counting down the ways i wish i loved you

It’s August in your first year of college, and the two of you are sitting on the floor of your dorm room, AC cranked up as high as it will go, you desk fan oscillating back and forth. It’s dusk but still hot as hell, and through your closed window you can hear the cicadas shrieking. You throw your textbook halfheartedly in their direction, and Mio laughs in that soft way that you think means she loves you. She does, but that’s not important.

You groan and rest your head on Mio’s shoulder, and she ruffles your hair, and your heart speeds up in that way that makes you think that maybe you love her back. You don’t, but you won’t realize that for a long time, and that is what’s important. The sun is setting, and your hand is at the nape of her neck, and this is the biggest mistake you will ever make in your life.

It’s December in your second year of college, and you are holding hands in the snow. You’re holding an umbrella, but it’s too small for the both of you, and flakes of snow speckle Mio’s long black hair. She is beautiful, so you tell her so, and she smiles and squeezes your hand in that way that means “I love you.” You squeeze back, because you don’t know what else to do.

It’s February, and you are dancing close to a guy you met at the club, and you don’t notice Mio leave.

It’s May of your third year of college, and Mio is scrutinizing internship applications. “We’re going to apply to the place in New York, right?” she asks.

You don’t want to live in New York. ”Yes,” you tell her. Mio smiles, and she shoves the papers away, and picks up her bass and starts plucking at it in the way that means she’s happy. You look across the room, at the drumsticks on your nightstand. You can’t remember the last time you played.

It’s your last year of college, three days after the application deadline. Mio had found your blank papers on your desk, and she isn’t yelling, she’s crying, and that’s so much worse. You want to say something, but you don’t know what, not yet.

It’s two weeks after graduation, and you are at the airport, and Mio is in your arms. “I’ll be there soon,” you tell her. It’s a lie, but you don’t know it yet. Mio does, but she nods, and she kisses you softly in a way that means goodbye. As she steps up to the security gate, she glances back at you, and you make a heart with your fingers, and she smiles and makes one back, and for one brief moment, you are back in high school, back where you knew what things meant.

It the August after your daughter was born. The air is hot and sticky, and the cicadas are screeching in the trees, and your daughter is crying in your arms. You glance across the street as you rock her, and you see a woman with long, black hair and a guitar case slug across her back. She looks at you, and your heart speeds up in a way that means you’ve finally fallen in love with her.

Mio stares at you for a moment in a way that makes you think she loves you back, but soon the moment passes, and she walks away.

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