Collage by Amil Barlow.

There was a time when we would have never waited for the subway in silence. Or, if there were silence, it would have been a tranquil silence–clear and painless and nothing. Today, a silence full of unpronounced questions echoes so piercingly in one’s mind, it feels as if there are thousands of people screaming inside. I wonder if you can hear it, too.

The air around us is frigid and unpleasant against my bare arms. You used to remind me to bring a coat. I search for a lighthearted story to fill the void. It’s been three weeks and four days since our last conversation and everything has happened, and nothing is being said. You turn to me after a couple of minutes and flash an oblivious smile, which quivers for half a second, before saying:

“You didn’t even mention my hair!”

Your hair is bright blue, and I can tell you detest it by the way you nervously twist your nose. I hesitate because I hadn’t even noticed it was different, and I feel awful for it.

“It’s so blue.” My voice cracks at the end and I wish I could take back my words as soon as I notice your grin fall. “It suits you, though.”

“Thank you.” You say it so sincerely and I regret lying. Blue hair doesn’t suit you at all. I like your natural hair color. You used to have dirty light brown hair and you’d always wear it in a braid, which was so strange and wonderful. Now your hair is short and bright blue and I don’t think we could braid it even if we tried to.

The station is empty and we’re waiting for the last train of the evening. I don’t ask about your boyfriend and you don’t ask about my new job–maybe we don’t remember or maybe we don’t want to or maybe we’ve forgotten how to ask.

I begin counting the people who come into the station. You keep tapping your foot against the concrete floor impatiently, so I say:

“It’s going to be here any minute.”

I don’t mean to sound so annoyed, but I do. You look sideways to me and nod once and sadly offer a half-smile, as if you can read my mind.

“I know.”

One. Two.

“Hey, do you remember Hannah Ward’s party last February?”

You turn to me and furrow your eyebrows dramatically. “You’re being so loud. What party?”

“I’m not being loud. Nobody’s here.” I count again. One, two, three. “Hannah’s party last February. We drank, like, 20 homemade raspberry margaritas and did this ridiculously stellar karaoke performance of ‘No Scrubs,’ and then we passed out in her pantry. We should totally do it again!”

“I don’t think I was at that party.”

“Yes, you were. You don’t remember?”

“Not really.”

There’s a long pause. One, two, three, four.

“Wait, I think I remember. It was pretty cool. But none of us hang out with Hannah Ward anymore.” You say it so matter-of-factly, so plainly, it’s almost as if you can’t hear yourself.

“That’s not the point.” I press, attempting to sound casual and enthusiastic but failing to muster so much as a faint smile. I grab your arm and shake it a bit. “We should just go out next weekend! Just the two of us! We don’t have finals for another two weeks, right? I could just drive down here for a weekend and I’d still be able to make work on Monday. It’s only five hours, and you haven’t even seen my new car! And I have been dying to wear this new sequin crop top I bought last Saturday. It’s not too cold for crop tops, right?”

I’m rambling, and you laugh for an instant.

“Sorry. Am I being too loud again?”

“No, it’s fine.”

You smile, and I realize this is your way of acknowledging the quietness. You’ve noticed it, too. And now we can’t pretend it isn’t here. I want to ask–Is this it? Is this how we go?

Yet before I say anything else, you look at me:

“Remember our poem? By Walt Whitman? ‘Camerado, I give you my hand!’ I forgot how it
goes next.”

We look at each other as I recite the rest:

”I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?”

“Exactly! I kept thinking of it but I couldn’t remember how it ended. That’s it.”

When we step inside the train, I think, Maybe we will never travel together again, or get matching tattoos, or walk side by side under the dawn. But at least our favorite poem will always be the same one.