tuesday, 29th may 2018
things weren't like they used to be. not even a little bit.

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

you'd been minding your own business, distracting your busy, tired mind with silly things in some lame effort to kill some time and drive back the broken, painful memories, all the things you didn't like to talk about that were keeping you up at night. maybe, if you got lucky, you'd find someone pass the time with, who wouldn't want to be friends, and you could forget about in the morning. but it was just one thumbs down after the next, or ignoring them all together, and then... there it was. the same face, the same stupid jokes, the same stupid smile that you'd know anywhere.

he was on a dating app... which shouldn't have been surprising, and after all, so were you, so it wasn't like you had much room to judge. still, for a while, you just stared at it, at him. 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 into overdrive. it was a feeling like a punch to the gut and a breath of fresh air all at once.

when you finally press the stupid little thumbs up, you blamed it on a joke, the product of a careful combination of weed, scotch, and sleep deprivation. you tell yourself you'll both laugh about it later. but somewhere in the back of your mind, you know there's 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 disaster 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, 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'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, and sitting alone in a veteran's graveyard in new mexico, looking over the countless headstones, flanked with tiny american flags while you reflected on those lives lost that night in syria. the night you should have died.

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.

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 even remember succumbing to 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 how you got here.

bare feet pad across the hardwood floor, navigating the bedroom and the quiet, dim hallway with ease until the shape of him comes into view, lying there on the couch. 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 over his shoulders.

the irony of the moment isn't lost on you.