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Later that night, a huddle of friends and I gather around an old piano in the lodge where we are staying. We suck down beers as we sing and laugh and dance our way into the early hours of the morning, and I can't imagine this being better, with him here, I tell myself. Because you might not like this and I might feel like I have to entertain you and keep you company instead of really joining in. Halve my experience to make yours fuller. Drag you along, like a parent with a crabby kid after a long day at the fair. See, look! This is so fun! Isn't this FUN?!
I am still thinking about this when a song by the Avett Brothers is taken up. “No, nothing in this world could ever hold me back from you...” It hits me wrong, and I tuck myself into the deep corner of the couch and listen quietly as the mixed voices and lilting harmonies float up to the high ceiling beams of the lodge. This song just makes me miss him, I tell myself, attempting to wave away any threatening sadness with a dismissive swipe of my mental hand. But then it occurs to me that it isn't the right kind of missing: not the kind that comes with wistful sighs and sweet longings and the slight swooning over what will happen when we are together again. This kind felt permanent, final. A dying. This is the song you sing when you're just starting to grow your love for one another, I found myself thinking. Committing to living your lives with each other. And this song used to be for us, but maybe it isn't anymore. And maybe we could get that back, but how? Because you don't actually miss me, and if I am brave enough to face the truth about why this song could make me cry, it's because I know without even having to think about it that there are plenty of things that could hold me back from you.
And suddenly I remember another late summer night with friends, another Avett Brothers song. Of driving a friend home after her boyfriend had taken off without a word from the bar we had all been at, leaving Erica and I to take care of her, even though neither Erica or I knew quite how to do that. So we got her into Erica's car, and I sat in the backseat and Erica drove while our friend sat doubled over in the passenger seat, her pain-filled sobs layered over the song coming out of Erica's car stereo: 'Black, Blue.' And as Erica and I listened to her cry, to her asking why he didn't love her, how he could just leave her, why would he do this to her, tears began streaming down both our faces...because we knew there was nothing we could say, nothing we could do to make it better. Especially since both of us knew – but knew better than to say out loud – that this same thing had happened to all of us before, and it could happen again without any of us wanting it to. No matter how much love you give to someone, they could still abandon you. Could still want to. Leave you weeping along to the soundtrack of a sad song, wondering why they don't miss you. Won't.