It’s insane how much you look like my first love. You walked up to me on the seashore early one morning, and the shock of recognition was followed by a strong sense of disorientation. What are you doing here, Alex? I thought. Here, of all places, in my somewhere else. When you said something (it was about the sunrise, I think, but I was still too unsettled to remember), I realized that you weren’t him, just someone who looked remarkably similar. Several days of running into each other, and sort of becoming friends, haven’t dulled the resemblance. You even move like him, for goodness’ sake.
You made me surprise myself, you know. There was a time, long ago, when any reminder of him would have hurt, or felt bittersweet. Not anymore. I take pleasure in your smile, that wonderfully familiar grin that automatically makes me want to smile back, and it takes me back to the laughter that made me fall in love. There’s a feeling of being in two places when I’m with you: one in which I’m enjoying your company, and another where I’m wandering in the past. None of this is painful, just odd and funny and surprisingly easy. Twice, I almost called you by his name, just luckily catching myself in time. It’s a double world I’m living in, and meeting you has taken me there.
This isn’t really about you, I’m sorry. I don’t truly know who you are beneath your likeness to another man. There isn’t enough time to find out, because you’re leaving the island soon. We’re both transients here, you and I, and it’s a funny twist of fate that brought us together that day under the sunrise.
I think it’s okay, that we won’t really get to know each other. Perhaps our meeting is a gift, one that I needed more than I realized. You showed me that I have what it takes to move on. I have a problem with that, you see, with moving on. I linger at the spot of every important goodbye, watching the person walk away until the final glimpse is gone, hoping for one last backwards glance. I’m never the first to turn away; I’m always the one who’s haunted. Meeting you, enjoying the ease of looking into eyes that take me back to a different time, have reminded me that even if it takes longer than most, I do move on. Maybe I never forget, but I can eventually remember without pain. And that gives me hope.
When you go, I won’t ever see you again. You’ll be one of those significant strangers, the ones who stay just a little while but leave a lasting imprint. In this case, I think you’ll take away something, too, the fear that I have a heart that doesn’t heal. It’s enough. It’s more than I thought a stranger can give, but that’s what you did, even if you didn’t know it. Thank you. I won’t ever get to say this out loud, but thank you.