To you. Yes. You.
Living out my new year’s resolutions
I woke up today and thought about how it’s my last first day, felt anxiety grip me in sweat and thought, how, how, how; is this it? I woke up today and I reread some of the messages I sent you last night. I’m listening to a very specific playlist, even though I probably don’t understand all the songs quite right.
I sat up in bed and cried, because it’s my last first day. I thought about how much I’ll miss you and how close and far you are and how you, too, have that power to recontextualize things for me.
I’m scared, but more ashamed that our situation seems like an insurmountable hurdle. It’s not easy for me to hear how I’m loved, when circumstances necessitate that I won’t be able to feel it.
I got out of bed slightly too late, and texted you for a granola bar, and I walked to class thinking of you. I was distracted in class, despite the fact that it’s my last first class. I called my parents on the way home, but couldn’t speak right, and I felt something of substance hollowed out inside myself.
You said parallels; you said narratives. About the playlist and the spreadsheet and the dumplings we’d planned for today and how we’re living our lasts this semester.
It is my last first day, and I am looking to the future and knowing that I will be lonely without you.
I texted you that my head felt stuffed full of little paper scraps, and we ate breakfast together and I kept thinking, thinking, thinking. It hurt.
Today is my last first day, and I went to get coffee with you, but we ended up eating tortas in an alleyway instead. I wanted to share something that belonged to me, but you picked up the bill. I’ll get it next time; the days are so short; one more round of coffee.
We went on a walk throughout Porter Square and I thought about how happy I was to be there with you. Grateful, even, that I woke up today in the mood to ride the T for three hours.
My life is so full of love now; I’m terrified to watch it go.
But I don’t say “I love you” enough, do I? I don’t say I love you enough because sometimes I can only back away from the intensity. Sometimes “I love you” makes me feel backed into a corner, because there is so much substance in those words. It stings to see how much power I hold and how much power is held over me.
I won’t be gone, because I don’t want to be gone, but I don’t brush my teeth every night with Ruth anymore. And we don’t make breakfast together the way we always say we will. And we drive each other crazy, sometimes, and I’m sorry.
I don’t say “I love you” enough and you thought this article would be about someone else.
But it’s me, it’s me, it’s me; I will do better in the morning.
It’s my last first day, and I keep listening to the playlist I made last night. The songs on that playlist feel like they belong to other people. Many things in my life belong to others:
the blanket covering me,
the plushie at the head of my bed,
the bags of things that once belonged to you but will belong to the kids,
the trenchcoat hanging over my chair,
the pride flag you gave me after that summer program,
the notebook tucked into my shelf that you made me,
the pin on my jeans,
the notes on my wall,
the lights you put up in my room,
the kraken on my table,
the Mexican mug on top of my dresser,
the letter you wrote for my birthday and
the letter you had written,
the post it note you gave me in high school,
the poster you got for me that I look at when my dresser is open,
the gender signs on the doors of my wardrobe,
the mug we painted together in the Cheney room,
the scarf on my door handle, wrapped around me with the promise of giving it back later.
I want to hide from them, but I can’t because I love you. Yes. You.
I keep thinking about what you said in that Zoom room: “while you all are experiencing so many lasts, I’m getting many of my firsts.” And I said thank you, right? For sharing those firsts with me?
It’s my last first day, but it’s different because it’s no longer the last “first day” of a semester, but it’s my “last-first” the same way that “sorry-grateful” and “laugh-shrimp” fit together like puzzle pieces in my head. It’s my first day of classes, and the last time it’ll happen this way, but the first time that we’ve made dumplings together in the kitchen.
I keep making a list of last-first things:
You told me — last sister week, as we sat in the philosophy lounge — that I remind you of your older sister. And yesterday you sent me a snapchat of your window frozen over, and I thought, oh sweetie, how’d you forget to close your window? Put on a sweater.
I sat around a table at Flour with you, the four of you, and you didn’t get your sandwich so you took half of someone else’s. And I explained the activity, because it was your first time doing it but my last. You filled in some of the gaps that I had left behind, purposefully or not. And we made the same jokes that we’ve gotten used to making. I’ve forgotten the inside jokes behind my high school friend’s contact names, but I don’t want to forget these.
You looked very cute, laying in the snow tunnel in those pictures. I’ll post it on instagram, I promise, even if you don’t read these words. You are spectacular, and intimidating because of it, and I will do my part to bully you more this semester.
Eventually, there will be a last “hello” message. Ruth told me, weeks ago, that you used to text her at 2 a.m., but you’ve stopped doing that since last semester started. And I tried to stop myself from the thought that I’ve been having lately: you will suffer when I’m gone, but eventually you will replace me.
I’ve said this before, but have another thank you. For what you did that summer after sophomore year, but also for everything that has come after that. You’re my favorite roommate, still, and I hope you read the text I sent you soon because it’s really funny. I’ll tell you all about it later.
I wrote this in the end-of-year letter (the one I posted in the-most-ridiculous-place with the-most-ridiculous-name): I don’t remember a lot of our lasts the way I remember our firsts. Maybe it was because so many lasts have been taken from us. We all know how loving ends, and I’m so scared about the mandarins. That “one-dimensional” day, I was scared to eat it. When I finally did, it was a little tangy, a little dry, and delicious. I ate the plums that were in the ice box; at lunchtime I bought a huge orange — the size of it made us all laugh; leave something of sweetness and substance in the mouth of the world.
