I don’t remember when we said goodbye, or if we ever did. The last memory is of us in that apartment, the one above the coffee place and that kitschy junk store that never seemed to be open. Sometimes we’d stand out on the fire escape above that ever-closed junk store. It was rickety, the kind you see in movies set in New York, in the seventies. We’d share a cigarette. You didn’t smoke, but I still did. Some nights you’d pretend to, holding your hand out for a drag, taking it gently, with intent, as if it were something to seduce. Like you’d seduced me. Slowly, on a rickety fire escape, at night.
We never went out there in the light of day. Never when the sun was still visible up in the sky.
Instead, we’d hideaway inside with your three cats and ever-burning incense. The curtains would close us into a forever feeling of twilight. I’d sit cross-legged on the hardwood floor touching stacks of books, picking one after the other up to read the back, anything to hide my nervous, shaking hands.
I told you I’d met someone. Maybe I had by then. Funny to think on it now because even at the start of it all I was plagued with doubt, and at the end, I felt it drifting away. I still felt pulled to you. And yet, there I was, saying, or not saying, goodbye.
My words hurt you. I saw the blush paint across your face as if I’d slapped you, and maybe I had. I seemed to keep hurting you on purpose, though I was never quite sure why. Looking back now, I think I was afraid of what you meant to me, what you could have meant, and what you might have defined. I was too afraid to love you, yet too caught up to let you go.
Until that day of saying, and not saying, goodbye.
Was it you that finally let go? Maybe that’s how it happened. And hey, I can’t really blame you. You deserved so much more than I ever gave.
You reached out a few years back, across the ether, through those weird connective tissues we mistake for closeness – word counts, like, and re-purposed thoughts from everyone else but ourselves. I saw you there amongst all of it. Your eyes looked the same as they did then. Your crooked smile still made my insides tremble. Years had gone by and still, I’d felt so conflicted at the thought of you.
Even now, with the history behind us, it still seems so confusing.
You disappeared again quickly. You through a cord out, or something, and then reeled it right back in. Were you testing the waters? Was it by mistake? A late-night miscalculation, momentarily thinking there once was this girl…
If I’d responded. If I’d said something back. Would you have pretended it had never happened? Would it have been an act of futility had I said hello? Would you have responded at all? Would it have been the same? If not, would you have hurt me – this time – the way I once hurt you?
Was there another girl then, in your arms, in your bed, in every song you listened to? Did you pretend to smoke for her? Did you hide her away in all the places you once hid me?
A few years back I would have told you I still thought about you. That I still listened to all the songs we’d shared together. That I still had all the mix CD’s we’d made. I would have told you that some nights I closed my eyes and pretended that my hands were yours, and that the little midnight deaths were you inside of me. What would have done if I’d told you I hadn’t gotten over you, even though it was me that had done the leaving.
It was me, wasn’t it, that said the unsaid goodbye?
“The Death of You and Me” by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
from the album, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2011)
“Let’s run away together,
you and me,
forever we’d be free,
free to spend our whole lives running,
from people who would be,
the death of you and me.”
Re-written/re-worked writing. Originally written by me February 2015