Saw you at the back end of the train today, with two brown bags of vegetables bunched up on your knees. You kept trying to hold out these wobbly notes of an 80s tune that only you could hear. I couldn’t tell if you had earbuds in, or if you just felt like humming. Your eyes kept closing.
And I remembered that afternoon when we were late to Biochem III, and you tripped over a baobab root in the sidewalk. Every piece of paper in your binder went flying, because for some reason you couldn’t be bothered with rings or hole punching once you reached adulthood. Took us an hour to find half the stack, and by then class was over. So we both called in to say we had a flat tire, and beg forgiveness. (Dr. Cho was a bitch about skipping back then.) Come to think of it, that was the year you turned into this paragon of grad school dysfunction and started wearing the same disgusting pants all splotched with coffee stains for weeks on end.
We’d spend our nights sucking down yellow beer and writing half-buzzed reports, stumble into class the next morning strung out on caffeine pills. Piss away the afternoons shirtless and sweaty on your avocado couch.
And then you finished your dissertation, put on a suit, and walked away.
I know it’s childish, or girlish, or otherwise tiny and lame that I actually looked for you. Or worse, that I felt you owed me some sort of companionship, or at least an explanation for the way you moved on and lived your life, just fine, without me. It’s not like you loved me. I know that.
But I thought it meant more to you, to have me lying an inch away every time you woke up panting from another step-dad dream. I mean, who else did you tell? And god the lies we slapped together without even thinking! We could have been attorneys. Got us out of rent and dinner bills and that dry cleaning fiasco. Or did you ever stop to count the miles we racked up in your sister’s Chevy? Summer of ‘09 alone, we drove from Atlanta to Manitoba, just so you could find the soil samples Dr. Geller said she’d like to see. And when we brought it all back to her, she was so undone she cried and called us heroes. We were messed up magicians together. Even our fights were full of confetti. But you left, and the magic left me. That means it belonged to you, all along.
So I understand why you’re sitting there, five rows of seats away, with a lame-ass song in your head and not a hint of recognition. Because, yeah, we’re an ugly ratio. I can list every item in your grocery bags without a peek. To this day, I know. Endive, french peas, celery, nectarines, garlic… But I am so far off your list of wants and needs that you can’t even see that I’m here.
It’s okay. I’m okay. I moved on, too. I just want to hear you say my name again, as if you knew me.