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  • Kali Van Dusen

i'm going to love you all year and that's okay



I started last year in your arms. I woke up on New Year’s Day and I was in your room, the warmest sun pouring in the window at Manning and that giant squirrel running across the fence. You smiled at me, we said good morning, happy new year. We turned on the football game, you explained it to me. I turned on the Rose Parade, and explained that to you. We talked about having sex but I don’t think we did. I regret that now because being with you in the morning became my favorite time with you. You asked me if I wanted coffee or tea and I think I said no, which I also regret because you never asked me that again. I told you I needed to drive to Pasadena and you told me you might go surfing with Jack. We pulled our sore, hungover bodies out of the bed and dressed alongside each other. You looked at me with the softest eyes and said “you’re just so….” and stopped there. I didn’t need anything else. I was just so. We kissed, so softly, so full of care, the memories of the night before, full of love.


I said bye to Jack in the living room, the warmest of them all. Later, you told me surfing saved you that day, curing all the pain of margaritas and soju. My drive saved me. Los Angeles glows after a rain. My mom says, “she’s her shiniest self.” The wind through my window, air that opened my lungs up for me, and the feeling of your hands and lips still all over my body. I started last year with you and I refuse to touch it. I won’t ruin these moments with you with the way we hurt each other as the year went on. Because then it was good. Then it was warm. Then it was “I want you right here next to me.” Then it was kissing as we looked out on the city as it lit up, then it was karaoke, you pouring me a drink, then it was you in a suit and me in a dress, you looking at me and knowing me, then it was us watching football in the morning and kissing in your bed. I like you like that, I love you in that way, and I won’t touch it. It was back when we were kind to each other. It was back when I was a whole being. It was back when you made me feel alive.


I started this year dancing. Dancing without you. We never danced. I started this year with people who are a part of my fabric. I wanted to sew you into myself with them but you never seemed to fit. The thread unraveled so fast I couldn’t grab hold of it. This year I danced, I drank, I threw my head back and laughed til I snorted. I thought about you a lot. I thought about your arms holding me, how you smell, how your lips feel on mine, and waking up with you. LA beamed after a heavy rain again this year. I drove on the bridge with my windows all the way down to clear my head. I went to the bookstore, if not to read but just to simply take in the colors of the spines. I lit a candle for 2022, for us, for you, but mainly for me. I hung eucalyptus in my shower to clear my lungs, my soul. Most importantly, I went to the beach.


Lifeguard tour 28. Ashland and Main, the strip of Santa Monica that felt like it raised me. Held me up when I was falling, reminded me of everything beyond the overwhelming. The sun is the warmest there. The night is the most alive, even in the quiet. I got an americano, I walked to the shore. The waves were big, endless, the tide was fierce. But she was soft. I thought about jumping in, the coldest water over my head, freezing my thoughts for a moment. Religion is a stranger to me, but a cold beach at dusk is as close to Heaven as I may ever get. I don’t have to think about healing here, it just happens. I thought about how much time I’ll spend here this year, the year I’m using to heal every part of me. The air was cold, the clouds were pink, the coastline was foggy. I breathed in and it didn’t hurt. I breathed in and it was easy, like it should be. I exhaled and it felt mightier than my breath. I thought about you a lot.


I missed you so much it did hurt. It ached in a way it hasn’t before. I can’t tell right now what was your fault and what was mine. I don’t know how to think about you without my own romanization, the fantasies of what I wanted us to be. I think about you and her sometimes, and what moments did you have that I replaced myself with to fulfill my desires. (I try really hard to not spend too much time on this - it hurts the most). I don’t know where to put this guilt. It’s spilling out of me and I can’t stop it. It doesn’t come in waves, it’s always there. I miss your laugh. I miss your face, your eyes, your ears, your chin. I miss football, I miss dungeons and dragons, jeopardy, I miss you teasing me, I miss the relationship I made up. I miss the what if. I want to run to you and say I’m sorry, and say I can’t go this year without you. I don’t know how anymore. I don’t remember the years before you. But I do. And I will. And I have to.


I started this year without you and god, it hurt. But I’ll keep going. This year, I’ll move slower and with intention. I’ll remember who I was, who I am. This year, I will heal my own wounds - the wounds we both left. And I’ll miss you. And of course, I’ll love you. That will never stop. I think I just might love you forever. This year, I woke up alone and it was the greatest gift of all. I filled my space with the Pacific, with Bird, with my mom, with the Colorado Bridge, with americanos, Doc Martens, and puffy hair. I filled my space with my flaws. I would be lying to myself, and you, if I said I didn’t hope 2023 brought you to me in some way. I wish it more than most anything else. To apologize, to squeeze you and say god, I’m so sorry bud. I am so, so sorry. To say, I’m sorry I didn’t know. I don’t always know. I still don’t know. I’m trying and I put you in my crossfire. To drink with you and eat with you. To look in your green eyes and fall asleep in your chest. I wish for this but what I know is that I will keep going. I will keep finding me, opening up my lungs, clearing my head, and mending my scars. I started this year dancing without you, because I need to learn how I dance alone.

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