by Victoria Jean Ella


[Editor’s Note: This piece is part of the “Topical” series, with each piece solely submitted to and chosen by the Final Reader Pietra Dunmore.]


It was Christopher I was enamored by for so long, though he’d probably never known the full extent of my admiration for him. Even when we’d talked well into our 20s, there was no use in admitting this to him, in an offhand way, even though he himself had once alluded to having liked me “a long time ago.” And yet, one afternoon, I found myself riding an intense wave of nostalgia upon seeing our old messages. I wanted desperately to reach out to him and thank him for being around when he had been, but the rules change when someone gets married and you’d lost touch before the marriage. Suddenly there’s no acceptable way to have the same kind of conversations, or any kind of conversation, for that matter.

He’d said to me, 10 years ago, “Anything new on the love side of life? I don’t recall knowing that you ever liked anyone.” And I’d blushed because it was always him, time and again.

“No, there’s no one. None at all,” I said.

“You’re gonna die alone at this rate, Aly, with 99 cats.”

“A hundred would be better,” I fired back.

Some time after that, when we’d both started working, he graced my screen on my birthday, saying mine was one of the few he remembered from childhood.

“Talking to you is always nostalgic. Maybe that’s what people from the past are for. To remind us of where we were, how far we’ve grown. It’s an amazing feeling, like our lives are going somewhere,” he told me.

I’m not sure what I’d thought of that at the time, but he always had, what seemed to me, like a more mature perspective about things. Maybe it was because he lived on his own much earlier than I did, or because he read all the books that made one think that way. In any case, he embodied the sensitive, philosophical spirit I’d always been weak for. And there weren’t many like him. Not many at all.

We never would have made sense as a couple, because for all our indulgent conversations about siblings, school, his ex-lovers, art, and the future, and for all his brilliance, in my eyes, he was just that: perfect, but for someone else.

He found this someone a year ago, and now there’s only silence. I think to myself, maybe there’s no use in holding on to the memories. What good are they now, anyway?

Once when we were young, we knew each other. We’re leagues away from that now, and I never realized it would happen eventually. You never think that of some friendships. You think they’ll go on forever, because you’ve been friends for the longest time. But when they do collapse, your world is more barren and soulless, and you are all the more lonesome for it.

He used to tell me, over and over again, “You’re never alone!”

I wish he would say it to me now.


Victoria Jean Ella is a Filipino writer who lived in the US for three years until she was 9 years old. She holds a degree in Development Communication from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, where she once taught English and scientific writing.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Nostalgic”?

The first paragraph of “Nostalgic” was originally part of another work of fiction that kept evolving until Christopher’s story had no place in the work anymore. In fact, it seemed to want to exist on its own. I felt I had more to say about the character, but that I couldn’t do it within the original story, so I took the paragraph out—that’s really all that existed of it then—and was inspired by a time when I did feel nostalgic. It’s a curious and powerful feeling, and we’ve all been under its spell. At times, it can even be hard to shake off.


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Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now CLOSED. The next reading period for standard submissions opens March 15, 2021. Topical Thursdays’ submissions are open year-round. Submit here.


12/31 • Sean Cho A.
01/04 • Linda McMullen
01/07 • Victoria Jean Ella
01/11 • Daniel Murphy
01/14 • Kendra Dobson
01/21 • James Harris
01/25 • Richard Kostelanetz
01/28 • Andrew Love
02/01 • Kristin Burcham