Four days before.
I found out that he lost two years’ worth of savings betting on two meatheads beating the crap out of each other. He joked: I might be broke before you get here… we might not be doing anything besides chilling. I laughed. He wouldn’t lose it all. He was kidding. He would have money to buy me dinner and zoo tickets and Uber rides down the Californian coast. He was excited for me to come – he wanted to do things with me. I paid for the flight, he paid for the things we would do when I got there. That was the deal. How McGregor made a fool of me.
I had been worried since I booked my flight that we wouldn’t have anything to do. That it would be unnerving just hanging out with him like we used to. That just existing in the same place as him without something to occupy our minds and our hands and our bodies wouldn’t fare comfortable. What would I say to him? I think: Let me just trace your jawline and feel the way your chin curves to your small ears and the way they lift when you smile as I do this and let me just hold your face like I did when I was fifteen and thought I had years and years left to do this. I fear it will be more along the lines of: *you push me against a wall and my legs close around you and at once we are animals and no longer humans* I want you, I will whisper, but I won’t mention how badly I want his heart and his mind and to hold his veins in my hands delicately as if capsules of glass that I have been trusted with keeping safe for eternity.
He says: I’m such a fucking impulsive fucking idiot. I say: but look, you can only learn from it. I think about the night that I bought my plane ticket and how it was long past midnight and we were Facetiming in the trick of nighttime and our hearts seemed to match in rhythm and we both thought it was a good idea and it was – to see each other again after two years, after two years separated coast to coast. I longed for the chance to hear his voice vibrate deep in my eardrums again in the way it couldn’t through technology. I longed for his crooked front tooth smile. I longed for someone I once knew. I feared he no longer was. I feared I would let him down, too. Maybe we were both impulsive fucking idiots.
Three days before.
There’s a role I’ve tried to play for him since the day he left the East Coast. I like to call her Cool Courtney. When he texts me or Facetimes me and I’m not entirely sure what to say or do, I usually ask myself: What would Cool Courtney do? Surely, she would not tell him that she didn’t want to be picked up by one of his buddies after she lands because he got his license revoked and no longer can drive his truck. Surely, she wouldn’t admit that it scares the shit out of her that she has to meet one of his friends who is probably nothing like her. Surely, she wouldn’t suggest just paying for her own Uber from the airport to the house he rents a room in. No, she would say: Sounds good, whatever you gotta do. And so I did.
Two days before.
Sometimes when I lay in my bed at nighttime, I imagine what it would be like to have his body next to mine, on mine, in mine, spooning mine, holding mine. I imagine what it would be like to be wrapped in his arms under piles of blankets. I imagine that his skin is as smooth as it used to be and his hands would be calloused from all of the manual labor he does day to day and he would apologize and I would kiss them and look into his crystal blue eyes and say: I like them. They’re your battle scars. I would hold them all night and help his insecurities melt away and his impulses and his addictions would be healed from my words and my presence. Deeper than my vain fantasies, I fear that I contribute to his demons because Real Courtney never trumps Cool Courtney. Instead, I’ll probably say: Let’s do it again.
He says: I’m stoned. I say: I wish. I don’t wish. Bottle of red wine deep, I wish to be anything but stoned. I wish to be sixteen and sober again. I wish to be sunshine on his cloudy days. I wish to be a star full of rays that he longs for again. I wish for Real Courtney to cast a shadow on Cool Courtney, eclipsing her forever. She’s dull. She doesn’t feel. I want to be able to look in his eyes and tell him: I miss you and I think it’s dumb that you smoke a pack a day and I think it’s stupid that you get beers after work and that I think you’re a fucking idiot for gambling away your life savings and that it’s actually not “lit” that you might be getting your license back because you shouldn’t have lost it in the first place.
I want to tell him that I would move to San Diego with him in two years like he joked (?) about. I want to tell him that I would say yes if he asked me to be his wife. I want him to know that he is at the root of my soul and when I picture soul mates forming it is two shadowy figures being torn apart in creation and twisting and lashing away from each other and the minute the last part of them touches, they will spend the rest of time seeking that touch again and doesn’t he know that he is my touch – he is my light and my shadow, the root from which I grow. I want to tell him that I would stick with him through the fucking thick and the thin if he were ever serious about it when he talked about these things. I don’t know if he is. Real Courtney is. Instead, he says: My day is better now that ur texting me. I say: Ugh I know I’m a ray of sunshine. He says: Yes u r.
One day before.
My hands did not stop shaking all day. Perhaps it hit me that he was about to become real for the first time in two years. Or maybe it’s because I knew this wasn’t going to go to way I imagined it would. Maybe it’s because I was about to become real to him for the first time in two years. I’m not sure I know how to do that anymore.
The day of.
On the airplane I bring with me: one carry-on bag, one purse, one Polaroid camera, special shampoo to condition my freshly dyed blonde hair, too many bras, and more backup cash than I had wished to bring. I tried not to pack Cool Courtney. I imagined waving to her from the window as the plane lifts off, leaving her behind on the vast runway, looking for another figure to latch on to. I worry she will meet me again in my shadow as I step foot onto the warm California ground, joining her feet back with mine. She’ll say: I’m here. I’ll say:
COURTNEY ZANOSKY is a recent graduate of Hofstra University’s Publishing Studies program and is currently working in New York City. She has a passion for creative nonfiction writing and finds herself inspired by the fleeting moments found in the corners of each day. A native New Jersey resident, she can often be found hiking the beautiful landscapes that she calls home or eating lots of pizza. Like most things, it all depends on the day.