I was so scared in that emergency room because you were in pain and I didn’t know how to fix it. But there was also something consuming about that environment, and the way that I gave you my sweater, pretending it wasn’t cold. I wrote this before, but I’ll always put your hat on for you. Giggle more often, it’s very cute.
You told us we were family in the math lounge and I didn’t know how to respond because you’re always so genuine in your existence and I often feel scared. You remind me of Ash and me, sometimes, the way that we used to be together when I was in high school. Don’t lose those traits in the shuffle of life, please.
The last time we ate at Simmons together and I told you about the trenchcoat and how much it means, I also thought about how much you’ve grown since the time I met you. You’re so much older already; keep writing your short stories and creating narratives and texting me my articles, even if they won’t be articles soon.
We walked to Toscanini’s in the freezing cold, even though they didn’t have anything warm like you promised. And I listened to you talk, even though it was a little bit windy and hard to hear. We’ll get McDonald’s later and recreate some moments, I promise.
We still have chayotes to make in the fridge; I want to prepare them for you the same way my mom does for me. We’ll heat up Nesquik and drink it together. I still think that I was right for keeping that guava jam, both because I still have some for us to share and also because it’s a memory, kiddo, not a jam. There’s a limited number of guavas now that my neighbor has cut down the tree, but I’ll still share future ones with you.
We’re going to spend so much time this semester in your narratively circular New House single. Believe me, I have already blocked out the hours to make more pancakes and drink more oat milk on the fuzziest rug in the world.
Favorite memories are so strange. You could have never guessed the significance of that day walking back in the rain, or why I gave you my coat. You left before you saw me shivering in the rain, thinking of how glad I was that you were warm. But you’re right, of course, that it’s the insignificance of that moment that makes it linger. I can’t remember if I told you, especially with everything that’s happened, but my New Year’s resolution just meant I wanted to linger with you. I’m sorry; I still want to hold your hand this semester, even though I know I won’t be able to.
“Hasta la Raíz” is playing and I’m remembering the Song Exploder episode I watched with Ruth and how one day we won’t be family — shouldn’t be, when I’m an alum — but you will still have cast your roots in me. It’s been hard watching the gap I’m going to leave in you, but I hope you manage to fill them with light anyway. A secret hidden in plain sight, I wrote two years ago, let’s love so much that we light up the world. The email’s still probably somewhere in the drive, if you want to read it.
It’s my last-first day and I’ve been on the T for three hours now. I’m trying to live in memories and hope for the future and remain in the present moment; impossibly I think I might actually be doing it, but not enough — never as much as I want to.
You told me to take the T across the river and I finally listened. And these are spoilers, but I already messaged most of them to you anyway.
I realized, first, that you must hear “Kendall/MIT” so often. Do you ever think about getting off there? Did you used to have the instinct? Has it been a while since you considered it an option?
And then we passed the stop and I waited with a playlist in my hand and I felt more than saw the light coming into the cabin. The song changed to dodie's “Arms Unfolding” and, stupidly I thought, emerging: it was once dark but then it was light.
The river was frozen over and the surface dusty. I could only think, G*d I hope you see it too. I thought about that Hozier song. I probably still don’t understand it quite right, but listening to it makes me think of you.
I imagined when you saw the river the first-last time, it was probably moving and the waves glistened. And it was too bright to look at directly and maybe that made it hard to see. Difficult to look at, in the same way that love is for us, but substantive.
And I think you probably thought I was thinking of someone else, but I could only think about how I hope you see it often. I want to watch it with you, but we will have all the time in the world.
Thank you for sharing that with me.
I got back to New House late because I stayed a bit longer talking to you. It feels unfair to write it here before everything has been said, so I won’t write it yet. But I will work on not saying “kid,” especially because that care is not gone — it won’t be if I can help it.
When I got back home we messed up the recipe for dumplings and I played Tracy Chapman in the kitchen and I sang along to it a little, did you hear me? And you cracked my back the way we’ve been trying to do for a semester. It hurt but not physically. It hurt because it was last-first and because I don’t think you’ll understand this article, even though it’s for you.
And I almost cried, a couple of times really. The last-first of which was when you laid your head down on my arm like you do when you don’t know how to comfort me but still want to be there. Thank you for staying. I’m so proud of you, kiddo. I love you so much; I say that in many ways, but in words less often.
The dumplings tasted really good even though the shrimp was precooked and we had to improvise. That’s often how cooking goes for us. Don’t forget me next semester when you’re figuring out what to eat in the midst of classes and psets and meetings and stress.
I sent you a video of the dumplings and our kid trying them. I’m trying to make sure this isn’t the end. Maybe our lives are running in parallel, but that’s how the narratives work, love, each two inches to the left of the other. I want to delete that word “love” because we don’t speak like that to each other. But I’m leaking out to you — for you. I just want to say that I believe what I heard in those songs, and I’m oddly looking forward to our individual office hours tomorrow because it’s the last-first step towards something.
I finished the dumplings and started writing these paragraphs, but got interrupted because we ended up on the floor of my room swapping stories from the past week.
It was a type of fun I haven’t had in a while. I tried not to think about how last-first it felt because I want to have so many more of those moments. I thought about how you put up my fairy lights last semester, and how I can still see us there, balancing on the corner of a chair. But then I was in the present and we were giggling about my boss and I threw my body back into a full laugh.
And now, I’m in my room writing this and wondering if anyone other than you will understand these words, but also whether you will understand them yourself. But my stomach is full from the dumplings we shared and my bones are full of so much light they’re going to burst along the cracks.
I think, I will fall asleep happy tonight.
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