I call it “the pang.”
It happens like this: I’m skipping along when I see something that reminds me of you and boom, click, bang, ding. It’s like nostalgia herself cast a fish hook between my ribs into my gut. She’s reeling me in. The pang. Anyone who lives away from the ones they love knows it well.
Sometimes it happens when I come across an old photo of us. How young we looked, how beached out our hair was. The thing we were slyly smiling at, only we know.
It occurs most on benign occasions. If I witness friends meeting casually on a street corner or overhear a conversation that we might have had. I’ll probably Snapchat you, or call you, or send you a text: ‘I miss you.’ You might send one back. Little do you know my nose is prickling, and I’m choking on the image I’ve conjured of you, knowing you’re not here and my retelling will never be enough. Worse is the thought that it happens the other way too. That I’m missing things. The pang. It’s a bitch.
There’s been a few big ones since I left. Oma’s 88th birthday – pang. A big exam – pang. A first pregnancy – pang, pang, pang.
Then there was last weekend. My dad played his first live show in years. Being here, I missed it. Dad’s been getting up at 5am for months to practice theory, staying up late to compose. It was a beautiful thing, when I lived with him, to wake up to soft lilting scales coming from the living room. I wish I was there. Pang. (There it is in real-time: the torqued gut, the nose prickles.)
It’s crazy to think that for most of our lives, we were on the same path, navigating the same switch backs. Then 22 happened and bam! The pang became a thing. We were no longer a homogeneous glob of matter that danced and explored and stumbled and bumbled through life together. We became a drip of mercury dropped on a ceramic tile, scattered in a thousand directions. While this is true, we will always be made of the same stuff.
You might assume I hate the pang. I don’t. I think of it as if you’ve knit yourself into the fibers that make me up. Skin, memory, brain matter, guts. I stow away pieces of you. I save them for later so that when I feel really deeply in that hunk of beating muscle in my chest, I find you there.
The pang. It’s a thing. Whatever. I miss you.