It’s a real bitch to admit to yourself that they never saw you as an equal. For someone so literate, it’s a hell of a misreading. In retrospect, it’s obvious: you were an accessory; pretty, but nonessential.
They were older. Actually, the first one was younger. But lately they’ve been older, and more importantly, they’ve been established. Established in their ways, established in their careers. You were the opposite: radically self-doubting, self-critical. Indeed, they made you their opposite—made you think yourself dumb, made you shut your mouth rather than argue. They produced you, when you thought you were producing yourselves together, as more than your parts. Turns out they left you as they’d been when you met, while you left less than you were before. Turns out the relationships were transformative, but not in the way you’d thought.
Yet, now, they are gone. The most recent two of them—the ones you’re really writing about, even though there are others—wound up being their own worst enemies. Their behavior caught up to them, made them fall. It may not have been from a great height, but they fell all right. They’ve been wiped clean. To say you miss them isn’t quite right; how do you grieve the loss of someone who never existed?
And you? You’re in their world, more so than ever. You’re still new, after all, so you’re not quite there. Yet you get offers they had previously gotten, and each time, your mind goes straight to them. They haunt you. They will continue to haunt you, each success of yours shrouded in memories of them. Your checks come from places with names that you’d first heard from their lips, their monologues about this or that project, this or that success, always spilling out of their mouths without pause; you, walking beside them, always quieter.
What supreme irony that you exist in the places they once called home. You exist in their spaces, even though you’d always taken up less room than they did. It’s probably fair, and probably just, but it’s eerie. While writing this, you imagined them as ghosts, but what if it’s worse than that: what if you’re the ghost?