My first memory of you as the person you became to me was Fourth of July that first year we knew each other. We were both at the bar where we worked; Meg was there and a handful of other servers, hostesses, a manager. It was one of the slowest nights I can remember; one man sat at the main bar eating a big meal. When the fireworks started, we left him there with his meatloaf and potatoes, and we all poured onto Mass Ave to watch. I've always loved the Fourth of July because Central Square becomes a ghost town, Mass Ave a sidewalk. We all put our arms around each other in camaraderie, and I remember you ever so slightly squeezing my hip. It was so slight that I assumed it was my own burgeoning feelings toward you that felt it. It wasn't until months later when you mentioned that as your first move on me that I realized I hadn't made it up. I had read the signs right.
We were friends and coworkers for a long time before we were anything else. We were both seeing other people—you more seriously than I—and so I had resigned you to being a friend. Even as I write this I feel that there is too much to write. You were my first realizations of all that I could want from a person.
We were a slow burn, sizzling under the surface of our friendship until we jumped in. We scrambled back out a few times before jumping back in and staying there. You were fresh out of something long and meaningful; I was fresh out of something short and sweet. You had just decided to pick up and move back to southern California, where you'd left some pieces of you that you needed back. At the time, it seemed like the worst possible moment to start something, but I know now that it was perfect. It was a collision of sorts; we came at each other fast and milked it for all it was worth. We said goodbye at the peak.
There were bad nights, too. The night we met at The Miracle of Science and you told me that it was too soon, that parts of you owed it to her to try again. The night you invited me over after work and all of your friends were there. We stood in your room and you said with regret, "I can't ask you to leave this late at night." There were those looks you gave me, as though I were a fragile vase you didn't want to be responsible for. I understand now those conflicting feelings—we were on different pages, learning very different lessons about ourselves in the process.
Our set expiration date was an unrecognized gift because what it boils down to is that you were not the person I could confess myself to. Sometimes when I'm singing Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs, I think of what you would say if you could see me. You would laugh jokingly because you are not cruel, but I know that it would change the way you see me, your opinion of me, how seriously you would take me. And that's it, isn't it? We all need that person we can pour ourselves out in front of without having to hold anything back or cover anything up.
The smell of industrial cleaners and old beer puddled under taps still remind me of you. Those songs that you, Meg, Taylor, and I would all sing together; the deep scent and burn of whiskey; Central Square really early in the morning on my bike in the cold.