Modems and Memories
I can’t exactly pinpoint the last time my eyes met yours, but staring at them across the table,
those deep pools of cinnamon, it felt as though not a day had passed. There was so much I
wanted to tell you. Needed to say. But where to begin was what caught the words in my throat,
left them stale on my tongue, and drowned them in the cup of coffee I nursed at.
Had this been yesterday, a world when we were young, careless, full of innocence and
hope… maybe then, just maybe then, I could have found them. My tongue was fruitful with
words then. They would spill from my lips each morning I passed you in the hall, our eyes
meeting as they did now, sparking the embers to a fire inside I still kindled now and again. And,
they would drip from my fingertips, across pages of text messages in modems now covered in
dust. Locked away in storage. Hard drives too outdated to find the signal anymore. To revive the logs. The words. Perhaps my tongue, too, has become outdated. In need of a system update—so we move at the same speed and capability again. But it’s been so long. So, so, long…
I remember our mundane conversations over the lecture of algebra—notes we never took.
You’d complain how your younger sister had ruined dinner again with her sobbing over an ex-
boyfriend; a boy that she claimed to have loved so deeply, she would never love again.
“She’s only ten,” you would say to me, “she doesn’t even know what love is!”
We’d laugh, pretending we, as the older kids, had a better grasp on love than she. How
wrong we were. How young and innocent.
I’d fill you in on the latest drama on the way to geography—mapping the newest gossip
and friendship circles to be wary of. These stories, these people, how one day they would merely be shadows in the back of my mind. Names without faces, faces without names… Simply figures moving through the halls, those, empty modems, like ghosts. They never made it through when the upgrade happened. They never saw the latest software and technology that painted my future.
But then again… neither did you.
It was the simple things. The mundane. That’s what we spoke of every day. We knew
every detail: what we had for dinner, where we went, who our crush was. There were no secrets, nothing zipped and stowed away. But now. As I stare across at you, your eyes are all I know.
Countless dinners have gone by—the best meals I’ve sampled, foreign delicacies that I
would have longed to tell you of. I’ve traveled far too much of the world to ever sit down and
share the stories with you. I could tell you the places, but it’s just not the same. The images on
the screen aren’t as real as walking the streets—streets I used to wish you could have walked
with me. And our crushes…
It’s almost painful to realize you never met my wife. Never read my late night texts
contemplating asking her out for coffee on our first date. Never got to hear the things I said about her—the utmost praise I showered her with to my closest friends. And you never got to see us get engaged. Never saw us share that kiss, and watch as she took my name. I remember wanting to send you an invitation. A card to simply say “hey, I’m married!”. Perhaps to show you up and claim victory over the bet we made once—that you would be wed before me.
But now we’ve got a kid on the way, and I’ve got a high paying position in the career
field of my dreams. It’s not what I wanted to be when we left school—not in the slightest—but
it’s what I became and I’m proud. I think, if you had been there, you would have been, too.
I keep watch on your eyes, how they rise and fall from me to your cup and I can’t help but to
accept that we’ve become strangers. Shadows. Ghosts in the modem. I knew you once, as you
knew me, but these days…
I’m not the same kid who parted ways with you after graduation anymore. You knew me
back then as the starry eyed dreamer out to make something of his name. The one who stayed up late to write somber poetry in old notebooks no one would ever read. You knew me for who I
was—my shadow – all that made me who I am.
But now… My hand trembles as I set my cup down, vision fixated on the table between
us. Now, you don’t know a thing about me. And it hurts. It burns like the fires I’d longed to fan
for this day—but the spark simply isn’t there. Not as it once was. The circuits have been cut
Yet still, I look back into your eyes, finding the only piece of memory that I know. The
only traces of who we once were—who you once were. The person I grew up with, shared my
dreams with, and my stories. The person who watched me fall and stand, pushed me to never
give in, and granted me with the gift I will always be grateful for. Friendship.
And that’s something deep inside, hidden in memories of saved chat logs, in corridors
echoing with late night laughter, which never can truly be erased. No matter the distance. No
matter the time.
I smile. There are no words. There don’t need to be. From across the table, I see that
spark in your eye again, the awakening of a memory thought to long be lost. And you smile
It’s then I know we both know what love is. What it means to truly love, and how
perhaps, even as young children, we did understand. It just took all our lives to piece it together.
So where to start? I question myself over and over again. Lost in the mundane—the
dinners, the crushes, the places. There’s so much I want to tell you. So much you need to know.
So much you never got to hear. My heart pumps hard in my chest as I part my lips to speak,
finding the words that have longed to reach you. Somewhere inside, deep, deep inside… the
system is rebooting. Back-up files found. And I smile. And smile.
“Hey… how’ve you been?”