I found an old picture of us the other day. You and I are sitting together on top of the picnic table, Dragon standing beside me, Smudge sitting on the bench in front of you. Green pines on green hills stand behind us. Look at us! Smiling coyly, I’m doing all I can to seem cute and feminine, while you’re still trying to hide that part of you, even if only a little.
I remember that day down by the river, a day out with friends. They threaten to dunk us in the cold water, and we laugh even as we protest. Do they succeed? That I don’t remember. I just remember the friendship, the fun, and an undertone of desperation. This is the last summer the four of us will spend together. You and I will last a little longer, though not by much. We are young and uncertain, you and I more so than most at this age. Some of who you will be you know already, but I’m still lost. I’m still trying hard not to know myself.
You’re wearing the ring I gave you. Simple, delicate, and set with a diamond, it’s a misguided pledge to love you forever, whoever you may be. In the fevered ache of first love, I forget that I will change, too. I forget that I may not be who you need, and trying to be that person will rip a hole in me. I say I forget, because I know that even as I gave you the ring I realized my mistake. I’m not ready to take back the pledge. I won’t make you give back the ring.
I love you. Now, by the river with our friends, and now, years later as I remember. I love you even though you were no good for me in the end, and I would be even worse for you now. I love you and I miss you, my sweetest memory.