I wanted to be in love until I was.
It was beautiful, it was unknown and deep. It felt like swimming in the Great Barrier Reef. The rainbow fishes and living coral gardens of underwater dreams went on for leagues, offering more and more reasons to stay. But my air tank had begun its warnings. And I swam, ignoring it, breathing less. My lungs on fire. A school of shimmering life still glistening in my foreground. And I breathe and burn and there’s so much beauty around me, but pressure and loss of oxygen blur my vision and I can no longer see. I need to swim upwards. I need new air.
It is a love story that I will tell backwards.
It is Saturday, February 6, 2016. I will call you this afternoon — but I will be so nervous it will likely become this evening. Or the witching hours of tomorrow morning. I will tell you that I’ve called to break your heart, that I love you, and that you cannot visit next weekend. I will say the line about the Great Barrier Reef — which you will appreciate, because we are both writers — and I will try to explain how the fact that I cannot envision my life without you has slowly made my love succumb to terror.
2/5/2016: We are FaceTiming each other good night. “Show me your booooooobs.” “It’s dark! I’m cold! You only have to wait a week!” “You’re the worst. I love you.” “I love you.” “So much, babe. You are my rock.” “And you are mine. Goodnight.”
1/2/2016: I lie to my family and say I broke up with you.
12/31/2015: We kiss at midnight. Later, when we’re lying together in your bed, you confess that Sara said you should marry me. I kiss your neck and smile your favorite smile.
12/28/2015: I have a panic attack in my sister’s mirror. We haven’t seen each other for five months. I question whether I should get on the train.
9/5/2015: I arrived in France three days ago. It is 11 p.m., 5 p.m. in Buffalo. The Wi-Fi in my apartment barely boasts the apex dot, but we try to Skype. I am desperate to see your face. I tuck my laptop under my arm and run two miles to the Apple Store. I lean against its stone exterior, steal its four-bar signal, and our virtual selves sit together for almost three hours. Sometimes talking. Sometimes merely memorizing the wavering facsimiles of each other’s face.
7/22/2015:We meet in the middle in Corning, N.Y. We visit the Glass Museum and Watkins Glen. We come, together, with the backseat down in your red Subaru, in a parking lot behind Main Street.
5/15/2015: Castleton, Vt., is the middle of bumfuck nowhere. Dillon drives the pickup down an endless coniferous road while four of us, drunk and high, lie tangled in the truck bed. You drape your arm across my hips and bite my ear while Dave and Noonan giggle over nonsensical sex jokes. I recognize some constellations, hovering like mobiles, amid the prickling universe that swims across the sky.
3/28/2015: I cheat on you. With sex.
2/17/2015: Two and a half empty bottles of wine are strewn about the bed, and you balance a bowl of popcorn on your bare stomach. I explore your shoulder muscles with my fingers and tickle your calves with my toes. We’re snowed in and watching “Frozen” at an Airbnb three blocks from my roommate-ridden house.
11/27/2014: “Your parents don’t like me.” “They do,” I lie. “It’s just … they don’t like the idea of you.” “Kate … I love you.”
10/11/2014: You show me your home. I meet your dogs. You make your venison chili and introduce me to your high school soccer coach. We explore your woods and don’t speak because you’re showing me clearings and trees and land that are sacred to you — and now to me. I notice how the sun looks behind a glowing canopy of autumn maple leaves.
7/4/2014: Multicolored sparkles illuminate their smoky predecessors over the peaks and crags of the Ausable Valley. The gloomy silhouettes of the Sawteeth Range quiver in the distance. We revel in the fact that we’ve returned, together, to our wonderland.
6/27/2014: Forgotten feelings for Luke brandish themselves on a purple beach at 2 a.m. in Cape Cod.
1/24/2014: “I just received your letter. I have tried very hard my whole life to not need anything beyond the essentials, but more and more I find that I need you. I only wish that you could be here with me, or that we could again be in the mountains as we once were. I miss you.”
1/13/2014: I’m falling in love with you. I believe in every part of you completely, and in spite of life, I always will. I’ll spend more than a few minutes dawdling in front of the mailbox later, I can assure you of that.
12/29/2013: I meet your family. You spend the whole two days with your palms on my knees and the small of my back.
10/13/2013: I’m nervous to see you. I’ve driven around Castleton for half an hour avoiding your front porch. You hug me when I finally arrive. Later, you will get blackout with your friends, and I will cry — confused and missing summer — as I drive home.
If I never see you again
I will always carry you
on my fingertips
and at brain edges
and in centers
of what I am of
Thank you for the constellations, and the ukulele, and every word that begins with “y.” Thanks for every hour of lost sleep, Indian Head, all 774 songs, waltzing in the rain, the meteors on Mosso’s and the full moon on the roof. Thank you for everything you gave me, and thanks for the adventure.
With all my heart, I believe you’ll live exceptionally.
August, 2013: We fall in star-crossed love.