It’s a hazy mid-April Sunday morning and I wait, eyes glued to the wall, for the alarm to go off. The second-hand on the clock tortures me and I hold my breath for fifteen ticks, an obsessive-compulsive thing I’ve done for as long as I can remember. I always forget to tell my therapist about that; about how I couldn’t sleep on our family drives up to Cape Cod because I had to count the light poles on the dark highway.
I turn the car on and give it a few minutes to wake up before it has to carry both me and the weight of my anxiety for forty-five miles. I drive to the town I grew up in; the one you live in, the one I've avoided since you disowned me a year ago. But today I am drawn closer to this place I should probably run from; a place I’ve repeatedly allowed to crush me. I pull into the coffee shop across from my old high school and order the drink I used to get when I was wholly someone else - with sugar now, instead of Splenda. I listen to the labored breaths of my French bulldog, Tubs, as I wait for 8:45. He’s always the first to know when something is wrong.
It’s been a year since I’ve seen you; twelve months since you told me I could never speak to you again because of who I am. I still haven’t recovered and I’d like to say I’m here because I’m fearless but I’m here because I miss how safe I used to feel at your kitchen island. I meet you at Allen’s Meadow, where I ran down the soccer field eighteen years ago. Tubs is within reach as you approach me – he my emotional support animal, I his emotional support human. Your face, still beautiful as ever, sends tremors through my hands as the reality of 365 days finds a home in my chest. Tubs bolts onto the soccer field and the fathers of girls who look like I once did film their little YouTube clips as he pushes the ball down the field. We both laugh but it pains me that you get to see me smile; that you may think you deserve to see me smile now.