Even When You’re Not Here, I Still Feel You With Me

I met some men the other night, friends of friends. One of them was patient with me, tender, even with his calloused hands. His thumb and pointer finger pressed softly against mine, guiding my hold an inch lower on the pool stick. “There,” he said, “Like this.”

I could feel the ridges of his fingertips, brittle and brown from the stained wood and ink he worked with. They reminded me of your hands—the ones that can tie knots, can fix leaks in bathroom sinks, can change oil and tires, build shelves, and hold my face gently between palms.

He stepped away, giving me room to hit the ball, to watch the angles and how they were calculated across this little table, all the math and beer mixing like slush in my brain. I squinted, slowly moving the stick between my index finger in the way that you taught me, the way that was more difficult, but felt familiar somehow.

The cue ball made contact with the blue one, both dim in the dingy bar light. I held my breath as it slid across the table then softly landed in the top right pocket. Perfect.

I wish you were there to see it.

I wish you were here for a lot of things—for the mornings when I sit beside the ocean, watching the waves; for the nights I listen to the cars on Cable Street, the rush of people all with somewhere to be; for the Saturday afternoons when I’m tired of being busy and just want to run my hands through your hair, put my legs on your lap, ask you what you’re thinking.

I wish you were here when the bartender asks if I’m having another round and I sigh because beers on a Friday night are not the same without the sound of your voice, the gentle warmth of your hand on my lower back. I wish you were here for the dog on the corner that I stop to pet, or when I meander down the beach-front streets and imagine what it would be like to live in one of those little cottages—a dog and a kitchen and children of our own.

But there are so many ways you are with me, even when you’re not physically present.

You are here in the softness of my blankets, tucked around my middle. You are here when I taste fresh fruit and remember the nights we walked through the market, hand-in-hand. You are here when something makes me happy, and you’re the first person who comes to mind. You are here when the sun sets, and I imagine it setting for you, too, somewhere across the world.

You are here when I laugh, remembering the melody of yours mixing so perfectly with mine. You are here in the man who high-fives me, just as proud as you’d be for my first pool shot. You are here when I close my eyes and breathe in the energy of that crowded bar—perfume, and must, and fries, and sticky-sweet liquor leaving lips—and me, spinning somewhere in the middle, loving you, no matter the distance.