I don’t like how time takes me farther away from you. It’s not the space, it’s the time, the number of days that pass since I’ve woken up beside you, making me feel like you’re moving farther and farther away. It's after midnight and I'm lying awake in a hotel room bed next to my sister and this is the only thing I can think. It didn’t matter when you left to go home to Chicago for the holidays and I stayed to wait for my family to pick me up. You weren’t far away when you left. You only got that way later.
It’s only been two days since I saw you but I miss lying next to you, your warmth, and the safe, solid way that you smell. My sister stuffed a pillow between us so my legs don’t accidentally touch her. She is sleeping right there next to me, and my mother is in another bed a few feet away, but I feel not so much alone as unmoored. This bed is wide and strange.
There’s something about time, when you have too much of it, that makes you start to lose a sense of who you are, of what you’re supposed to be doing. Unmoored. Every day that passes feels a little different, a little off in a new way and I can’t help but think, selfishly, that I don’t like it when the days pass and you’re not here. I was the one who chose for this to happen. I chose to leave this semester. I don’t remember why. I remind myself constantly I love traveling, that studying abroad is important to me. It is. But I didn’t know I would be so scared. And I didn’t know that I would meet you.
If you were here, I wouldn’t have to think about anything, I wouldn’t have to worry about everything. I wouldn’t be wondering what I’m doing with my life. I feel like I’m doing nothing—but if I were doing it with you I know I wouldn’t even notice. I’m nervous, I’m scared, I can feel my skin itching from how anxious I am all the time. I remember how when you held me close to you, that feeling would drain away. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to travel. Nope. I’m done. I just want to go home, and even though I am at home, in my childhood bedroom, home means Philadelphia and Philadelphia means you.
I make a list of the things you like, so that when I come back next fall, if you still like me and I still like you, I won’t have to learn them again. I’ll just know. Your favorite foods, your favorite kinds of movies, your favorite animal. The kind of music you listen to when you need to focus. Your bubble tea order. At the end of the list, I write my name. You like me. As time passes and I don’t hear from you, it makes me feel good to see my name there on the list.
I try to busy myself with other things. I read a lot. I go out with my friends. I try to avoid planning to leave. I don’t really want to think about it. I think about you a lot. It has been a while since I’ve heard from you.
I know that the person I spend time with in my mind now is no longer you, but an echo of you, a product of faded memories and half–remembered desires, almost entirely a construction of my own mind. I try to remember your smile and I can’t. You don’t look as beautiful in photos as you are in real life, but I find a picture showing your eyes better than the ones I had been looking at and I am caught off guard, instantly recognizing it as truer than my image. I ask you to call me, just once, before you leave. You respond like no time has passed. A lot of time has passed.
I have to leave. I am leaving. I’m getting on a plane and I am going far away. I’m going to Morocco. I’ll be there a long time. When I finally call you, and you ask me, "Where will you be this summer?" I understand what you’re asking. Not where, but when. I don’t know when I’ll see you. Or who I’ll be then. Time passes. I don’t know. I’ll see you in August, I suppose. Or September. Maybe, if you still like me and I still like you. I remember the song you used to sing to tease me when we were about to fall asleep.