I Cried So Hard That My Skin’s Tan Rubbed Off

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I cried so hard that I had rubbed the tan from my skin, leaving pale, reverse-raccoon circles around my eyes. I cried on the train, bawled, snot hanging in drips from my nose as I texted you: I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry thanks for the book I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry. I cried on the phone as the train pulled away. I said, I didn’t say goodbye. And you said it’s fine but it wasn’t, what if that was the last time? In a few hours, you would be in an airplane, moving back to Maine. On the phone, you sounded sure, like I was being ridiculous, and you could hear the water in my voice as I said okay, and you could hear me shudder and sniff and repeat, slowly, small, okay, until you hung up. (I teared up, but did not cry, when you sat on the bench and reached into your bag and gave me a book, an old hardback, photos of a cabin and empty fields on the cover. I sighed and pulled out the mix CD I hadn’t been sure I’d give to you, apologizing that it might be too pop-y but just give it a chance.) I cried under the bridge. I don’t remember how I got there – I had drank too much Fireball and you had bummed a cigarette and we were walking and the next thing I knew I was storming off and picked out a rock to collapse behind, head in my arms on my knees as I sobbed, crying straight from the chest. I was so surprised to hear your voice. And I looked up, and you were sitting a little bit away, calmly, with words that were not apologies, just words. It was the first and only time you ever saw me cry. I cried after I texted you last weekend. We should see each other. One last time. I cried when you showed up to the bar, weeks ago, after Molly made you come, saying we needed to make up. I left, because I didn’t want it to be that easy, I didn’t want you to come just because Molly said to. I cried the hardest I had ever cried in my life in April, on the last night before spring break. Alone in my apartment, my breath shook hard and shallow under the sickly dining room lights, each sob tightly squeezing my chest. We were supposed to talk everything out that night. We were supposed to make everything okay. But instead, you flaked out again, texting close to midnight saying tomorrow? And it was like sticking a needle straight through my heart, sharp and indifferent. I can’t, I said, and the next morning I turned off my phone and drove away. I cried in March and February, for no reason at all. I cried while walking. I cried in the shower. I cried in the grocery store, staring at kidney beans. I cried as water filtered through coffee grounds, in time with each drip. I cried in bed. I cried when you wouldn’t respond to my texts, when days turned into weeks of us not talking. I cried when you called, acting as if it hadn’t been weeks. It was the longest we had gone without speaking since we had met three years ago. I cried because I didn’t know what I had done wrong. Before this year, I had never cried because of you, not even that morning in December, standing in the doorway, my skin still covered in your sweat. Your one shoulder was cocked high as you grinned and said Merry Christmas. We didn’t hug. You backed up, grin fading, then laid down your longboard and rolled away. I watched you disappear and didn’t think this is the beginning of the end or that was a mistake, but I should have. Instead, I closed the door and laid in bed, forcing my heart to beat as slow as it would go, unsure of what would happen next. TC Mark

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