THE CITY I DIDN’T CHOOSE

Part Four

When you share stars with someone on cloudless September nights you so easily fall for the illusion that, just like the lights suspended above your bodies, they too will never leave. Things feel so permanent there, two small frames immersed in late summer dew. Hair tangled in knots between heads, pinkies accidentally intertwined, crickets whistling the tune they save for young hearts like ours.

And then you find yourself alone one night, straining your eyes to make out the outline of an invisible body, an imaginary imprint left in the grass. The phantom limb jolts. No one clutches your hand anymore. You haven’t heard their voice in so long it’s like you’ve never heard it at all. The woods are silent and nothing sings. What is music to a soul that can’t be eased?

But I wouldn’t have been happier in the city. The only home heartbreak knows is the one inside of you. It has no postal code, no coveted brownstone, no return address. I could’ve built myself a new life in New York (or Boston, or Portland, or San Fran)– one without the possibility of ever being hurt by him, but still, heartbreak would inevitably find me in varying substitutes. No one’s city makes them immune to suffering; you can’t uproot yourself from fate. At least there, lying still in nowhere land, I had the stars to hold me when he couldn’t.

What the countryside taught me: long walks can be taken alone. No one has to pluck wildflowers from secret brooks to tuck gently behind your ear. No one has to call you angelic when you twirl down the trail, playing easy and innocent. No one has to wish upon your fallen eyelashes or write you second-rate poems on the backs of dead maple leaves. You can do it yourself. Or not. You can just lie there, very still, letting the earth erase the evidence of him.

Remember when I said he wasn’t the reason I chose the mountains?

It was what they did for me when he left.

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