I am not you. You are not me.
Not any longer. We spent wasted so much time being the same entity. Your mystique was oh-so-cool, so mysterious, like you’d force people around you to care about plumbing the depths of all your deep-dark-secrets. No one could understand, right?
Least of all him.
You couldn’t tell a story to save yourself. Couldn’t connect with someone if your best relationship depended on it. No wonder you lost him: he grew tired of your pixelated flirting, wanted something more, and you couldn’t even tell him honestly why it wasn’t the right time.
You could have done much better by the both of you, but I’ve been taking stock of our life. All the books we piled up in our room, buying them just because, and being able to use them as a barrier to hide from the real world? Selling them now to make space and money for moving out.
Thing is. People largely don’t care for your mystique of keeping to yourself, huddling into a hoodie to scroll Instagram. They have their own stuff going on, and if you don’t know how to show up and speak up by now, well, I don’t know what to tell you, except you’re really not going to make yourself happy like that.
I know this, because I tried it. I was there with you, while you told me not to even comment on that funny tweet or the cute Instagram because people just didn’t want to know. Where did that get us, Vivian?
I’ve broken the habit of buying new clothes endlessly just to have something new to look at—actually, I’m working on breaking our habit of accumulating things just because we can. My purchases nowadays are a couple of blouses to refresh the wardrobe, and some art supplies. I’ve broken the habit of being you.
He’s gone from my life right now, but so far it’s always a “for now.” It’s never a “forever.”
I reckon he’ll be back. I wish I could tell him that this time I think I know how to get it right, know how to not wear us both out with all that you practiced. Next time I’m going to know how to do better by him.. That’s a promise to us both, the awkward girl and the emerging woman, and to him. We loved him, and he loved us.
Vivian. You weren’t the best of me. You were shy and secretive, a sloppily-constructed girl who read too much fiction and built yourself from the rubble: a design-a-girl, characteristics plucked and strung together without care for the end product.
You pretended to care too much or too little in the wrong places.
You were not a girl who did things the easy way.
I am the woman cleaning up your mess.
I’m not the best of you either, because you’re not really real. Later got to be your favourite word, because then you can always put off the thing that frightens you and then you make it so that never happens, but we’re way too old for that. I’ll tell you about the secret thing later… I’ll answer that question later… only later never comes, and you hoped that writing the check now meant you’d never have to make good on it.
Look, I get not sharing your stories or projects ‘til they reach a certain stage. Seriously, I have projects going on now, and I try not to talk about them until I feel like I’m pretty secure in where it’s at and what it will do, but you were a miser. A secret-hoarding miser, and it’s not as cute or funny as you thought. It’s not charming. Sure, some things shouldn’t be shared, but you took it too far.
You left me scared. Now, emerging from quarantine and on the downward slope to my birthday, and on the brink of getting my own place, there’s things I want to tell him. Only I can’t, because of your secret-hogging ways. I wonder if he thinks of me at all.
Vivian, I also want to thank you.
Thank you for letting me be you, all those years I wore your persona. But it’s a dress I have outgrown. It no longer suits my tastes.
Thank you for letting me understand that because you existed, he and I were right, just not right at that time. He has things that trouble him too, and because of you, he didn’t have to carry your weight of a relationship while shouldering other crises.
Thank you for letting me reach the realization that soon, there will be a right time.
All my love,
Sarah Little is a sometimes-poet who scribbles when she remembers and gets tetchy when she goes too long without writing. She is the editor of literary magazine Ravens in the Attic and her work has appeared in Plastic Pink House, L’Éphémère Review, and Alien Pub, among others. Her first poetry micro-chapbook, Snapshots was published with Broken Sleep Books in July 2019.
image: Alan ten-Hoeve