wednesday, 30th may 2018

all of this started out when you'd stumbled across his profile on a dating app.

one minute, you were minding your own damn business, distracting your busy, tired mind with silly things in some lame effort to kill some time. maybe, if you got lucky, you'd find someone pass the time with, to distract yourself from all the things you didn't want to talk about, from the ghosts that kept you up at night; someone who wouldn't want to be friends after, and you could forget about in the morning. but it was just thumbs down, thumbs down, thumbs down, just one no after the next, if you didn't just ignore them all together. and then there it was. there he was, with the same stupid face, the same stupid smile, and the same stupid jokes that had won you over all those years ago.

he was on a dating app. you weren't sure how you should have felt about it, though. it shouldn't have been surprising, but it was. and even so, it wasn't like you had much room to judge because you were on it, too. still, for a while, you just stared at it, at his face looking back up at you, not entirely sure how you were supposed to feel about this; if it was more of a punch to the gut or a breath of fresh air. you absently scrolled through his pictures over and over, like you were waiting for them to change or something, you weren't really sure what the hell you were expecting to happen. maybe after the third time you scrolled past the same picture, he'd morph into a hideous monster and you would throw your phone across the room? except it didn't, and your phone stayed planted in your head, while your heart sank down into the pit of your stomach, and your brain went fucking haywire.

when you finally pressed the stupid little thumbs up, you blamed it on a joke, the product of a careful combination of weed, scotch, and sleep deprivation. you told yourself you'll both laugh about it later. but somewhere in the back of your mind, you know there's a whole lot more to it than a stupid joke.

do you want a drink?

before you know it, he's on his way over. he thinks he's being sneaky, plying you with promises of whiskey and tacos at midnight. your favorite, he says. the carnitas? and street corn? a shit ton. you know what he's doing, because you know him, and he knows you better than you know yourself. it's his way of checking on you, making sure you're okay like you like to tell everyone else you are. and despite yourself, you're smiling, even as the panic sets in and your mouth is drying up like the fucking sahara because your apartment, not unlike your life, is a fucking mess and your brain has gone into total overdrive. you're on your feet in an instant, picking up socks from the floor, and pulling a bra down from a lampshade, you make a face as you haphazardly throw them into the bathroom hamper before beelining for the kitchen.

it reminds you of the first time he came to visit you at your tiny one room apartment in suffolk. you'd been so nervous that you'd put your pile of dirty fatigues into the bath tub trying to keep them out of sight, but it didn't end there. you forgot about a six pack of beer that you'd put into the freezer to cool faster until one of them exploded, and somehow, you charbroiled the pizza, so you'd wound up eating a feast of junk food you picked up from the class six on base. it had been a total disaster, but for some reason, he'd stayed the whole weekend with you. it seemed like a lifetime ago now... maybe because it was.

i'm working on being better.

when you open the door, you tell him he's a sight for sore eyes, and he gives you a look like he's not sure if you're talking to him or the bag of food you're staring at with wide, excited eyes. you don't give him an answer, you just make grabby hands until he hands you the food.

the thing is, you're not sure what you're supposed to say, what you're supposed to do, or how you're supposed to act around him. the history between you is long and sordid, filled with countless stories and so much love and hurt that it's hard to wade through sometimes. he knows all your secrets, the ones you keep from the world, that weigh heavy on your shoulders, he knows all about the things you don't show everyone else, what's really going on behind that big smile and those bright eyes.

in spite of all of that, this is still the easiest thing in the world right now. just sitting on the couch with him, sneaking pieces from his plate and popping them into your mouth when you think he isn't looking, even though you know he knows, but he doesn't say anything. it's like it was all those other times. it's second nature, it's easy, it's familiar. you laugh when he catches you, halfway to shoving a heisted piece of carnitas into your mouth. you talk about everything and nothing. you tell him about finding the cat behind a dumpster last january, and how it won't go away now, and about the places you've been, you tell him about the time you got drunkenly married in las vegas last year, but ultimately called it quits. and you tell him about how you spent memorial day, about the barbecues, about your friends, and sitting alone in a veteran's graveyard in new mexico, looking over the countless headstones, flanked with tiny american flags while you thought about the lives lost on that night in syria, the night you should have died, and the guilt you've carried ever since.

you don't even notice the tears that are streaking your cheeks until they start to blur across your eyes. you sniff, and wipe the back of your hand across your face to dry them up. then you laugh about being an ugly crier, and make a crack about not smearing your makeup, even though you know know full well that you're one hundred percent rocking racoon eyes right then. so you change the subject, tell him to tell you something, anything, because you're tired of hearing the sound of your own voice. you smile and relax into the overstuffed pillows on the couch as you listen to him talk, but none of it registers, because before you know it, you're out cold.

it's been two years and a half years, and twenty-two hundred miles.

when you wake up, you're in your bed. you don't really remember giving into the exhaustion that's been wearing you down for you don't know how long. a heavy yawn shakes through your body as you turn over and blink back the fog of sleep, forcing the world back into focus. the clock is blinking 4:12AM. you're not sure how long you've been asleep, but you know exactly how you wound up tucked in like this.

another yawn moves through you as you slip out of bed, and silently pad barefoot across the hardwood floor. you move through the bedroom and down the dim hallway with ease until the shape of him comes into view, lying there on the couch. you know he's worried about you, like he was so many times before this, and he's keeping a watchful eye the same way he did back then. for a second, you watch him, your arms crossed over your chest, as his chest rises and falls with each breath. an idle smile crosses over your features as you move around the couch and pull the blanket up and over his shoulders, making sure he's warm, before turning and heading back to the bedroom.

as you lie down, pulling the blanket up to your neck and closing your eyes, you can't help thinking about how different everything is now, but in a lot of ways, nothing has really changed.