by: Tara Ruttenberg
not your dream girl
it’s been a month now.
a month since we held each other in the vulnerability of our shared uncertainty.
dreaming up fantasy futures where i’d go live there on your coast, or you’d come stay with me here on mine.
a month since we kissed goodbye at the airport, en route to our separate adventures on dueling sides of the Atlantic. i smiled through security, cheeks rosy through my tears.
i thought it was one of those see-you-soon sorta goodbyes.
a month: all it takes to burn fire in our heart to ash in our memory, the joy in togetherness no match for the harshness of present reality, distant in the delight of disconnect.
and i miss you in a way that feels a lot like missing myself.
and you are nowhere.
“do that on your own time,” they said, scolding us like school children for our just-as-innocent meanderings. hand-holdings. tent cuddlings. shadow puppetings. maybe some sexy snorkelings.
those kinds-a-things… were unprofessional, they said. you had a job to do, and i probably did too.
we laughed. a lot. they had no idea.
you kissed me at the end of the world, white sand fine beneath our shared sarong, orange and purpley-pink. Caribbean turquoise blinked closed in your eyes, and slapped at the island’s edge, the soundtrack to our dreamy solitude. color was everywhere.
“so when did you realize you’re not like everybody else?” you asked me, the weirdness in you honoring the weirdness in me. you liked that i was different, that i could be someone worth spending time with. could i be the girl you’d been looking for? the one you want to spend all seconds of all days and all nights with? just maybe, you thought, i could be your dream girl.
you made me want to set my life-adventure table for two.
on our second date, you stayed a week.
our heaven-on-earth brought perfect waves in perfect company. our two-person tent found home on remote beaches, offshore mornings just for us.
“barrel!” you’d scream behind me, both of us racing along the face. i’d dodge and bail, of course, forcing you to do the same.
“that was perfect,” you’d say, shaking your head as we paddled back out.
i’d smile in sweet, predictable, comfortable regret.
i’d meet your favorite friends on their boats between islands. you’d sing with my mom at the piano.
“it’s like he’s been here forever,” she would tell me in confidence. “like you’ve known each other for twenty years.” we’d known each other for ten days.
we’d exchange realities for weeks at a time. and we’d love every second of it.
we felt right, together.
for months, i never got anything done. and i didn’t care.
it’s been a month now.
a month of you there, and me here.
and you’ve decided i don’t fit the perfect mold of partnership you’ve decided you won’t settle for less than. the time we spent together now memories of lustful adventures you’ve decided you’ve had enough of, the times apart unbearable in uncertainty.
you want black-and-white and here-and-now.
i’m continents away and all sorts of shades of gray.
you’ve decided i’ll take too long to be the girl you want me to be.
the girl i am melts into the smallness of insignificance. crab-like, she withdraws into herself, clawing at nothing to hold on to.
because how can she hold on when you’ve told her to let you go?
but don’t you remember shadow puppets and freestyle partner raps and singing to me in your jungle room while i wrote stories about you for your birthday? remember banana pancakes in bed and Superbowl Sunday with my dad? remember trading waves on different coasts, just you and me and the sea to infinity?
because i do.
that was me. that was me there with you.
and don’t you remember a story about an Amazonian frog in search of his soul who found something he liked better instead? and dark-skinned kids with a baby sloth-on-a-stick, and not-so-secret caves fit for two, and waterfalls with Jehovah’s witnesses, and Adam and Eve adventures in island coves sliced into paradise for you and for me? remember swimming to the sunken earthquake island and sweaty-sexy yoga and tents on the beach, moon and stars and dark to eternity? remember a bioluminescent ending to a nighttime boat ride through the mangroves?
because i do.
that was me.
that was me there, falling in love with you.
not the girl you want me to be.
…might never be.
not your dream girl.