Today was the first time I came back home. I drank way too much wine on the plane, hoping it would help me forget all the things I could not stop remembering. Of course it did not work. From the moment I got in the car, my father driving, thankfully unable to realize I was drunk and perhaps crying, out my window the view of places where you kissed me and I kissed you back and we were happy, I saw you everywhere I looked.
I asked my father to take that turn so we wouldn’t drive by the restaurant where you took me on our first date. Truth is he probably did notice my watery eyes and stumbly walk after all, and maybe just maybe I was sobbing just a little, and he took the turn no questions asked. The way home is a lot longer that way, which is okay because my home reminds me of you too, but a little too late he took the shortcut through the cliff. With my heart in my throat I saw the two of us all those nights when I lied about where I was, laughing and kissing in your black car, thinking about the stars and joking at the thought of a lovely future that there was really no harm dreaming about. It was still day when we drove by, empty as usual, but I could almost as if the stars, the soft sound of that playlist you made with all my favorite songs, and I could feel your lips on mine, back when kisses were sweet and love was soft and dreams were happy and the future was a pleasant joke.
I hate every inch of this town, because every corner reminds me of what happened. It is the background of our love story, of a past that is lovely and sort of beautiful, the haunting image of the void that is our future, a silent, terrible reminder of what is gone and still, in a way, stays with me forever. Home has been a foreign concept to me since I left for school the week after it happened.
I don’t see home in the streets where I learned how to drive, in the faraway sight of the old highschool where we fell in love, of the park where I kissed you for the first time, where I always went to as a kid and sometimes dreamed of bringing my own kids one day. I don’t see home in the front lawn of that house where the first time I got drunk was, or in the view of the blue door of my grandmother’s house, my favorite color. I see home in the past, in memories that are blurry and foggy and easy and hard to remember.
When I opened the first door I hugged my sister and then my mother and let her weak, unsure arms hold me, hoping they could glue my pieces back together. When she couldn’t, because of course she couldn’t, I found an excuse to go upstairs I’m sure no one believed in, but they never say too much about anything these days. It is mostly the quiet, the phone calls about things that don’t matter, the questions the answers to which could be anything or nothing, anyway. I rushed up the stairs too quickly like that day in April when you held my hair, and I could barely stand.
I laid on my bed, crying softly and quietly, trying to keep my eyes closed, keeping myself from looking around the room as if only if I kept my eyes closed forever, the darkness would help forget. That’s not how it works, really. The memories are mostly darkness. I don’t look at the small snow globe you gave me last Christmas, the book you lent me and I never returned, the purple candle we used to light some nights or the picture of us still on my wall. The two of us, smiling, holding each other, completely unaware of the sleepless nights, unanswered questions, late drives with everyone in silence, the forgotten stories about things we didn’t know we wanted or the broken dreams of whatever the future could have been. I don’t look at the letters carved on my wooden bedframe, our initials, with your car key. It seemed like it belonged to another life that day, over eight months ago, when everything was wrong and broken and falling apart, and I was more afraid than I had ever been in my entire life. You held me on my bed as I cried, pretending you weren’t crying too, and as my body trembled in fear as desperation, you promised you loved me and you were my home. I loved you then more than I even knew. In the quietness of our tears we waited three minutes. I couldn’t breathe, and it was then the absolute worst thing I had ever felt, an unbelievable urge to run until all I knew was left behind, including myself.
You held me tighter. We made promises I’m sure we wanted to keep. We were afraid and I love you and you loved me, and we looked at the test.
That night I was so frightened at the future, and life from that day on seemed like almost an illusion rather than a sweet idea. But you held my hand through the hardest days, through telling my mother and seeing the faint disappointment in her eyes, through deferring my enrollment, through the last day of classes, when I was starting to show. For so long we had joked about the future, how of course everything ends, and I would go to college and you would get a job and those nights by the cliff would be memories and probably nothing but. And then of course the joke was on us, and there was at last a promise of forever both of us could believe in.
I loved you and you loved me, and we were afraid and maybe a little happy, and those nights when I woke up cold sweating, you held me and I was home.
That night you did just the same. You held me and made me promises that I know with all my heart you would have kept if you could.
I let my mother hug me, hoped it would feel like home, it did not. I lived in the silence of my room and the memories, enrolled in school again, packed quickly the things that didn’t really remind me of anything too important. I let you hug me, but the home we had found in our fear had been broken, and in the void of your warmth I felt nothing but cold. You never called. I never called. I missed you and loved you and hoped I would never see you again.
Tonight my bed doesn’t feel like my bed anymore. I sleep with memories of the two of us, once beautiful dreams, now nothing but nightmares in which I am sunk in too deep to wake up from. My body doesn’t feel like my body anymore. It is cold at all times, shaking from a residue of fear. It misses your hands and feels too scarred by life and death to ever possibly be all mine again. This town, once my home, is now full of pieces of a self that I no longer am, of a strange beautiful future I let myself dream about, and of memories of days we never got to live. This town, once my home, is now simply a reminder of you; a reminder of the fact that home isn’t a place after all. Home is your eyes, your voice, our initials together, your favorite song.
And I will never come home again.