Five years have passed.
I watch the video we made 1,825 long, short days ago and it makes me feel a sad twist of melancholy.
I’m swinging on the wooden plank in front of my parent’s house and can hear your laughter in the background. My hair falls into my face as I dance in and out of shadows of light between the tree branches. The glint in my eye reflects your smile.
How in over my head I was back then, without even knowing it. How far-too-deep I’d plunged. I’m still carving my way out from that hole. And five years later, everything and nothing has changed.
It doesn’t need to make sense. Sense is an overrated, slimy-bodied beast. The more I try to find her, the slippier her scales, until I’ve swum so far in, I can no longer see the surface. An eery, green glow surrounds me. Are these your waters? Or mine? I’ll never know. Have I learned anything from this ordeal?
I’ve learned how to run.
Today I’m still running. I run from the feeling of aliveness you bring. I run from the sense I could stay up all night. I run from the idea that anything is meant to be. Because what I’ve learned most from this mess is that we humans, we f*ck up. We let our heads get in the way. We overthink, we hold back. And most of all, perhaps, we try to force the letting go.
You’ve never once held me back from my state of perpetual running. When left with space, we start to wonder—what is it that I want? Do I want you to love me? Yes. Do I want you to care? Yes. Do I want to love you back? Yes. Denying these three would be living within a delusional shield. You know me; I’ve never been one for masks.
And deep down, the teensiest bit of me, however small (or large), always wants to be saved, rescued, carried away from this ordeal. So I guess what I’m really looking for, in all of the running, is freedom. Freedom from a love that ties me down. Freedom from desire. Freedom from thought. Freedom from worry.
I don’t know if I’ll ever find it.
So, I keep running. From you, from me, from it all. And when my legs have tired and cannot carry on a moment longer, I leave my house for a walk. Wandering through streets I can no longer see, you whisper in my ear, asking to come along. At first, my mind tells you no, as I did last week when you called. I was emotionally drained, in a dark place. It was too hard.
But now I’m too tired to resist. I’ve screamed and pounded my fists against these walls for too long. My shoulders release for the first time in 260 weeks. And just like that, we’re arm-in-arm. We walk and I tell you of the things that I’ve found. I tell you about the feeling. I allude to the hole. You don’t say much in return.
Life has changed us both, and just like that, I realize the feelings are gone. I had battles prepared, in my mind, for when I would see you again. Yet all it took was a brief pause from the run. I release your fingers, one by one. I walk away carrying a weird sense of empty. Tired, but rejuvenated.
It’s funny how we place so much meaning on intuitive flashes. Intuition told me we were meant to be. And so for years, I couldn’t shake the back-of-mind longing. No matter how hard I tried. And trust me, I tried. I wanted the sensation I once had around you and you alone—that I was floating. But today, as we walked and talked, ears pressed against a microscopic hole, your voice growing fainter and fuzzier, the butterfly landed by my feet. All this time, I’ve been looking for the wings to fly, not to float.
I had turned you into more than a person. In the words of John Green, “What a treacherous thing.”
We were great once, comfortably intertwined like a log on a river. Carried along a current not quite our own. But I don’t want comfortable. I do want to serve as an active participant in the story unfolding. I want to dance through the fire that shapes me into something new. I want to roll along clouds of laughter.
I want to scream and for you to actually hear. As I somersault my way out of this place, I reflect on how much mental energy you’d been invisibly consuming, all this time. Thoughts take up space and emotions are carried in the body.
It’s amazing, and freeing, and scary, all in one. What to do with the space? Where to fly from here?
I’m finally ready to find out.
Author: Bretton Keating
Image: Oscar Keys/Unplash
Apprentice Editor: Thayne Ulschmid; Editor: Emily Bartran