Six years ago this week she and I met for the second time. Three years ago today she IMed me out of the blue. Two years and ten months ago, she sent me a blushing picture after getting off to a story I’d written for her. The next morning she sent a video of herself shouting at the sky about how much she liked me. We talked all day every day, to the point where I put my job in jeopardy. We had a world of secrets and code words and in-jokes.

Two and a half years ago, she asked me to delete and purge everything we’d ever sent each other, blocked me, and more or less never spoke to me again.

I am older than most of my readers here. (An uncomfortable number of you are about half my age, in fact.) I had plans for my life at this stage, and I still want the things I planned for, but now they seem as distant as they ever have. You fuck up, is the thing. You fuck up, and you tell yourself you’ll learn from it, but then you fuck up the same way over and over and realize all you’re learning is how to ride out the pain.

My memory has never been very good. I’ve relied on bluffs and tricks and devices to cover that ever since I was a kid. I carry a pen with me everywhere, to write notes on my palm; I wash my hands and then squint at them, trying to remember what they said a moment ago.

I have calluses on my hands and feet from beating ache into exhaustion. I have scars whose stories I don’t know anymore. I collect marks on my skin and try to trace them, but a map without a point of reference doesn’t lead you anywhere.

Two weeks from today, I’m going on a trip to visit our mutual friends, and she and I will be in the same city for the first time since 2008. If those friends try to get one of us to meet up with the other, we will each carefully avoid agreeing. The bruises healed a long time ago, but the body shies away.

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