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imperfect dream

23rd of June, 2022

I wondered if I should say something as the airport drew nearer. The small smile on your lips convinced me otherwise, though. Why ruin things? I was content to watch you from the passenger seat.

It was a little difficult to believe it had only been ... what was it, a day? Well, give or take a few hours. The plane tickets here and back had been amongst the more expensive ones I've bought in my life, but I'd have paid thrice as much for what they brought me.

We'd been to the place you'd been telling me about. A little bit of a drive away from the city, but it was worth it - quiet, idyllic, one of those places that feels like it's outside of time. To tell you the truth, I'd probably have been be okay anywhere as long as it was with you.

On the way, we'd talked of many things. But we didn't talk about how sad I'd been, or how sad you'd been, and I didn't mention how much I'd thought of you. It's funny - when you love someone and you're away from them all you want to do is crawl into their arms and tell them how you've been and beg them to heal you. But when you're with them you'd rather talk about this funny thing that happened with a guy you know, or that new restaurant just outside town, or your favourite way to make pasta. It's like just being with them is healing enough. Small salve for one's wounds.

"I'm glad you came," you said, breaking the silence and my contemplation. I yelped.

It wasn't the first time I'd been startled by a sudden noise that trip, but the concern with which you approached me afterward every time was unwavering. I hated how jumpy I'd gotten lately.

"You okay?" The little smile on your face vanished, and I cursed myself. You furrowed your brow and turned a little to look at me.

"I'll be fine. You just caught me off guard. I'm glad I came, too," I replied.

How was I to tell you that you were all I had left? The trip had made life sufferable a little longer. When you reached for the shift stick to change gears, I put my hand on yours. You didn't say anything, and we sat there like that a bit.

"I'm sorry I can't stay longer." My voice came out flat, and before I knew it, I was crying. I turned away and covered my face with my hand in a desperate bid to hide myself. It was shameful, for some reason — but then for me, there's shame in everything. You hadn't seen yet, and kept driving as you responded.

"No, I'm glad you came at all! It was such a nice sur— hey, you okay?" You'd noticed now, and it was the second time you'd asked me that same question in about as many minutes.

"Canyoupulloverplease?" I blubbered.

You silently brought the car to a stop at the edge of the road. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I mumbled. I leaned over toward you to hide my face in your collar. "Is this okay?" I managed to choke out.

You were caught a little off guard, but you recovered quickly. "Oh, yeah, of course it is!" You said hurriedly, a little panic still in your voice. You put your arm around me and patted my back awkwardly.

You didn't know what I was feeling - how could you?

All this love inside me, and I couldn't tell you. I suppose I could have, but I didn't want to. I didn't want to screw it up.

"I'm sorry I'm this way." I bawled.

"No, no, it's okay... what happened?"

"It's nothing, I'll be fine," I choked out. Clearly it wasn't nothing, but you didn't push. A fit of sobbing took me over. I pulled back from you, and hid my face in my hands as I cried. I pulled at the box of tissues you had on the dash, and got a couple to wipe my face with. They weren't enough, and I went back for a couple more.

"I'm sorry I'm using up - *sob* - your - *hiccup* - expensive tissues." I managed to laugh weakly, and you laughed with me.

I reached for the little bottle of water in the side of the door. Our day of travelling had made me familiar with the inside of your car. I took a couple of swigs, and breathed deeply. "I'm sorry. I'm fine now. Let's go."

You wordlessly pushed the car back into the flow of traffic. We drove a couple of kilometers, almost the entire rest of the way to the airport, in silence, and I became painfully aware of my impending return to life back home - or lack thereof. We passed a row of shops, and I asked you if we could stop for coffee. You were doubtful. "You sure you won't be late for your flight?"

"Ehhh. We have a couple of hours, it should be fine. I could use a bit of fresh air anyway." I didn't, of course, say that at that moment I'd have liked nothing more than to miss my flight, that I'd have given anything for fifteen minutes longer.

"Ooookay then." You pulled over (too suddenly, causing the car behind us to honk angrily, which in turn caused me to flinch), and parked in a free spot near a small shop. The smell of fresh coffee wafted over as we walked toward the shop, and you went over to buy us coffee while I found a spot to sit down. You came back holding a tray with coffee, sugar, creamer, and a donut for each of us, and plonked it on the table.

You tutted as I poured four packets of sugar in my coffee. "You know I only drink coffee for the sugar and milk, right?" I said, deadpan. "If you just think about the coffee while mixing the sugar and milk that's enough for me."

We made small talk. We talked about dogs and the little old lady in the village who'd mistaken us for a couple, and the nice concierge at the hotel, and whether we'd tipped enough. We talked about our plans for the rest of the week, and we talked about your upcoming move. We didn't talk about what had just happened in the car.

We talked about how good the coffee was, and we munched on our donuts, and things were okay again for a bit.

When we made it to the airport, you stopped the car and opened the boot. I pulled out my single article of luggage, my small trusty suitcase, and put it on the ground.

"I guess this is goodbye." I said.

"Mm-hmm," you agreed, but you didn't seem sad. There was a kind of carefree confidence in you that gave me hope that it wasn't the last time we'd see each other. The little smile had returned to your lips.

You hugged me, and I walked into the airport. Checking in felt like a blur, and I was on the plane before I knew it.

As I waited for the plane to take off, I felt a familiar sinking begin in my chest.

What was the point of going on? It felt like there was nothing to look forward to. All this love around me, so loud - and a deafening silence in my heart. And me, I was filled with love that had nowhere to go.

Before coming to see you, I hadn't combed my hair in weeks. My apartment had been a mess. I'd lain awake at night wondering where it had all gone wrong and why it hurt so much. Getting out of bed in the morning had been a chore. I'd been feeling like a burden on everyone around me.

I was surrounded by friends, yet it felt like I had no one of my own. For my stupid, selfish self they weren't enough. I needed you.

I felt a little bit of hope then, though. Your smile, the light in your eyes - they were stuck with me. The way your hand felt under mine was burned in my memory. Knowing the things you'd been through, I was filled with respect and admiration for you - how you went on spreading love and light and joy. And there I was, struggling not to cry on a plane. You were so beautiful. The most beautiful thing I've known.

Rage rose up in me. Me and my feelings - why couldn't I just be okay?

Something inside me snapped. I needed to fix things. I needed help. I needed to be better again.

And I needed to be yours. That was selfish, too.

Love is as selfish as it is selfless.

Before I put my phone on airplane mode, I sent you a text. "I think I'm in love with you."

A first step? Maybe. I just didn't want to be afraid anymore.

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