It stands behind me, whatever you want to call it. It’s a feeling, like sadness, or a fear of sadness, or worry or doubt or all those things at once. It’s a feeling, sure, but it’s tangible, and it stands there, even when I’m fine, when everything’s fine. It stands there and I can feel its shadow cast over me. 

I want to turn to it and ask, “why are you here?” But feelings don’t answer questions. They just are. 

“Let me have this” I want to say. Just let me feel my life, let me be greatful. Why does it have to stand so close, close enough so that I can feel it’s presence through the smiling and the laughing and the hands holding mine. 

But it’s a feeling, I tell myself. It doesn’t leave just because you want it to. It doesn’t leave just to make things easy. 

“I love this” I should say, to them, for them. “I love you.” And I do, I do. A kiss stops time, says Matt Haig, and when time stops it should stop, or at least stay still, still enough so that I can forget, forget it was ever there. 

“I love you” I should say, I want to say. “I love you so, so much.” And I can feel the words sitting there, ready to reach out, ready to matter.

“But I’m still here” it whispers, loud enough to shatter my skull. And it is still there. I can feel it. 

Then they’re gone, because of course, and it sticks around. Why wouldn’t it? Why would it ever leave? 

And now here stand roman pillars, ruins, remanents from an impossible, unimaginable past. Almost powerful in the way they underwhelm, imminently real, distinctly believable, unlike that great city they outlive. I look at them the way I’ve looked at so many things in this past week, this week of supposed brilliance and beauty. I look at them with a shadow, with its shadow. 

I just want to be happy with this, this beautiful life. I just want to be happy with these rolling hills beyond the train windows, brilliant green eternity cast against a cloudy sky. I want to see it, without that doubt lingering in the background.

I lost something before thanks to this figure. I lost someone through my inability to understand what was me and what was it. Not a lot has changed since then. I’ve learnt to close my eyes, take a deep long breath, and feel myself, myself separate from its clawing hands. It doesn’t go away though, why would it? Feelings can’t leave just because you want them to.

But here I am, beneath the neon glow of pizziaras and bars, surrounded by the crowds eager to escape the heat of the day, to see this brilliant, beautiful, ancient place draped in the veneer of modern luminescence. Here I am, seeing so many things, feeling it there, whispering seductive deceit. “I’m still standing” it says. “I’m still watching.”

“It doesn’t matter” I reply, realising maybe more has changed than I thought. “You’re always there, it doesn’t change anything. I love this, and I want this, so you just stand there watching, and I’ll just breath.”

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