Theme XI: Modern Love, “The Almost Text”

By Bobby Wagner

I woke up too early one morning. I had the sensation I was falling, with nothing to catch me. I tried to roll over and fall back asleep, but the only comfort I could find was my phone searing itself into my hand. My hands could not navigate the maze my mind created, so I did not do it. But I almost texted you:

“We never got to go skydiving.”

It was Saturday — Harvey Day. Penn State was playing Army at noon and I barely made it out of bed in time for kickoff. In my haste, I woke Chris up, who was sleeping on the floor of my apartment — somewhere you’ll never see. My feet found solid ground but for a moment I was underwater with our muffled memory and things moved slower than I am used to. I surfaced, and I almost texted you:

“Happy Birthday.”

I was taking my time walking back to my apartment after class, something I never do. I had coffee, something the version of me you knew would never drink.. I dipped through a hive of high school seniors touring Washington Square. I remembered how excited you were for me when I loved NYU. You were always more excited for me than I was for myself. I almost texted you:

“I thought of you today.”

It was a Monday and my hands were shaking. I hadn’t slept in two days — I was too busy nitpicking the finer points of the biggest article I’d write all semester for the newspaper. The paper hit stands and was up online. I torched my sphere of the internet with it. I don’t know if you saw it, because I don’t know if you follow what I do at the paper anymore. I almost texted you:

“Are you proud of me?”

I hugged a friend as she cried. She came straight into my arms when I opened them, and I didn’t say a word — the same as I would do when I knew you needed me to ground you. I danced with another friend, the way we’d dance when we were children in your basement, but we are not children anymore. No, we are not children anymore. The ghost of your memory made my hands dig through graves along the small of her back and now I fear that my name has become ash on your tongue whenever you try to say it. I almost texted you:

“Do you see me in other people, the way I see you in everyone I love?”

Your name came up with my parents. My mom said she barely recognized you. I nodded my head, and grimaced at the picture she showed me of you. Not because I didn’t recognize you, but because I don’t know you. All I could see was the smile that greeted me almost every day for five years. The smile that hasn’t changed, but is now on the face of someone who is a stranger to me. It was like seeing my favorite player traded to a different team, like reading a story I don’t remember writing. I want to know if you feel happiness from the memory of our story, or if I am just sleepwalking through a dream that you stopped having when you told me to never talk to you again. I almost texted you:

“I want to know you again.”

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