I think admiration is dangerous.
The thought first came to life on a bench in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn. My lips on a cigarette that I had no use for anymore. Holding on to the worst part of someone somehow felt better than letting them go. Pores of people all around me soaked up the sorrowful smoke, sounds around me shrunk into tiny echoes, and I was alone, and no beautiful fog hazed memory could change that.
Trying to condition myself into a realization that it was the unanticipated end of an era had only worked so well. My heart still hadn’t forgotten the rush and pull I felt when his hand first dropped a cigarette in mine. Untouched beauty and tragedy rolled into a gesture. Moments like those, I lived for.
I never once craved the feeling of a smoke. The only thing I ached for was an attempt to substitute him with the feeling he gave me. It was a sappy thing but it made sense then. Hoarding his habit in hopes he’d remember me with every puff, the way I remembered him.
I still wonder: at what point is there nothing left except for the nostalgia I create for myself? In my phone I store a keepsake list of crushes and songs that remind me of them. I listen and lust over my missed connections, losing hope every bit of the way. Ultimately, there’s no reason for it, but it’s easy to prefer the past over the present. Getting tangled up in our dead and buried romances and our happy-go-lucky reminiscences only creates pseudo happiness; momentary joy followed by hours of brooding.
But still, knowing this, there I was, on a pier with my friends, Marlboro Lights in between our fingers, pain in my chest. Guilty, I felt guilty. This wasn’t what I wanted for any of us. Had I known earlier that it was easier to become addicted to the “once upon a time”s than to the actual nicotine, I would have never confused the two; never let the blueness of his eyes imply the blackening of my lungs. Had I been wounding one part of myself to numb the aching of another?
Once again in isolation I stared out onto the water, feeling nothing but a slash across my chest with every plucked guitar slide in my earbuds.The cigarette reminded me of one missed connection while “Sarah” by Ween blasting in my ears made me miss another boy from time ago. I wanted to be back In that car, back in his arms, back in any of their arms.
All I had to do to bring myself back to where I’d once been, was scroll through my playlists and play the melancholy melodies of the month that I was missing. This time it was August. Ah, yes… August: I’d almost forgotten the outward rush of hot air from every grate in New York City. The heat that matched my momentary warmth when I heard him speak my name for the first time. Something typically ordinary felt so personal. And by the end of summer, my body really had melted. I felt my heart drip onto my stomach and my lungs collapse into my thighs. Melodramatic – I definitely was, but in all fairness, a thing is only brought to remembrance when it is called to remembrance. And recollection was to me, what Heroine was to Lou Reed (or to any heroine addict, perhaps).
All things must come to an end though; good things, bad things, all things. A year of continuous heartbreak and I hadn’t cried once, till this moment. With no time to dream it was over, I hadn’t realized just how over it all was. Playing tricks on my body so I wouldn’t feel the impact of being left on my lonesome in the midst of every moment of happiness I’d found, was completely deleterious.
No wonder I couldn’t stop living in the past, I hadn’t processed the dead beat-ness of every missed connection I’d made. But to me those past connections weren’t considered missed yet; there was still hope.
I thought that If the hope hadn’t been lost on my part, then the other person always had the opportunity to rejoin me and start up where we had left off. My transient weakness was something I felt I had to be embarrassed about, but really this was the strongest I had been all year. Letting myself feel was not weak, but overindulging in practices that were imprisoning me, was. The more I sobbed on the stairs of my home, the more I realized It wasn’t just that one boy who caused this inner deterioration, nor was it all the other people that let me down and let me go in earlier years, It was myself. I hadn’t let myself feel, breathe, and accept my present boy-less state. No, I couldn’t get him back. No, I didn’t have to hold on to his bad habit. Yes, I would have to deal with it. I had pent up my hurt in playlists, cigarette smoke, and daily sulks.
But truth be told: hurt is almost impossible to mask. That night, I let go of all of it; the sweet smell of last summer, the way I felt as tall as him when we laid side by side, the way he called me beautiful; not cute. I knew I couldn’t erase my past, but I certainly would not be trying to relive it anymore.
The smoke cleared out and finally, I could see his evanescence; how it always lingered behind all of his inimitable whim-whams and seemingly candid words. I woke up one day and every moment was a fleeting moment; every seed once planted was now a daisy, dried up and defunct. The only thing remaining was the memory; my memory.
But still, I knew… if the next boy’s stare was gripping enough, I would gladly suffer through it all again.
Photo by Lucy Welsh.