You Look Like A Boy I Knew


I’m sorry for staring, I know it’s rude. I know how uncomfortable I can get when some stranger is looking at me for just a few seconds too long ago from across the train car or the coffee shop — I hate that I’m doing it to someone else. But you should know (even if you’ll never really understand) that you look like someone very, very important. Of course, when one gets up close enough, they can tell that you are not him. There are specific, crucial features that you are missing, a certain look in the eyes that you just don’t have. But from the side, from a three-quarter profile, for just a few minutes — you are him.

You don’t know who he is. You’ve never met him. (At least, I imagine you haven’t, as it would be an incredibly odd stroke of fate for the two of you to somehow know each other.) But believe me when I say that he is important. He is not like anyone else, he’s filled with this kind of quiet joy and humble curiosity that makes him seem like a prince from the stories my mother used to read me in bed. I don’t know if anyone else would love him quite the way I did — or see in him the things that I used to remind him of every night as we went to sleep together — but just one person was enough. I saw it; it most definitely existed.

I have to admit that I was pretty scared when I first caught you out of the corner of my eye. My whole body was overtaken with this incredible, terrible nervousness and I wondered how I could possibly open a conversation. What could I say to him that wouldn’t sound as bizarre and anxious as I was? How could I make myself presentable for long enough to take advantage of being in the same cafe as him for just a few precious minutes? I thought I might be sick with fear, that I couldn’t possibly be so lucky as to see him by chance after all this time. We hadn’t been talking, of course, for so long. There was no way that we could have orchestrated such a meeting. Sometimes, when things are too beautiful, you have to put them away forever.

But then I realized that it wasn’t him, that I wasn’t feeling some thick electricity of meaning and serendipity in the air around me. And as nervous as I was — as terrified of having to say something — I became overwhelmed with grief and disappointment that he was just a figment of my imagination. I even briefly resented you for standing where he should have been standing, for looking so much like him, for allowing me to believe that we were finally going to speak again. It was such a wonderful possibility for the small window of time where I didn’t quite understand — your being who you are took that from me.

It was rude of me to stare. I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t make you feel uncomfortable. But you should know that you are beautiful, that you look just like someone who is more lovely and more special than they will ever know. And you did something for me, even if you won’t understand. You gave my heart a brief moment of hope, and made me realize that I had really been hoping for this all along. You reminded me that something still lives and grows within me that cripples my heart and makes me ache for him even though it has been too long to still consider myself “in the healing process.” And even though, in the end, you were not him, you carried his ghost with you — if only in that moment. Thank you for reminding me that I should still be chasing it.

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