But I was so much older then

A few weeks ago I found some old photos of you. I’d never seen them before. They were of a you that had ceased to exist by the time we’d met. You were utterly recognizable: those eyes.

You’ve done a good job of keeping yourself inaccessible. You’re nowhere, really, save these photos, which feature a kid who’s about to become something else. Right on the cusp. And he knows it: it’s in the squint and in the slight sneer. That same sneer was what I saw that night just before I left your house, wanting to run but knowing I couldn’t, not until I was close enough to the car. Hair on my neck and arms raised, gait slow and purposefully casual, stomach roiling, I got to safety and marveled at a biology that would warn me, even about a person I loved. (Or idolized, as the case may be.)

I spent a long time being angry and disgusted — first at myself, then at you. (We’re trained that way. It is our downfall.) It’s faded, of course, the way a lot of things do, given enough time. But I still thought I’d recoil, seeing those photos of you. Maybe feel the slow burn all over again. (And why? That’s another downfall, I suppose.) Instead, after a brief punch in the gut, what I felt was tenderness.  You were so precious. I suppose you still are, in the way that each of us is, in spite of how awful we are.

It’s done, and I’m glad. And I wish you love.