There are these moments in life where your mental guard slips for just a moment, and you think something you immediately regret. Much as I know that no one else is listening to my inner commentary, I still feel guilty when my mind comes up with “Chivalry isn’t dead bitch, do not fight me for that spot” while eyeing an empty seat on the subway at the same time as someone else, or “Is she aware of what she looks like in a crop top?” while wandering around the Heights. This usually happens when I’m tired, or annoyed, or some combination of the two; the concrete wall that keeps negative thoughts at bay falls down for just a second, just enough for the words to slide through. Sometimes the thoughts are a little funny, frequently they’re a lot offensive, but most of the time I forget eventually that such a thought crossed my mind, and I move on, no harm. Sometimes, though, something crosses my mind when I’m least expecting it, when I’m really happy or really content, and all of a sudden the mental guard slips and I’m stuck with a thought that isn’t offensive, or funny, and it stays with me, stays far past its welcome and far past the time I want to devote to that feeling.
It was one of the rare times when we were all together, all seven of us, and it was perfect. I watched the way they talked about the future with a carefree ease, next week, next month, next year. How they’d smile at each other when everyone was looking and how that smile changed when the others were turned. We were all running around mad with details, colors, styles, dates, locations, and they were smiling, completely relaxed, like it was the most natural thing in the world to be so calm and ready, while the rest of us couldn’t stop for excitement. And in those moments, when they were talking like that and smiling like that, I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute as my heart skidded, because that was the split second the big wall around me crumbled, and I sighed and thought I want that.
And sometimes there are moments where we’re all together, just the three of us or all six of us, and it’s perfect. We’re all laughing and carefree attitude, enjoying this time in our lives for exactly what it is, celebrating anything with a glass of wine and a crazy night out. Sometimes in the midst of the crazy or in a quiet moment downtown, I’d turn and see him giving her this look, that look, and remember how new this all still is. She’d catch him staring sometimes, and return a secret smile or a wink, a brief shared moment for just them. And in those moments, when they shared that small yet infinitely powerful exchange, I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute as my heart faltered, because that was the split second the big wall around me crumbled, and I sighed and thought I want that.
It’s been a year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, since I stood up from his bed where I’d spent so many nights for the last time, tears streaking my face like a summer thunderstorm, unrelenting and messy and powerful. It’s been a year since I leaned in for the final kiss, a year since I said “I love you” and he just said “Okay” as I left his apartment for the very last time. Somewhere in this year I stopped playing the previous four over and over, somewhere I stopped wondering what he was doing all the time. Somewhere in here it stopped being so painful to see his name in my gchat, on social media, and somewhere in here I stopped hoping to run into him each time I’d find myself by that apartment. It’s been a year, 12 months, 365 days, since starting life on my own, really on my own, for the first time, and it’s been the craziest year of my life. And today, as I felt myself falling into memories and a sweet nostalgia of that time, and that LB, I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute as my heart clenched, because in that split second the big wall around me crumbled, and I sighed and thought I miss that.
I wouldn’t change anything about the past year, the roller coaster of learning experiences and PLDs, and I wouldn’t change anything from that day, 365 days ago, 52 weeks ago, 12 months ago, a year ago, because I’m not that person anymore and I’m sure he’s not either. I wouldn’t change anything about my life right now, wouldn’t give up the nights alone with little miss and a bottle of wine, wouldn’t trade weekend yoga and a run in the park for those mornings snuggling on the couch, watching The Sopranos and reciting along, fat with bagels from the same place and a comfortable love. But I couldn’t stop that thought from entering my head, couldn’t stop looking at the Maybes and I Wonders, and for a minute I let that thought seep into every single memory from the past year, blurring the edges with a powerful image of how different things could have been. It’s in these moments, with these thoughts, that I have to steel myself to raise the mental gates again, lest the split second of weakness force the whole foundation to fall.
But as that forbidden thought crept uninvited into my head, I felt my phone buzz with a funny message from my lovely friend M, the only other person awake this early on a Saturday, and I smiled, wide, the kind of smile attached to memories of spontaneous trips and nights out that turn into mornings. And all of a sudden I was overcome with how much really has changed in such a short period of time, in just 365 days, 52 weeks, 12 months, a year. I’m so curious about what another year will bring in this life I’ve been building since I had to learn how to schedule around my time and not somebody else’s. And as I started to think about the upcoming year of weddings and surprises, of trips, concerts and all of the PLDs, I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute as my heart swelled, because in that split second I forgot I built a wall around me one year ago, and I sighed and thought I’m good.