I’m not quite sure who I am anymore.
It’s strange- when you’re constantly tagging along with the same two people who are often too wrapped up in one other to even notice that you’re still in the room. It’s like you can feel yourself fade into obscurity.
The couple’s polarization takes over each choice, each decision that’s made, and you don’t play much of a role, you’re just there taking up space. It’s as if you were to leave, it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference because you’re just that irrelevant background character in someone else’s story.
“Babe let's hurry before all the food’s gone.” Lucas beckoned as he began to usher his girlfriend towards the reception hall.
“El, you coming with?” Max looked over her shoulder to ask me, her hand still intermingling with Lucas’s.
“I guess so,” I answered hesitantly, following behind them as they delved towards the crowd, leading into a muffled cacophony of sound with each hollow step.
That’s how things usually go, and it also happens so regularly that being the third wheel is no longer a passing thought.
“Do you know who they’ve got singing?” Lucas turned to Max, somewhat shouting through the combustion of music ringing in the air.
“No clue,” Max hollered back in response. “But they’re local.”
We treaded closer and closer, and with each step, the music got louder and louder.
The venue wasn’t a large one. It was simply a small gazebo with tables scattered around and a stage decorating the front area with no more than forty or so people crowding the dance floor, yet the sound encasing the music was booming loud enough to make you feel the cage of your chest rattle along with each thrum of the rhythm.
Lucas groaned loudly upon noticing the number of people gathered around the food table. “Shit, the line is insane.”
“Race you to the front!” Max smirked, meeting his gaze. The pair immediately rushed into the sea of people and disappeared off into the crash of a wave in a matter of seconds.
And just like that, I was alone again.
While I was left standing by myself, I observed the waves crashing back and forth in front of me, getting dangerously close but never close enough to pull me in, the music filling each corner of my being, my limbs ringing with the heavy bass and the sound of soprano vocals.
All I really wanted to do was leave. There was no point in me still being here. I’d already fulfilled my bridesmaid duty. I’d stood through a whole wedding ceremony in the sweltering August heat, smiling, clapping along, and playing cordial. Honestly, I doubt anybody would notice if I left anyways. Max had Lucas, Hopper had Joyce. Will was off somewhere catching up with friends, and I was left alone - isolated with nothing but the music filling my system.
My body began to move away from the celebration-
I swear it couldn’t be.
I saw a flash of raven curls out of the corner of my eye.
And just barely enough,
I heard that familiar low chuckle that had rung through my ears for the past few years.
and then my body kept moving.
But this time it wasn’t away from the party, no, this time I was voluntarily sinking in the sea of dancing people, all of them with bright smiles painted on their faces, stringed white lights pigmenting their skin in a soft angelic glow. But I brushed past them with each stride, not caring where I was stepping, or who I was bumping into as I shoved myself past the sweaty flesh and tangled hair.
I pushed my way through until a face became clear.
And then I saw him.
I think one of the things I like most about Olivia is the music she likes.
She has a wide range of interests. She likes almost any genre you can name: metal, rock, punk- and the crazy thing is, she can sing along to all of it too. When you hear her voice you can tell she’s been doing this for a while, that she’s been trained and knows her to adjust her vocals and pitch just the right way to practically fit any song. For that reason, I call her the magic singer, and I think she finds the label quite fitting as each time I do her eyes light up with a sort of pride.
She’ll occasionally jam a self-made mixtape into my car stereo, and to my surprise, loud music will begin to pour out from the interior speakers. But then I’ll settle down, and I’ll listen to each twang of string, each key on the piano, and the flow of vocal harmonies- and I’ll fill up with pure joy. I love her music taste and I love the way her voice sounds when she sings.
She's the forefront of a band she’s formed. She usually only sings but sometimes she’ll play the keys or strum a few chords on the guitar. However, she’s the foundation of each song, the strong vocals that carry each lyric, and I’m there for every show.
Olivia and I aren’t together.
We aren’t in love and we’re not dating.
But we might as well be.
It’s odd, how we picked right back up where we left off within the short span of the summer. It’s like we never fell off, almost as if we’ve been close friends for all this time.
It’s not the same feeling I felt for El, but it’s the closest I’ve ever gotten. That in itself means something to me. I feel so happy when I’m with Olivia, so reassured- and it’s a world away from El because when I’m with Olivia I feel she actually wants to talk to me. Like each time she sees me she actually wants me there. Like I’m needed for something other than just to be a physical distraction.
But when I’m with Olivia, I still don’t feel the same.
I don’t feel like I’ve found my one extraordinary relationship in my lifetime. I don’t feel like I’m with the person who I wish I could spend the rest of my life with. I don’t feel like she’s... my home not the way El made me feel.
El is gone now, and I’ve done my best with keeping her at bay. And If it wasn’t for Olivia being the wedding singer, I wouldn’t have made an appearance today at all. But, even still, I've purposely arrived late just to keep a distance.
Because I’m doing it.
I’m finally moving on without her.
How could it be?
There was no way he was here. I’d ruled it impossible, especially when he didn't show up at the ceremony,
He’s looking up at the stage, his lips pulled into a smile which exposes his row of brilliant pearls, his eyes beaming with a light I hadn’t seen from him in forever.
And I watch those lips softly cascade beneath his two front teeth, as they press down lightly to contain the bliss seeping from the creased expression on his face.
god, that agonizing feeling that I can’t help but miss crashes over me again and again and carries me into the crowd of people who are bumping into me left and right without a semblance of care.
It’s like walking through a storm, but I held my ground as I watched him, feet planted firmly to the floor as if the soles of my shoes were anchored to the floor beneath me.
The noise around me is almost unnerving, loud music and voices scattered around me as I feel the hem of dresses brush past me and the smell of alcohol tickle my nostrils while bodies sway back and forth to the rhythm of the blaring music - but my eyes stay locked in on him, as he does nothing but admire the group onstage, laughing and smiling and doing everything he once did with me almost a year ago.
It’s a feeling that's all too familiar: the world disappearing around us and dissolving into nothing but one big watercolor blur, the sounds, colors, and shapes and lines transfiguring into a merely distorted lens of reality. All that remains now is us.
Mike and El.
Yet as I stay grounded, barely just a yard away from him, nothing but a few reception guests standing in between us. I keep my gaze focused and my body statued in one spot, my nerves in both my brain and body failing to signal to each other to move in any way. And at this point, I’m not sure where I want to go- towards him or away.
But before I make my decision, the universe falls through again.
And I watch as Mike moves his head from facing the musical group on stage who are dancing and singing, clutching onto microphones in the palms of their hands, towards my direction.
And like a magnet clicking perfectly into place,
We lock eyes
And I feel it: