The first months after you, I started collecting receipts. Come to think of it, it may have started at the airport, with the credit I bought just to say goodbye again and again as if I could learn to do it that way. I kept the receipt to remember that day, because I always thought I would come back. So on every receipt I drew a circle around the date, maybe for the same reason people leave tracks in the forest. They can always go back home, whether they remember the way or not.
I held your large hands with one of mine and the other covered my eyes while you took out my tracks one by one. It took me a while to think that maybe I was never angry at myself for letting you do that. I was angry with you for turning me into the kind of person who would let you.
I never blamed you for leaving. I forgive you, still, for wanting to leave and for your willingness to forget me in a blink. I forgive you for the day you chose me over her (but never told me) and I forgive you for the day we became friends, when you made a promise to yourself that you would always protect me.
You inspired a lot of badly written poetry, not because I broke my heart but because I didn’t. Not because I loved you but because you were my friend. Friends forgive friends.
Your every wish compelled me. Your forbiddenness lured me. I lived in a vortex of 3AM closing coffee shops, staring like you felt the same things I did and stepping forward telling me you weren’t ready to leave. I forgive you for looking at me the way you did, I forgive you for making the streets behind you slow down and the city lights all around us fade to gold, persimmon, an undiscovered shade of white.
I forgive you for calling me iridescent.
You never made me feel like I was first, yet you had me thinking that 2AM New York street was my doing. Your friends cared more than you ever did and I forgive them too. I wonder if you knew how different things would have been if anyone had looked me in the eye for a second. They knew so well what was going on, and you were just another boy with large hands erasing my way home while I covered my eyes.
I don’t know if I managed to remember home, or if I found a new one.
But I remember something of home, some more sins, some more graveyards, some more missing apologies. I remember white lies, twisting my mind like a boy scout’s rope, repeating to myself, “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter.” I remember pretty girls’ names. I remember justifications. I remember my insecurities rising like a constant high tide, tossing me inwards like a misled ocean wave, telling myself I was crazy when I should have been telling myself I deserved a quiet mind.
It still matters; I forgive you. I still see their faces; I forgive you. I am still drowning, I am still crazy, I still deserve a quiet mind, I forgive you.
I never did learn how to say goodbye. All those encircled dates never did lead me home.
I have ripped my skin off my hands and rearranged my ribs to forgive you. But the moon will set itself on fire before I forget all the apologies I never got.
Prompted — or more accurately, triggered — by this image.