I spend half the flight home rewatching episodes of FRIENDS that I have seen many times before

Andrea D'Souza

It is Phoebe’s turn at love and not at the love all the beautiful people on primetime TV seem to find on every corner as if connection were a thing always waiting to be found in the froth of some ocean that drowns New York City then collected in a hand and very slowly ladled into each cup you own, beginning with the one you are most comfortable with losing and ceasing when it hurts, to muddy more that’s yours,

but at the love that stops the search for anything at all. Moments before her date, she meets Ross in the coffee shop, enters the room with the zipper of her dress pulled all the way down, back bare to a world that lately has been teasing her with triumphs that never came easily before,

and the people we don’t see erupt into laughter even though they know this is just the type of thing that Phoebe tends to do and will likely do again,

and I probably should be watching some movie I’ve never seen, but can I help how it is gentle, to sit bloated from return? I’m surrounded by strangers and the blue airplane blanket cannot cover my shoulders and feet both at once and I stare at a screen where the classics and new releases are lined up so neatly like the paintings of you

in the hallway I imagine when I am missing you badly. It is long and it is narrow and I run from end to end trying desperately to memorize everything at once, but still, it will escape me: the pitch of your back as you wash the cold grapes you will bring to me in bed

on a clean kitchen towel, and he doesn’t mean to hurt her,

so the people laugh again when Ross reminds Phoebe that she’s never been with anyone long enough to know it, that love that will stick like salvation to your wonder, and Phoebe then panics, taking stock of herself, in her mind, revisiting all of the men who passed through her life and left behind nothing but a story to tell and retell and retire and why would she imagine that more could be hers, could belong to a woman with her kind of face who walks through the city with a zipper undone and has nothing to show for her wanting so much,

and I cannot laugh along because I recognize that fear. I carried it close in a pouch on my chest until it outgrew my grip and the height of my walls and it burned down my house and I stood there just watching and you never came back, never wanted me again. I cannot laugh along

because I recognize that fear, the dread that toppled Phoebe after years of being brave: to finally believe just to learn you were wrong when you thought you knew someone who wasn’t yourself.

Andrea D’Souza is a graduate of Princeton University where she studied Operations Research and Poetry. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.