Go on, Changed but Free
She told you that being watched bothered her. You were on a bench underneath trees and surrounded by manicured grass. That was the first time you noticed the freckles on her olive skin and it’s one of your clearest memories. You sat there and listened to her accent melting the ends of words together, and watched people going into the church down the street.
It might be time to go back and find her. To decide if you should book that plane ticket, walk around the city gathering up nostalgic moments, those flints that spark your memories of her. Walk into a Starbucks and remember her, sitting on the lip of the porcelain sink and smoking with you in the bathroom. She laughed, This is decadence, and the smoke wound around her hair.
Ignore the aching this brings you. Where did this sentimentality come from? She took your reticence and now you’re talking to yourself like this, chasing something from before your kiss goodbye (soft lips and a coffee smell) at Gate B22.
Watch the sunrise, and see the morning light stirring you both out of bed when she said how perfect it would be not to have anything weighing her down. Smile at how ironic it is that you complained as she put a cigarette in her mouth. Attachment costs you something: agency or a piece of yourself.
Imagine if she could see you now, wandering around the city thinking, stretching yourself towards her. Chased constantly by these echoes. Ask what you’re really looking for, but only for a second. Go back to how she pried you open, silhouetted against the window by moonlight before leaning forward; here’s the white aura around her before the kiss. She said, Nothing is real without somebody’s eyes on you, burning and hungry.
Meet somebody with wavy brown hair. Think back to watching the sun glint off her sunglasses when you compared her to a forest fire. Watch her turn a ring around on her finger in the light, see how she looks away. Don’t write a poem about me, she said. Maybe a story, if I am faceless and free.
Walk through a museum to remind yourself of the way people looked at the two of you. Climb the stairs to the next exhibit and here it is: how she kissed you in a staircase between eggshell white walls and worn out pot lights, and later when she told you that people looked through her, saw something that wasn’t there. They build something around me that I’m not, they scaffold and create me for themselves.
Smell somebody else smoking in the street and breathe deeply. Watch them turn around the corner and feel the winter air scratch your face, then walk into a corner store all alone. If these whispers of her mean nothing to you, book the ticket quickly. When you stretch yourself and picture her, feel like you’ve glanced off her skin and missed something. Stand still in the store for a minute alone so you can check if these echoes still resound. This is reverence.
But a word of caution, in case your thoughts always return to what she didn’t tell you. If you’re wondering who lights her cigarettes now, laughing and a little high, or if you worry what you meant to her, daydreaming about who she walks through empty churches with, I would suggest staying put.