Since the moment you started coming around, I kept a bottle of nail polish (OPI’s “Blue My Mind”) on the top right corner of my shower, for emergencies. The idea of you catching me with chipped fingernail polish could be likened to the horror that I would feel upon facing a firing squad, and it just wouldn’t do. So many nights I have jumped in for a quick shower before you came over & grabbed that bottle to touch up an imperfection while the steam clung to my body in the heat of the bathroom. It was exciting. It was thrilling. The act and art of readying myself for you was a ritual and routine that l always loved performing.
The polish remained long after you stopped coming around, but it was familiar to me, I didn’t want to take it down. I remembered the thrill, the excitement, it was a token of a time in my life that felt like being shot into space without warning – the thrill and the fear were delicious and always present. I looked at that bottle every day and thought of you and felt sad because I kind of missed the fear and the thrill. And that became routine, missing you quietly in the shower every day of my life.
I guess if I’m honest, I used to think that if I did take the polish down, if I did anything with it at all, it would mean something, would suggest something – would maybe even jinx something. I never know from morning to night what state of grace you and I are hanging in, if I’ll get a call tomorrow and be summoned to your side or if we won’t talk for six months – and though it was unhealthy to linger in that space with a fragile heart and a cluttered mind, I clung on to the hope that you would come around and I used this bottle of nail polish like a little life raft – a bat signal, or a beacon or sorts – some little symbol that meant we existed, once, and that maybe you would find your way back if I left the light on (or the polish in the shower).
I have spent so much time in my life trying to fix what was meant to stay broken. For so long, I looked at my inability to reconstruct the ruined as a character flaw: it was wasted time, a failure on my part, I missed a bigger picture because I wasn’t smart enough to see it when it was right in front of my face. And I punish myself so hard for what I can’t control or change. You have been one of my greatest worries, right from the start. The way I felt around you at all times was like a human Jenga tower that was one block away from falling to pieces – and by God, was I determined to stay standing for as long as I possibly could, no matter the strain and effort. Because to care about someone so much, to feel that gross way your actual heart constricts when you watch them sleep and know that you love them so damn madly – to hurt for them and to go through hell with and for them – and then to shake hands and walk away from one another … it doesn’t feel real. It feels inhumane. You once knew all of my secrets and now we don’t even speak regularly. How can I let go of something so massive in my life? Doesn’t it HAVE to be something bigger than this?
It came to me the other day, as I was staring up at that little blue bottle – maybe it doesn’t have to be. Maybe all we had is really just that. Had. Past tense. The realization was like finally exhaling when I didn’t even realize that I had been holding my breath. Somewhere between the shampoo and the conditioner, I realized that you might be my past, but that I also deserve to have a future that doesn’t necessarily involve you … and that’s okay. It can all be just exactly as big as it was. We don’t have to talk about it or fight about it or try to reconcile it or make any big promises about doing better this time – we don’t have to do anything at all except just go on.
Just go on.
Somewhere, in another lifetime, perhaps, you and I are together, but we are different there. Maybe better, depending on how you look at it. Maybe I’m not afraid and maybe you aren’t selfish. Maybe I’m better at all of this, and maybe you are, too. Maybe we live together, or are married, or are just best friends. Whatever we are, wherever we are, it is fun and we laugh a lot. There is always blue nail polish in the top corner of the shower. That I know for certain. And this place is where we will stay, you & I. Never a waste of time, never a failure – just another lifetime.
I took the nail polish down today.
I may put it back up tomorrow. I don’t know. I don’t know. One day at a time.
You blue my mind once, it’s true – but maybe one day I’ll be ready to let someone else have a shot at it.
(also, please never read this, because I would actually die)