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I walk down the streets of the town I grew up in with the ghost of her touch and an ache in my heart.

I would hold out my hand and she’d take it wordlessly and God, how do you not fall for that? Falling was easy back then. Falling was inevitable back then.

We ran down these streets under an umbrella that covered neither of us because she insisted on walking me home. I got home soaked to the bone, even more in love than I was before.

I still pay first where I can, only because she’d never let me pay whenever she took me out. The little restaurant we spent so much time at is now gone, but the memories are so vivid in my head I swear I can almost feel the weight of her hand in mine.

I still avoid the street she used to live on, the front porch where I lost all self-restraint and kissed her cheek. I remember running away like my life depended on it and it had. If someone had seen us, there was a good chance we’d be dead and yet all I felt as I ran was pure euphoria and exhilaration. For those five minutes of incandescent happiness, the guilt I carried for loving her was gone.

The last time I ran through these streets with her hand in mine was to get to our school, laughing in disbelief as we realized that we were late to our goddamn farewell of all things. It was the first time I’d worn heels and yet, as I ran down with her hand in mine I felt a surety blossom in my chest, a carefreeness that only reared its head around her. I knew I wouldn’t fall. Even if I did, it wouldn’t come close to what falling for her had felt like. Nothing would hurt as bad. Nothing would hurt so good.

I walk down these streets and I see not the town that has raised me but a graveyard of my love for her.

Arisia is a law student from a small town in Himachal Pradesh. Through her work, she wants to ensure that people who have had experiences like her no longer feel alone. Her short story ‘If I Die Young’ has been published in Muse India.

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