thin remittances of a girl I haven’t spoken to since I was 16. Even now, I’ll see something or someone and I’ll think of her as the first.
I am fascinated by nostalgia because I am disenchanted in clean breaks. I have no interest in surgical removals of intimacy; I walk through this one, precious life hoping to be touched by another. I believe in massacres of the heart and the butchery of break ups because we are pack animals and grief is a ritual. I may not like it, but I have to let the body feel loss if it was once love.
It once took me three years to end a situationship because I kept thinking of the fragile softness from that very first time. My hubris has a habit of elongating its fingers to people gone pulling them back. I can’t let sleeping things lie. I have to unbury every emotion and let it die again and again and again. I never believe anyone when they say they are good at cutting people off, or maybe I am just envious. I want to shake them and ask how they can do it without it becoming a hackjob.
Maggie Nelson believed nostalgia was blue. Mine colors everything in a glossy iridescent shine—just sheer enough to warp the view. I reminiscent the most at 5:48pm, when the skies turn burnt orange and I think about how the sun is setting the same for all of us. I think about how 5,491 sunsets ago, we were still beautifully intact.
My nostalgia is funny, too. One of my top 5 artists is The Fray and I can only play mid-2000s hits when I’m driving. The beginning of this year, I reread all the Percy Jackson books. It’s hard to miss the past when I’m still lugging it around. I am Sisyphus and every time I think I am moving forward, I slip back down the hill all over again.
In a time when everything is therapized and we can all be more healed, better versions of ourselves, I have no intention of fixing this about myself. This extreme sentimentality is so inherent to me that I can’t fathom myself without it. Time is supposedly circular, so I might just be better at the returning.
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“Time is supposedly circular, so I might just be better at the returning.” Thank you, beautiful.