Furiously recalculating — that’s what 23 feels like.

What if I could do what I love to do, only with numbers instead of words? I could coax them into line, one by one. Manipulate them, find some sense in them. I could pay my rent this way, I think. Words do not seem to pay the rent.

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I don’t know what to focus on. I don’t know if I should really be looking for a pitfalls-I-can-deal-with, pays-the-bills job. Or if it’s okay, at 23, to set my sights on something closer to a dream. Here are some of the words that stubbornly refuse to appear in this dream: accountant, doctor, engineer, lawyer, teacher, unpaid intern, graduate student, Ph.D. candidate, Peace Corps volunteer.

I don’t know which stage of life I’m supposed to be in, currently. Maybe dreaming should come later. Maybe things like salary and security and benefits and experience should come now.

Should worrying about meeting someone come now, too? I don’t mean someone as in anyone; I mean the last one. Someone to share biscuits and jam with every morning, and not just when we pencil each other in.

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I like talking to you. About past loves and potential possibilities, about places we’ve been and places we’d like to go. About bad choices and wonderful strokes of good luck. About totally botched interviews and fancy pie fillings.

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You are a wonderful, wonderful friend. But I don’t remember to miss you when you aren’t there. I don’t make a line of pillows down the center of my bed and think of you when I curl up to sleep. I don’t crave your mom’s cheesecake or your grandmother’s meatballs, your best friend’s low whistle or your father’s clap on the back.

Instead, I wish for the way he used to scoot in behind me on my desk chair. All thighs and biceps and intoxicating aftershave. I wish for I love you, exhaled against my neck, and the warmest kind of warm. I wish for roving hands and matching smiles. When did we stop laughing? When did we start sounding so tired, so resigned? I love you, and then the deafeningly silent: but it’s not enough.

We were in love and then we were in something else. We were young and then we were not as young. We were growing together and then we were miles, miles, miles apart. How bewildering.

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The things that got in the way — how important are they now?


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