The things I miss used to be people, but they’re not now. Not because the people have changed, or because I have changed – though those things have happened, like they always happen – but because I’ve changed the way I need them. I’ve changed the way I miss them.
People come and go, you see. Your grandmother always told you that, and she was wise in the ways of all kinds of things, and not just meringue-baking and coin-hoarding and court-holding. Clenching them to you, close-fisted, close to your heart, it doesn’t work. At worst, it pushes them away; at best it just slows down the process that you already know they’ve started. They’ll stay if they want to, if they’re meant to. You’ll hurt yourself if you try to act otherwise, you’ll cut yourself on the distance.
You’ve always had that one friend. You could talk to them once a year, wine glasses in hands on Skype, or a snatched Facebook conversation, or a comment thread on a picture. And it’s enough for them and for you, those few bits. They’re the strings you grab onto when you see each other again, and those strings pull everything else up. Some friendships work like that. Some stay.
Some friendships don’t. Some friendships only work when you’re pressed up against each other in the crowd at a concert and sharing notes in a lecture theatre. When she’s wearing your dress and her boots are under your bed and you have brunch plans and lunch plans and she knows you take soy milk in your coffee. Those friendships work on closeness, and a co-feeding – growing together, in sync, so you can’t possibly grow apart. It’s lovely. It’s symbiotic. But it’s not sustainable, and it slows you down. It slows you both down.
You can’t turn one friendship into another, and you can’t compare them. They’re not better or worse, they’re just different. Or, they’re indifferent, and you can’t fix that either, not with pleading emails, or tersely worded comments. You can’t beg your way back into someone’s heart. Hearts have never worked like that. Your grandmother could have told you that.
So, I miss the people who miss me.
I miss them because those are my strings, and I’ll put my way back using them. But what I’ve stopped – or I’m starting to stop, because you can’t do it all at once, you can’t cut them all at once – is trying to re-tie and tighten the ones that are broken. Missing someone who doesn’t miss you is an unrequited love, and every badly and beautifully written book on every dusty bookshelf will tell you that that way lies heartbreak. Don’t break things more than they’ve already broken.
And I miss places now, because they don’t have to miss you back.
Missing places happens because of memory, and memory – memory is a good thing. Memory is your heartstrings. And memories can hurt in a way that feels okay, because it’s growth and change and a thousand other things I could Photoshop on to an Instagram shot of a sunset but won’t because I can’t risk the unfollows.
I’m going back for the haloumi, you see, and the beer sipped from cold handles under warm blankets in a bar that opened up under the stars. I’m going back for the beetroot drip and the dolmades. Cocktails on stools that tipped under us later. Crispy potatoes. Noodles. Laughing in stairwells and drawing on mirrors.
You can’t go back, not exactly. It tastes different and it looks different. But you can get close. I’m going back to get close.