I can only remember it the way I remember it. Which is the way one might remember the color of a streetlight or an old telephone phone number: with confidence, some confidence, but I wouldn’t go around telling people that’s how it all went down. So don’t ask me. Do not. See, some might argue this, but for me, when we stopped speaking it wasn’t so much about you, or me—about us—as much as it was about what I did and how I didn’t apologize. Or couldn’t apologize. It’s hard to tell. What I am sure of is that I became okay with how it all went down after years of therapy, of pills, of a year of rehab for the pills. It felt like enough. Enough time to forgive myself.
But maybe not.
It was clear nobody expected me to be there at your wedding.
But there I was: standing silent with a beard I couldn’t grow the whole time we were together and with a new, excited girlfriend that was happy to spout astrological theory and explain the best ways to stretch and how homemade kombucha had rebuilt her intestinal tract after all those years of doctors screwing it up.
Your parents didn’t make eye contact. So they couldn’t see what I’d become: a creature so different from the last time you and I tried to make it work. Me: fresh out of rehab. You: already seeing the guy you would marry. Us: trying to recapture something in the back of my hatchback.
On opposite ends of your reception we both sipped seltzer with lemon.
I eventually shook his hand, and his face looked the same as it did when it flashed on your phone in the backseat of my car. His hands were clammy enough to wash mine. Which made me want to wash my hands for real. And—sure enough—there was your little brother washing his hands next to mine. He said something about him still listening to that one band and his untucked shirt was still down as his wrists, covering up the track marks that I knew were still there on his arm. And I smiled pretty good at him even though I was responsible for both.
Max Schwartz is an undergrad living and writing out of Boise, ID.
image: MM Kaufman