By Hedayat Reda
“Start from the pain” they often tell you when you’re stuck. Just put words on paper and it will come. I’ve tried to tell this story a lot of different ways and have yet to succeed at finding a way that works. For some reason every time I click on a button to put words on a page the ink melts. Whatever was there becomes out of focus, like you’re looking at the words through a cracked magnifying glass. I reach into the recesses of my mind and wonder if this would work better with real ink. If turning the ethereal into the physical would somehow solidify the non-solid. If that’s where I could start. At about this time I begin to wonder what your version of the story is. If it’s somehow more corporeal than mine. If it’s told in first person or in third person. If it includes as many almost fairytale-like moments as mine does. If it ends abruptly or leaves some room for wiggle. I wonder if we were two passengers boarding the same ship or if I was on some kind of special rocket, you know— the kind that reaches the moon really fast. They say that one-sided love doesn’t really exist. In order to feel love, it must be reciprocated. I say that those who believe that have never felt it. Love is one of those things you can’t describe until you’ve been through it and even then, all the metaphors in the world fall short of the real thing. I seem to remember a time in which we didn’t know each other. A time in which I wasn’t constantly checking my phone or waiting to bring your name up in conversation. Without falling into cliché, I long for that time. For that me. The transformation happened really fast. One day you weren’t there and then suddenly you were. It’s unbelievable that such a pace could birth the stillness that characterized my time with you. And yet I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I wish we had started differently. Single, for one. Attentive, for two. I wish your name wasn’t already fused to mine in my head and we could laugh at our mutual propensity for gin instead of bond over it. I wish for clarity instead of comfort. I wish for slowness. I wish I had really taken in the details instead of letting you do the guiding. I wish time had been on our side. Or, barring that, I wish for a lack of sides. I wonder if you have graduated yet or if you’re still slaving over the books. I remember the first time you raved to me about your hopes and dreams. I remember noting that yours were singular and mine were plural. That still gets to me. My best friend really hates you. Every time I mention you she says k*ssomo (fuck him). It’s become almost a gut reaction of hers. I would be a lot funnier if it wasn’t true. Remember that time we went swimming at sunset? You were half-drunk and kept trying to make me touch your feet. I thought then that this was the beginning of something new (boy was I wrong). I now flinch every time I hear that accented lilt you had in your vowels. I would never admit this out loud, but sometimes, I elongate my own vowels just to feel a bit closer to you. The thing I miss the most is that freckle on your neck. If I got a do-over I would spend all my time kissing it and inhaling your scent there. I wonder if she’s noticed it yet. It pains me to think you might be touching her ankles the same way you touched mine. I saved a playlist with your name on it. Now every time I hear Anderson Paak, it takes me back to that first time with you. I wish I could take my gifts back. It’s petty and stupid but I hate that you still have a physical part of me. In an ideal universe I’d sever the tie clean. But then, what would happen to you? You would never understand why I feel the need to put these thoughts down. For you, silence always reigned supreme. It took me a long time to realize, but that was your particular brand of selfishness. Your assertion of control. I’d like to say that I regret meeting you. My life would have been much richer without your tendency to ghost. Unfortunately, I don’t. That’s another thing about love. Even if it sucks, you’re happier to have experienced it than not. There are probably a hundred different ways this could have ended. You could have manned up and told me the truth. I could have gone out on a limb and confessed. We both could have worked through it. I don’t know what it was about us, but for some reason it never worked. It was a bit like Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday to the president. Beautiful, but unoriginal. Sometimes I wonder if you still think of me. And if so, I wonder if it’s in present tense or past tense. More than anything though I still think about that time we almost made love. How fast we shed our clothing. How luminescent you looked in the moonlight, the smooth R&B playing on the speakers. How your eyes said all the words you could never say to me.
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Hedayat is an Egyptian experimental writer who dabbles in different genres and styles. She uses writing as a way to figure out the world and give voice to the voiceless. Hedayat is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at City College. Her work has been published in 433 online magazine, Promethean Literary Journal, and on the Womena website. Hedayat lives in Egypt with her family and dog.