the best years of our lives

Sometimes, there is only starting over to look forward to. Sometimes we can't even have that. I've fucked up the past four years of my life--or maybe just a little more than that now. It feels like forever ago that I was--

There was something about her smile, I think. I would have been happy spending the rest of my life making her smile. Maybe that's all there was. Maybe in the end everything was just about her smile and her lips and that spot just below her ear. Maybe we were always bound for shipwreck, and there was nothing we could do about it. There was a time I could still feel her lips on my neck, her arms around me, still hear the catch in her voice as she told me to leave. I still remember where it all happened, but as I sit there in the lobby of the hotel where she worked, somehow it's all gone.

--with her, and then it was taking flight and making every mistake I possibly could, because nothing worked anymore. I remember most of them pretty vividly. The ones I don't are usually because I was so drunk I couldn't remember anything. I still mostly know what happened, anyway. It's not that I made enemies so much as I lost friends. It was always me. Sometimes they just wanted to help.

She called me one night. Not quite out of the blue but close enough as far as I'm concerned. "I'm worried about you," she said. I told her to fuck herself. She said, "I still care about you. I--you were part of my life, you know? I don't want you to--"

I hung up. She tried again and I just let the phone ring. I deleted her number. I wouldn't see her again for two years.

After a while I found somewhere I could hide. Nobody really knew me. I thought maybe I could start over, and I did all right. I found new friends. I had a nice girlfriend. But there were always ghosts. I'd wake up--not screaming, but panicked, sweating, breathing heavily. Nightmares, I guess, but I just called them ghosts. Things that could have been, things I killed.

She called me again one day. It was winter. It was cold. She said she'd heard I was in town. She asked if maybe I wanted to get coffee. She was wearing a scarf. It's all I can think of when I think of her now. Her in a scarf and a winter coat, with her hands around a cup of coffee. Her smile is different. It's not for me anymore.

That doesn't go away if you hide. My girlfriend left--amicably, this time, headed south where I couldn't go. I wasn't sad to see her go. I'm not sure what that means. I've been seeing this new girl for a few weeks now. I think I like her, but it's hard to say. I've told her about the past four years, or maybe a little bit more. I'm trying to keep in touch with the people I ran away from.

I'm not sure if it's successful. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be. I'm not sure if this will work. I wanted to start over. Someone who wouldn't know who I am so I wouldn't have to be who I am. Maybe it's time to find a new home.

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