He used to play songs for me in the car. Ones that he had heard and liked, and wanted me to like, too. His left hand on the steering wheel and right hand playing the drums softly on my leg. His lips singing along, veins in his neck straining when it got to the chorus. Then laugh at himself.
He’d lay his head in my lap and I’d comb my hand through his hair. It was the only time he’d let me ruin his style without getting mad. Then I’d rest my hand on his face, cupping his chin. Sounds weird, I know, but it was relaxing. If I moved, he’d grab my wrist and put my hand back. So I know he liked it.
He once told me that the best version of me me singing in the car. Some Ed Sheeran song was playing, stereo all the way up. In between changing lanes I was wiggling my butt best as I could in the seat, arms flailing, trying (and desperately failing) to hit every note. He looked at me in awe. Like I was something new he was seeing for the first time, and said “This is my favorite version of you.”
He was the only one I told about that stupid boy in college. How the boy told me I was boring and that’s why we would never work. He’s the only one, to this day, that knows how that word triggers me, years later. A stupid comment from a stupid boy that I never loved, that I couldn’t care less about what he thinks of me now. But I was a different person years ago, and I did care, then. It’s one of the scars that I was never able to erase.
His eyes were the only thing that ever betrayed him. He wasn’t good with emotion, showing it or talking about it. But his eyes always told of the secrets he held in. That’s the only reason I know it wasn’t all a dream, because I can see the hurt in your eyes now. The hurt that no one warned you that I was going to be here.
When the time is right, I give you a hug and smile hello. I can tell by your “hello” that I’m the last person you want to be talking to in this room. So I go.
But I can’t help but think it’s kind of crazy. That a year ago, your hand in my back pocket felt as familiar as home. And now I wonder if you come up behind her and slide your hands down her hips as she’s doing the dishes… or if that was something you only did for me. I can’t help but wonder if she falls asleep on your chest like I did countless times, or if when you wake up in the morning you kiss her forehead, too.
Now I have no idea what the inside of your new apartment looks like. I don’t know how your mom’s doing, or if your sister had a good freshman year. I don’t know how you met her, or if you’ve said the “I love you”s yet.
I don’t know if you’ve gotten over me, or if you’re just pretending. I don’t know if you’ve cursed my name to all your friends, or if you think of me as a happy memory. Or both. I don’t know if I’ll ever find out.
But I do know that you’re not ready to talk to me.
Guess I’ll see you around, stranger.