by Sarah Little
He tells me this in a midnight text, thinks that I’m a forever kind of girl. He’s the sort who would promise forever if I asked for it, if not for that detail of forever not being real enough. It’s slippery to grasp. You can’t hold it in your hands, can’t flip through a pile of journals that span from 2017 to infinity. Social media isn’t built to count tens of thousands of precious moments in one life.
So it becomes always.
I tell him it’s still not a good idea. There are too many what ifs to contend with every day. Don’t make that guarantee, I don’t want to screw it up, is what I end up telling him.
I can’t do the always that you envision, is what I don’t tell him.
He thinks I’m wrong.
Music washes through my veins, cleansing me with tales of goodbye and see you later. I built this playlist especially for departures: for watching someone board a plane; pack their bags into a car; comb through a house picking up stuff to sell and de-clutter before running off into their own sunset.
My thumb aches when I press it into the power-down button, and the little groove in it is its own goodbye. I won’t hear from him until I turn the phone back on. It’s easy.
I don’t say goodbye, or anything resembling it, because I can’t bring myself to write it. A solid two years of texting has left the conversation thread crammed, full of emoji and broken-down English, bizarre questions pinging back and forth alongside Deep and Meaningful statements. It’s a mess, one I can’t clean up today.
“He tells me this in a midnight text, thinks that I’m a forever kind of girl.”
I write letters to him instead. Each one goes into the fireplace and I buy a bag of marshmallows to justify lighting the fire when I’ve lost count of how many pages are crumpled up in there.
Three fires follow, toasting and burning marshmallows, feeling the heat burning into my face and the warmth of the hearth under my slippers. I drag the couch to the safest distance I can find, fall asleep with the warmth in front of me and dream of forests.
I call it his phone because it’s an old model, one I keep to use the old number that he reaches me on. It ends up being five months before I text back – there are seventeen messages from the first six weeks, and he replies within minutes. I want to ask him, do you still mean it?
I want to ask him, is there a reason you answer so quickly when I’ve been awful for so long? I end up not asking, instead linking to the newest cat video and adding a string of emoji. Even if we don’t end up discussing anything more substantial than what music we’ve been listening to, and the pros and cons of driving or public transport, my photo album is full of screenshots – I can’t seem to resist taking them, keeping them in my pocket for posterity. The clearest of his messages are laid out in a chronologically easy-to-follow pattern, one where I can trace meaning, read and reread, discern what he’s saying.
There’s a lot of conviction in those little pixels on my screen. It makes it difficult, sometimes, to swallow how easily they get written into being. It’s difficult to swallow how easily he comes to say them.
It’s getting easier to believe.
I’m grateful that the technology shields my face, my trembling fingers as I write let’s hang out sometime and wait for the reply. My ears must be burning, one of the few tells I never could control – my face feels hot, but I can’t tell if it’s emotion or the glowing fireplace.
We go hiking. The forests around us are immense, untouched by time, and the kauri towers over us, tall and strong and developed, and I crane my neck back as far as I can to see where it ends. I can’t, of course, because it’s metres and metres high, far higher than the trees you see at Christmas. Even the eighteen-foot ones in malls shrink in comparison, spindly twigs by contrast.
I pick one of the fallen leaves, bright green and oblong, from the ground, wrap it in tissue. Later, I’ll press it, slip it into one of the protectors of the newest album I bought. It’ll look especially pretty with the photo of bluebells opposite.
I bet it’s seen a few things, he tells me. It’s got a story to tell.
This time, I listen.
Sarah Little has an ever-running mind, which makes writing the perfect occupation. When she isn’t trying to slow her mind, she blogs, amuses colleagues with writing adventures, and looks for shenanigans. Her work has appeared in Effervescent Magazine, and is forthcoming in Halo Literary Magazine and Twisted Sister Literary Magazine. She can be found blogging or on Twitter.