I miss him so so much. I can’t even begin to describe how much I miss him. It’s the fucking vignettes, I’m telling you. I’ve always wanted to have a movie perfect summer. I’ve wanted it to be rose colored and warm so that, in my memories, I’d always be smiling or laughing. They’d be the kind of memories that played to a road-trip pop song.
That’s how I’m remembering Gabby. I’m remembering him by fizzy cola and buttered popcorn movie nights, creamy mac and cheese dinners from that diner in Union Square, bookstore dates soaking in Daniel Keyes, puzzle-making, ping pong playing, lying in the grass, sushi brunches.
I listen to music and I see last summer. I’m listening to Julia Michaels, which happens to be the perfectly fitted soundtrack for that part of my life because I know if Gabby were next to me right now, he’d tell me to shut that shit off.
He’d always thought my music taste was horrible. It’s gotten better now. He would love the stuff I listened to now. I want so badly just to show him my updated Spotify playlists.
I’d show him how much I’ve changed since we last talked. I’d tell him I found better friends. These friends are cooler, and they remind me more of home. When my new friends tell me jokes, I think of how Gabby would have laughed. I think of how he’d play along.
When one of them lovingly teases me, and I tease them back by threatening to beat them up, I think of Gabby. It’s because I threaten them speaking in my deep, playful, fighting voice that I would practice on him. I had only ever used that voice with Gabby.
I still use some city slang he taught me. I say them and hear him say it with me– it’s an echo silent to everyone but myself.
When Raza threw me over his shoulder in the lounge of my hall last week, I said nothing, but thought of Gabby. I’d think back to when we would smile and play in the handball court behind our high school, and if– after a few minutes worth of play fighting– I hadn’t given up, he’d toss me effortlessly over his shoulder. I’d kick and fling my arms around, pretending I didn’t enjoy my few seconds up in the air and he paced back and forth.
I think of the hand holding. Whenever I miss the butterflies of crushes and boys, I remember what it was like to hold Gabby’s hand. It was stealthy, well-hidden, and snuck in between aisles at the deli, or underneath a jacket in a subway car. We kept our relationship very secretive, making it all the more excited. For a split second in our economics class, when the teacher wasn’t looking, I turned behind me and squeezed his hand as tight as I could. That whole day I couldn’t stop smiling.
It’s weird because I wouldn’t say I ever love loved him. He had told me once that he didn’t believe he had it in him to feel something as deep as that, and I secretly thought to myself: challenge accepted. It was my savior complex coming out. I saw a broken and sad boy, and I knew underneath his cold, hard exterior I’d find a soft spot for him to open up to me with. We got along marvelously anyway– always finding the same news stories, Ted Talks, and YouTube videos interesting. We had conversations on race and classism that were thought-provoking because we didn’t always agree. I know his friends (I mean, hey, at a certain point they were mine, too); there’s no one stimulating him intellectually like I was anymore. He always told me how tired he was of the echo chamber of our group.
Which is to say, I know he still thinks about me. His Instagram is public. I’ve seen the way he tracks his page’s traffic, so I know he’s checking to see how many times I visit it. He posts photos and jokes online that reference our relationship– the bad parts– and I know he’s doing it so that it could reach me and hurt me. He wants to hurt me because I’ve hurt him. He thinks that I left him in the dust to fend for himself. In his neighborhood’s culture, people stay together forever. Boys and girls get cheated on, broken up with, fought over, and they still find their way back to each other. I know I broke his heart, but I still think I have a chance to repair it. If I take the blame for everything maybe he’d forgive me. We’d start talking like we used to about whatever the hell we used to talk about over midnight phone calls and Wendy’s 4-for-4s. He’d forgiven me once, and a big part of me believes he would do it again. It’s rooted in his culture. We were so similar (perhaps, too similar?), so I can decipher some of what he’s thinking. I think somewhere deep in there he misses me. It’s hidden it well, under layers of resentment, but somewhere in there he cares and I bet he doesn’t think I can find it: challenge accepted.