Yeah, I took a rather big bite of the pineapple, but I didn’t expect it to be so sour. My face contorted as I bit into the gooey yellow flesh, and the enzymes attacked my taste buds. It had been sitting on the counter for at least a week. Too early? Or likely too late. Diced so carefully, I considered it good practice as I ushered the perhaps–rotten fruit into the open mouth of the trash can.
Let me try to explain the situation, though it’s full of contradictions. It was spring again, and briefly, anything was possible. My return to Philadelphia a few months prior had been anything besides momentous, though in the absence of fanfare I found true love (which, for anyone wondering, often takes the forms of stability and safety). We practiced falling in and out of each other in my bedroom in the house where I lived on Baltimore Avenue. For a time, the world was so small that the acts of navigating it and creating it became one and the same. The seasons only changed when I was ready for them to. Devastation was no longer serving me, so I shed myself of all romantic expectations and everything I had once looked forward to.
Though I now know this to be impossible, I then knew how to make time stop, how to remove a space entirely from context and create meaning for every object within its perimeter. A January night on the phone with my mother, a picnic with a stranger one morning in May, and every moment in between are existing at the same time. I once tried to exist in all places at a single point in time, but maybe I got it wrong back then. This house holds onto so much of me and anyone else who’s ever uttered a word within its walls—and we never leave.
If there is something left for me to obsess over, it’s tracing tension across maps of people, lands, and bodies. The center is not always a place, but is just as tangible in every iteration. As I begin to forget the names of the months and what order they come in, I will consider turning this house into a home. It seems prudent, though unnecessary. I’ll buy fruits and eat them in a timely fashion. (Though I’ll give up on ever finding a good avocado in this city.) I’ll do all this without thinking about how long it’s been or what I have have yet to accomplish. Good practice.
No one told me that romance and devastation inevitably go hand in hand. Neither did anyone mention that love can exist without either of them. Instead of defining romance, let me describe a moment in its absence. Aalia stood against a plain white wall one night in February, and I’d never seen anything so beautiful. How effortless it is for me to fall in love with this image of her; I do it again and again.
These images are memories as objects, objects as memories. This infrastructure has no expiration date besides the end of reality itself, making it no less precious but so much more valuable. Jaden sits on our stoop holding a bouquet of baby’s breath. Even when I see her in July in New York, and she tells me about apartment hunting and starting salaries and the city’s complicated real estate market in the second year of the pandemic, she is still sitting on that stoop, clutching the bouquet.
In another universe I’ve vanished without a trace. It’s not a question of where I went, but of how I got there. Like a knot which finally comes undone, everyone who ever loved me is struggling with a profound loss (selfish of me to imagine this, I know). Old lovers and those who still hold onto pieces of me find each other and form an online support community that extends across political aisles and the limits of materiality. They attempt to reconstruct me, each one contributing pieces of me varying in size and significance, but no matter how they position the parts, the result is unsatisfying—which is to say there exists something beyond desire.
In its purest form, love is unattached and unbothered. Admittedly, I don’t know if that brings me more comfort or anxiety. What I do know is that loving is easy, but that it must be done over and over again. I reconstruct nights in my bedroom with all the people I love and practice retelling my secrets. Tension, tangible as ever, rests within floors and limbs; it makes its own language, a tongue that taught me to love and love and love unconditionally. It doesn’t mean anything, and it never will.
I often joke that the house is haunted or has a mind of its own; it takes and gives on its own terms just like the rest of us. Things go missing only to show up right when I need them. And yet, some go missing only to never be found again. What of the lives of lost things? The last person to sleep in this bedroom of mine, the ghost of the relationship captured in the hallway, the tilt of Ashna’s head as it leans against her arm, propped up against the edge of my bed. This image is evidence that some version of her is always there. The worst part of losing something is perhaps losing all its future versions, too. I, therefore, engage with futility as an attempt to immortalize a memory which hasn’t been formed yet.
And what of love? One day, the house on Baltimore Avenue will confess. One–night–stands and every trapped soul who was covered up with layers of paint and new carpet will lean in ever so slightly to hear what the house has to say. I doubt it’ll be earth–shattering, or if it’ll even be something that no one’s said before. (In fact, most things that are said in this house have been said before.) If it grants peace to even one soul in the world, will all the hoarding, the inability to let go—will it have been worth it? When the time is right, I will slice open some sweet, round, lovely thing. I’ll cut it down carefully and place it in a bowl to be devoured, won’t let it sour.