by: Todd Andrew Clayton
When you miss someone who lives in a different state, someone whose phone has a foreign area code and whose city’s weather you check every morning when you wake up, someone you’re learning to love but you can’t say love yet so you say, “really, really like,” and, “think the world of,” and, “more than I’ve ever liked someone before,” someone who stumbled into your life by surprise, the missing can be particularly pernicious. It pries open your fingernails and crawls underneath, swimming just below your skin and settling like cement in your heart.
You spend all day trying not to think about it — about what his breath feels like on the back of your neck while you’re sleeping, about how his eyes wrinkle when they laugh, about how his hands were sore from holding yours for so long, about that dinner, about Owen Street and the night you spent there, about how you smiled when your laundry was all mixed up, about not caring whose clothes were whose, about the way he sang in the car, about the time he stood behind you in line, snuck his hands around your waist, and locked his chin over your shoulder, about how it belonged there, about the conversations, and the silence, and how they were both just as full, about, about, about. You busy yourself to forget, at least for now because the remembering hurts like woah. You write. You cook. You travel. You laugh even when you don’t feel like laughing. You run. You say yes when your friend asks you to go to the mall after work.
And then Brandon Flowers comes on while you’re standing in H&M — the song he sent you months ago — and, like an army of guerrilla warriors hell bent on foiling your resolve, the missing invades your consciousness, secures its flag in your otherwise preoccupied mind, and holds you hostage. A neon-green V-neck in hand, you steel away to the accessories section so no one else sees when your eyes start to warm. You cry next to the goddamn jewelry display, the one with the feather necklaces and owl rings, and curse the radio for reminding you of what you were trying so desperately to ignore: that you wish he were there to eat the rest of your pretzel because you’re full and don’t want to just throw it away, that you wish he were close enough to hold. You resent the people that rolled their eyes and told you this would be hard.
When you miss someone who lives in a different state, you fall asleep holding pillows and learn to decipher the cracks and catches in his voice — the ones that tell you he really cares — because you can’t always see his eyes when you talk. You learn to trust him. More than anything, you remember that he’s worth it — worth the mental gymnastics, worth the handwritten letters, worth the waiting ‘til next time.
“Sleep soundly,” you’ll say every night, “and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
Note: This piece originally appeared on Thought Catalog and was republished with permission. You can read the original here.
Todd Andrew Clayton wishes he were good at soccer. He lives in San Diego & writes at coffee shops & in his living room. Someday, he hopes that he can write & get paid for it. Until then, he’s going to grad school. He likes Thai food & wants to go to Ireland before he dies.