12:08am and I missed your birthday yesterday.
All I feel is my burnt tongue and bitter sorry pressing against my taste buds.
They told me to keep writing, even when I had nothing to write about, and even when my fingers began to grow numb, my palm began to cramp, and my back began to arch in ways deemed crippling. It started off simple, a few sentences about how much I loved my mom, how she bloomed over the hydrangeas and lilac trees in her garden—the very garden she’d force me to dig up with her even though I feared the creepy crawlers hiding beneath the soil—and how she’d juggle pots and pans as she fabricated the night’s meal while my melancholic father sat on the sidelines, a water boy with dormant potential. As time went on, I began noticing how little she gardened, and when she did, she’d complain about the rocks my father kept throwing back with the unwatered vegetables, even when she told him not to, or she’d decide to garden right before a rainstorm so she was forced back inside where she could sit in her chair and read her favorite book while dinner was burning in the kitchen. They told me to keep writing and writing, even when the story ended. That is where the story ends, and I continue to write. When my mom stopped gardening, her story and my father’s became static, and upon happening, I became static, too. The only thing I could rely on were my trembling fingers, the way they felt for answers as they brushed against cold walls at night, how they were always searching for a writing utensil to scribble selfish nonsense in toilet stalls and crumpled up loose leaf, and how they searched for answers in history but still remained guiltless and unaffected. More time passed and I began to experience new foods, new people, new cultures, new textbooks, and I began to thrive for knowledge while my parents continued to eat away at the sorrow between their toes. I was introduced to boys, the smell of the beach at midnight, the cold wind against my face as I ran around the streets in the dark, musing over endless possibilities, finding solace in people, books, and places I’d never been before. I found a world beyond overpopulated front yards, chipped white picket fences, and burnt food, and I was thankful for the consistency of the old creaking house for it birthed a venturesome spirit: I found new ways to get dirty, to build up the calluses on my palms, to create a story that ever changed—a new kind of gardening with different soil and different flowers—and I realized history alone won’t fulfill you, I had tried before, but the combination of the past and present will. I continue to write, and I still consider this old exterior, with its mourning interiors, as my home, but I have fashioned other homes—pieces of then and now—where I go sometimes when the static isn’t so welcoming.
Because paper has more patience than people.
Tonight I found myself in the kitchen, rummaging through cupboards in search for something sweet, and finding nothing to reduce the dejected feeling in the pit of my stomach, I resorted to pacing back and forth, thinking in time with the sound of my slippers sliding against the tiles—some tiles worn down and dirty because of negligence. I was mostly frustrated, not because my sweet tooth was aching, but because I’ve been in this waiting line for so long—the front of it, a mystery—and I keep calling to you with my illegible words, yet I’m still a message at the bottom of a glass bottle, written in a language you won’t understand, lost somewhere, stuck in a sand dune, maybe, or still fighting the ocean wishing to be found. There’s so much I have to tell you that I could easily be six pages, and I fear you might look at my tea stained tattered edges, laugh, and say, “Wow, I’d never write this much to you!” like someone I once knew when they read my first two-page love letter from a boy I’d never conversed with before. Then, as my pacing turned into circling, I remembered you telling me to give that boy a chance, and so I’m hoping you’re not as heartless as I when I ripped my first two-page love letter to shreds and ignored you for a month during that summer I was aspiring for someone else—that someone I once knew who warned me from the beginning that he’d never write this much to me—that someone else who left without even a post-it note stamped “goodbye.”
…And it’s both reassuring and sad that they will never know I ever wrote a word about them.
We were in the library together, sitting 90 degrees from each other, and I never felt so uneasy. Being near you used to be a simple thing: I could laugh, cry, and close my eyes without feeling you outlining my skin and counting the breaths I took—without your silent gaze haunting my trembling fingers as I fumbled with the book in my hand. Even surrounded by hardbacks and worldly knowledge, the faint hint of maple, and a teasing whiff of cold coffee, I had never felt so nostalgic for the way things used to be. I’m always torn, like the letter I once wrote you but then dismembered before throwing it into my waste basket. I’m stuck at this standstill, driven mad at three in the morning knowing you’re crazy over someone else, and I can never sit right in my bed anymore because the empty space my body leaves feels exactly how it is, empty. Maybe that’s why I forfeit to sleep while you stay up at all hours of the night, never wondering why I hardly say “hello” first, or why I try my hardest not to cross your path in crowded hallways, or why I sit down in the middle of chaos reading a book, secretly wishing you’ll pass by and ask me where I traveled to this morning, to which I’d enthusiastically reply about my journey as I flip through the pages of a fictional character’s life. You never wonder what my secrets are but rather drown in your loneliness and all I want to do is hold out my hand to you—I hold yours in my dreams, but you don’t realize because you are always watching your clock change from hour to hour until you’re questioning your existence at four in the morning, wondering where the time went, what you did with it, and if there’s still time left, with no one awake because we are all taking Melatonin. If you ever do wonder, though, I’ll give you this book, and we will read it together and we will be as we were before—two friends who love each other, instead of two strangers who might love each other but leave too many secrets unknown.