There’s a common old magick ritual where you write the name of another who has been plaguing your mind on the inside of a shell, and once you toss it into a body of water, the person will leave your mind.
I’ve been a spiritual person for a while. You would know. You would understand why I sit at the dock on the edge of the Genesee, running the small, smooth shell between my fingers. You should know why your name is scribbled on the inside.
You texted me yesterday, and I can’t even bring myself to open the message. I can only stare at the preview: “Hey, I’m sorry it’s been so long…”
And you’re right. It has been so long. It has been a long time since we last spoke, since I last thought that I truly knew you, since we sat together on my bed, watching our show as the electricity cracked like lightning between us in silence. It has been so long since my dorm room had our fireworks bouncing off the walls.
In the beginning, I thought I could outwit my way into your heart. If I played enough games, sent enough subtle signals, and showed you enough unconditional support, you’d turn to me and say you felt the same way for me. I’ve learned since then that you were the one who was winning games. You kept me in this precarious limbo between platonic friendship and an unreciprocated crush for the entertainment of you and everyone else around us.
Once you caught onto my pining, you liked the attention. It was a nice change from the cold, calculated, robotic relationships you encountered day to day. You liked how I was careful of your feelings and gave you room to explore them, while setting aside my own.
I began to feel crazy. Like in a straitjacket, screeching-at-the-top-of-my lungs-sort of insane. Was that your goal? Every time I mentioned being upset or hurt, our friends treated me like I was pathetic — delusional, even. I have cried to a wall, begging for it to see me as a real person with valid feelings. I guess that’s why they call them “situationships.”
It has been a while since we spoke.
That’s because I repeatedly stressed to you how much I appreciated and required communication. And you never communicated one crucial thing to me: that you knew about my feelings for you. You told all our friends, acquaintances, and even strangers that you knew my dirty little secret. I’m sure you ate every bit of it up, didn’t you?
I know because people still tell me about how you all laugh at me. Because for some reason, my little crush was the worst thing that could have happened in the incestuous love web going on in our little group. How dare I?
You know I hear it all, right? Despite how little you and the rest of them thought of me, I actually do have people who care about me, who tell me because they value my trust.
Before I could wear away the ridges on the shell in my sweaty palm, I opened your text.
For a moment, I wanted to run back and tell you all about what I’m up to — as friends. I wanted to confront you and tell you that what I thought you did to me was really disrespectful. (It was more than disrespectful — it was calculated and manipulative.) I’d say I appreciate you reaching out, but I needed to keep you at an arm’s distance, for my own sake.
But then I remembered the only reason you remembered my existence was because you were bored, yet again. So I put my phone back in my bag, and with all my strength, I hurled that shell into the Genesee.