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Ugh. You again.

I don’t know if we’ve met before.

I am clearly on my way to the bathroom and am more concerned with peeing than interacting with you substantively.

You just said “Good to meet you,” but we’ve been introduced at least three times, so I want to make sure you know I know that we’ve met before, thus making you the asshole, not me, even though, obviously, you could give two shits about being an asshole, given that you refuse to acknowledge our previous interactions.

I have forgotten your name.

I want you to think that I think it is good to see you.

This interaction is purely an obligation and I don’t care if you know.

Girl, you are drunk!

Wow, you’ve gained weight. Nothing wrong with that. It happens. It’s just, I haven’t run into you in over a year. And I immediately noticed. It’s kind of all I can think about. Not because I care how much you weigh or think that it makes you disgusting. Not exactly skinny here, myself. Mostly, I know that you’re not supposed to talk about that kind of thing out loud. Which just makes me want to, more. To the point that I need to leave. Before it’s too late.

I am 10 percent sure I know you from soccer.

I am 25 percent sure I know you from soccer.

I am 50 percent sure I know you from soccer.

I am 75 percent certain I know you from soccer.

I am 100 percent sure I know you from soccer, and honestly, I think you’re kind of a dick.

I haven’t forgotten what you said about me to multiple people in a group text, Stephen. You think I don’t know, but I know. I’ve known since 10 seconds after you said it. I still have the screenshot in my phone. Maybe you didn’t mean it. Maybe it was just a joke. Maybe you don’t remember saying it. That doesn’t matter. I do remember. I think about it. A lot. When I shower. When I’m on the elliptical. When I see the back of someone else’s head who has the same dumb haircut you did last year. I think about ways to destroy you. I think about ways to make you suffer. I have plans for you. Terrible, violent plans. In some ways, I thank you. I thank you for this gift. For helping me realize that the depths of the darkness inside me. For helping me realize what I am capable of. A reckoning is coming, Stephen. I will anoint myself with your thickening blood.

I am only being nice because you have sex with my friend.

I am only being nice because you are my relative.

I am only being nice because you are a person I know through work.

I am only being nice because it is possible I may need something from you in the future.

We, as a we, were a trainwreck. I hold you no ill will, and I do not regret anything we ever did in pursuit of an answers. About each other. About whether some future existed for us. But now, years later, I wish that you were out of my life. I wish that I didn’t have to see you, unexpectedly. In these situations. Where I am trying to be this new version of myself, and in others, where my guard is down and I am trying to simply be present. When I see you, my first thought is always that I wish that I had just a little bit longer. That I could have gone another week or another month without laying eyes on you. Because I’m sure, if I did, it would finally be enough time for me to let go of the disappointment, both in me for how I was and you for what you did. Enough time to functionally forget what we were and how we were and how we looked in certain types of light. Enough time for the muscle memory to wear out. For whatever we had to transition from this shabbily fadeworn present to a beautifully ruinous past. The way that old stone walls look peaceful, not sad. History covered in vines and moss. Ruins to be explored by green eyed children.

Now that we’ve made eye contact, there is no avoiding this.

Zach Straus

Zach Straus peaked at 15 and is mostly held together by masking tape.

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