It’s been a couple of months since I heard from you and a couple of years since I’ve seen you. But one glance at you from across the same trashy hometown bar we grew up in and every feeling from the past 10 years comes rushing back to me.
I wish that after all this time those feelings would be gone, that I would be able to see you around town and not feel a single thing. Maybe that would’ve been possible if I had seen you anywhere else. It could’ve been a grocery store, a restaurant, or any other bar. But instead, it was the same rundown small-town bar where we made a million memories and became the version of us we used to be.
I tried to take a deep breath and remind myself that I’m okay. Remind myself that seeing you should mean nothing to me. But instead, I inhaled a harsh aroma of cigarettes, spilled beer, a cloud of cologne, and desperation. The exact same smell that has filled this place since we were 17 trying to sneak in the back door. It was as if nothing had changed and time had stood still in there all these years.
I kept checking my phone, hoping to see your name pop up. You used to text me how good I looked from across the room so you didn’t seem uncool in front of your friends.
I kept looking over at that old stained pool table you used to always find a way to get me to play, even though you knew I wouldn’t make a single shot.
I was waiting for you to lock eyes with me, give me the signal, and walk outside. I’d meet you at the same place we had our first kiss and had infinitely many makeout sessions since.
I saw some of your friends pass me by. I was waiting for them to tease me about you the same way they always did, asking where you were, even though they always knew the answer.
Every time I heard someone say ‘shots’ I anxiously looked around, expecting to see you walking towards me holding more Vegas Bombs than any man with two hands should try to carry. I never told you just how much I hated those because you’d flash me that smile and it was hard to say no to you.
I kept trying to hear what song was playing, hoping it would be our song, the rap would go so fast, and we were the only ones that would keep up, yelling the lyrics as loud as we could looking at each other with the biggest smiles on our faces.
I checked the time on my phone about a million times, it was getting close to closing time and by then you would’ve texted me asking what I was doing after and if I wanted a ride home.
But you never texted saying how good I looked that night. I played pool but it wasn’t with you, and I actually made some shots because I practiced all these years just to look good in front of you. We never locked eyes and I didn’t get the signal that I longed to see again. I talked to your friends, but they knew better than to bring you up. You never stumbled towards me with a big smile, and at least one of the numerous Vegas bombs had already spilled. Our song came on but you were too focused on your conversation with some girl to notice it was on, or maybe you just didn’t care. The time hit 2:30 and my phone never lit up with your name on it. Truth was, you didn’t care where I was going that night or how I chose to get home.
Maybe the bar was the same, but obviously, we weren’t.
I’ve grown so much since the days I used to let you play with my feelings, kiss me when it was on your terms, and make me feel like I wasn’t enough. The days of sitting around waiting to see your name on my phone were long behind me. I wasn’t that girl anymore—I gained too much respect for myself to be with someone that wanted to come in and out of my life as they pleased. These days, I know I look good without having to hear it from a boy that had the audacity to text it from across the room. I have worked too damn hard on my own happiness to let someone play with my feelings ever again. I’ve gained way too much respect for myself to ever be with someone that makes me feel the way you used to.
All that hard work vanished the second I saw you that night. The million times I promised myself to never feel like that again, shattered in seconds. As bad as I wanted to keep repeating to myself that I am better off now and deserve so much more, I know I will always feel the same way around that small town. It was the person I used to be. I am not proud of that, nor will I ever put myself in the positions I put myself in back then. But it’s a reality I need to come to terms with because that crazy suburban small town will always be home. As much as I hate the girl I became in it and found every reason to leave it as soon as I could, there will always be reasons to go back to it.
That small town has so many memories, past feelings, and the old version of me. But it will never have access to the new version of me, the best version of me. That small town will never know the growth I’ve made or be able to see the thriving version of who I used to be. But that’s perfectly okay, because it doesn’t deserve this version of me. I will keep this version of myself to the town that helped me become who I am. I will keep this version of me surrounded by the people who helped me become it, making me feel loved and like I was more than enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that trashy, rundown, cigarette-smelling dive bar with my whole heart. But it will always be the exact same, holding on to a version of us that doesn’t exist anymore.
I’ll always miss you and the version of us we used to be in that bar, but I am proud to not be the same girl that you used to go to in that place. So, know that even though our memories hit me like a train every time I step into that bar, I will still wake up the next day knowing I am better off without you.