I dreamt about your first words. In the early days that was all I could ever think about, as days dragged into weeks and weeks into months of an agonising wait game.
“How have you been, kiddo?”
After three years of respectful silence these are hardly the first words I had imagined. But again, words between us have always been a luxury we could ill-afford. You looked at me with the same searing urgency as years past, anticipating my reply, and knowing that I would never break the code.
“I’ve been well. And you, how’s Canada?”
I’ve missed you. When are you leaving again?
There was a time when your presence had meant so much to me. You saw me at my most vulnerable and yet, you anchored me in turbulent seas, as it were. It wasn’t long before I felt myself changing – flourishing almost – under your unreserved nurture and care.
I knew you took pride in me, too. Your eyes would linger on me for just a little longer. The mention of my name across a crowded room had the power to capture you mid-conversation. You searched me for my thoughts, on some of the most meaningful and most trivial things, and we would debate them for hours on end. Perhaps for a moment in time, I had meant something to you, too.
If every moment was a paradox of now or never, however, we were unequivocal in our choice.
It didn’t mean anything when you smiled only at me.
It didn’t mean anything when you embraced me in jubilant joy.
It didn’t mean anything when you held me as I laughed and cried at the same time.
None of it meant anything because we both knew you were leaving.
It didn’t occur to me to ask you to stay, insignificant as I was to you back then, and it wouldn’t occur to me now.
I take a sip of my coffee as I sit across from you, brimming with happy and sombre nostalgia at seeing you again. For now, I would relish in the moment and that would be enough. And tomorrow, everything would be as it has always been between us. It will be a race to forget, I say, and that will be the story we tell ourselves.
A race to forget.