Vignettes of Something Lost
BY: JOSEPH NELL
2015: Everything was dead and there was no snow to hide it from us. Night extinguished the horizon’s last flame and the grey, salt covered road was the only thing we could see. White dotted lines raced past us. We raced past the other cars on the road with such a velocity that their red taillights through the windshield turned to white headlights in the rearview mirror before receding to specks and then to nothing. She passed me the water bottle. I took a sip. It warmed my throat and then warmed everything else. I handed it back. Detroit crept into view. We were tearing towards the sparse skyline. Peripherals blurred, but if we could see them, the views out of both the driver’s and passenger’s windows would reveal a wasteland. Boarded doorways and sunken in roofs. She laughed and I turned up the music and drove faster. The bottle was half gone and I put my hand on her thigh. She pressed down on it. Her hands were warm. Her dirty blonde hair fell gently over her shoulders. The city never seemed to get closer. That was okay.
2013: It was a warm summer night and the pavilion hung over our heads and a slow blues escaped from the towers speakers at the edges of the stage. I’d been waiting for the perfect moment because I had to. A fantasy I chased day in and day out for two straight years was there for the taking and my heart pounded. The concert was going according to plan and I sat waiting for the right note to move in. John Mayer took me far away from anywhere I’d been before through his pentatonic solos that rained down on the audience. It was almost over, though. Ten forty-five. Concerts legally had to be over by eleven and he still hadn’t played the song. The current one ended and he thanked the crowd and left the stage. My insides sank. Love, to me, was the answer yes to these questions: Would you die for her? And, more importantly, would you kill for her? I’d go to war alone against the 30,000 seated behind me right then and there if it meant she’d be mine. The crowd roared for an encore. John walked back out and slung a guitar over his neck. He started out with those shrieking and sobbing notes I’d been waiting for all night. I looked at her sway hypnotically and it was the first time in my life I felt like I didn’t need to be anywhere other than right where I was. She looked at me and I looked right into her eyes, pulled her in, and kissed her for the ﬁrst time.
2016: Manhattan’s streets were thinning out when I left my hotel on 45th and Madison at one in the morning. She was at 27th and Broadway. Our last six months were separated by 630 miles and silence. Something told me to reach out. Everything got brighter as I ascended the numerical order of the avenues. I reached her location expecting her to be running late, like always. A few minutes passed and she came out. What a tease. Black army boots, tight black pants, and a deep cut white shirt covered by a black hoodie that always slipped off of her left shoulder. There was a bit more blonde in her hair. We embraced and she radiated warmth. We set off for the top of the Empire State Building. It was cold up there but the city lights almost succeeded in replacing the same star field they took away. A green laser beam hit a wall next to me and we decided to head down. We stepped down into New York’s underworld and climbed back to the surface near the Brooklyn Bridge. Three in the morning and no signs of slowing down. Light danced on the water and I took her hand. Cameras were always on us in my mind. I stopped her and said something cheesy and kissed her and felt the every light from every window from the night skyline shine down on us. I imagined it must be what death felt like. We went back down into the underworld and found and express train back to my hotel room.
2018: I’m laying in my bed at 11pm on a Saturday night and aimlessly scrolling through apps. My fingers set off on a routine they know all too well. She has an instagram story. I wait a few minutes before clicking on it, so I don’t come off as too interested because I know she checks. Outside of my window reveals a different skyline. Boston is cold and the city is frozen. The city in winter is never dark as the building lights pollute the sky, yet its bleak winds managed to blow out a light that has flittered inside of me for the past twenty years. And the years have gone by. I click the story and see that she’s at New York Fashion Week. Thriving. Joy comes first before sadness overtakes it. My phone is a prison and she’s trapped in it. The twelve by twelve dorm room I’m trapped in makes it easy to feel like I’m the only living human left on the eastern seaboard. I toss my phone on desk, turn off my lamp light, and let my head hit the pillow. Sleep is getting closer and closer and was about to grab me. My phone buzzes. The screen lights up. Her name flashes across the screen. Here we go again.