Space and Distance- A/part

I met her the summer before I went away. It was time for me to leave. To leave behind the city that had become the place where I lived, but never quite my home. The busy, dusty roads filled with tourists weren’t as enchanting to me as they seemed to be for everybody else. I had been debating going back home, a place of warmth and of safety. But after I met her, a feeling tickled inside of me, an energy of movement, of restarting. So instead of going home I applied for jobs in labs all over the country, but only ones that were better than my previous position. When I was with her, the feeling that I could achieve anything, one I hadn’t felt since high school, overtook me, and it was as if employers could sense the whirlwind of newfound passion blooming inside me. The offers I received were marvelous. 

When I told her I was leaving, she was sitting on the corner of my bed wrapped in a light blue towel, humming the soundtrack of the movie we had watched the previous  night. She congratulated me enthusiastically. Then, when she realized what it would mean for us, she froze for a moment, nodded slowly, and said we would make it work. She smiled at me, but she wouldn’t look me in the eye.  

The first time she visited me I picked her up from the small train station. I waited in my car in a side street next to a palm tree and she appeared, almost out of nowhere and got in the car with a bright, glowing smile. I drove to my apartment while she sat in the passenger seat, navigating me through the streets with her phone. (My sense of direction is horrible.) It was incredibly hot and after a while she got annoyed at playing GPS and just let her phone do all the work. She put on music that we both liked, very loud, and sang to it, badly, while painting her toe nails. She always had painted toe nails, typically some shade of red. As soon as the smallest bit of color chipped off, she immediately repainted the entire nail. Ironically, she was horrible at it. She was so sloppy that it looked like it was done by a child. After a day or two all the color that wasn’t directly on the nail had flaked off, and for a while it all looked perfect, until one day it would chip and she would paint over it again. Occasionally she got upset at her ineptitude and removed all the color with polish remover. Then she would let some days pass, until she had made peace with it, and started the process anew. While she painted she talked a lot. So much so, in fact, that I almost forgot we had been apart. She sprinkled small hints of information about herself and her experiences in every sentence. Eventually she stopped talking and looked over at me, looked right at me and smiled. I knew she had kissed me without touching me.
That night I realized how much I had missed her. Weirdly enough, it felt like I had never learned more about her than when she looked straight at me in the middle of the night before falling asleep, when it was so dark that she let her guard down and simply stroked my back. There we were, completely in sync. 
Each time she left I would stare at the empty side of the bed, so full of pain that it seemed like I thought the power of my longing could make her reappear. One part of me was always missing her and the other part felt healthier than ever before. The job was going phenomenally. The people were cool, I loved the city, and everything was great. But the longing became constant and we would talk nearly every night. Through these calls, I was always holding her; though my words, I was running my hands through her hair; though my jokes, I was gently pinching her. Even awkward conversations felt comfortable. 
She would call me quite reliably, but I was not always so reliable. I think at the beginning it didn’t bother her too much, but eventually I noticed a reproachful tone in her voice or texts when I didn’t make time for her. It went slowly downhill from there. It wasn’t necessarily a drastic change, but I could sense the distance taking her away from me bit by bit. At the beginning I fought it. I fought for her. But day by day I felt like the distance was transforming her, in my eyes, into an incomplete version of herself, like I wasn’t with her but merely her reflection. Like the girl that appeared in my dreams had slowly faded away right in front of my eyes and there I was, all alone, confused about what had happened, watching the distance grow moment by moment. I found myself fighting for a stranger, and even though I knew all of her, and all of her beauty by heart, I felt like I was with somebody I no longer recognized. 
The last time I went to visit her I arrived just past midnight. I slid into my side of the bed  and wrapped myself around her. We didn’t talk. We just laid there and in this painful silence I noticed that our breaths didn’t align anymore.  
On the way back, I sat on the train, my lips sore from all her kisses, and I watched the city pass me by, telling myself that it’s fine that I didn’t stay longer to work things out, to listen to her worries, that we had so much time, that we would be okay. But deep down I knew my lips would never touch hers again. 

A long time before, during the first visit, we were laying next to each other by the sea. I had just woken up from a nap and turned my head to look at her. She was laying on her stomach and was looking right back at me. She took my hand and laid it so that my palm was facing the sun. She traced the lines on my hand with her fingernails and then slowly trickled some sand on it. She did so with meticulous detail until she got bored and just started piling sand onto my hand until it was buried deep. Then she jumped up with a childish giggle, told me to catch her, and raced towards the water. I leaped up and sprinted behind her. I reached her just before the water, picked her up and raced into the cold water with her squealing with laughter in my arms.  
Sometimes I wonder why it is so difficult for me to rid myself of this particular memory; why it still keeps me awake at night. In the beginning, when this memory first returned to me, I found myself missing her so much that I would ride my bike to the beach, dig my hands in the sand, and just stare silently at the sea. Sometimes I wonder where all the other memories of us went. I feel like they disappeared into the space between us. It was like losing someone to time, like ‘nothingness’ had taken her from me. Occasionally some memories would pop back up and I felt like I was  having a  conversation with her. Like she had settled down in my mind. Like a part of her would always be with me. But only a part. 

Author: Helen Waeder
Copyright belongs to: Helen Waeder
Date Published: 19/1/2021

Published by helenwae

I’m a 21 year old writer based in Berlin :)

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