Most relationships end in this palpable feeling of relief, that the cycle of misery and making up halfheartedly and fighting late into the night is over. But the misery helps you heal, the fighting numbs you to their touch and the unenthusiastic apologies remind you that you were meant for better things. What happens when it doesn’t happen, when the person you loved is one day there, kissing you goodnight and the next day they’re gone, disappeared like the sun before a thunderstorm? Like the difference between a scab you don’t quite let heal for a while and a gash that cuts to the bone, scarring you forever.
When I wake up in the morning, you’re the first thing on my mind and I force myself to sit up and swing my legs over the side of the bed. You keep me company as I read through my email, and as I eat breakfast. I wonder if you’d like the brown eyeshadow I’m wearing today. I used to be ashamed that I cared what you thought. I would lie to myself; push your image out of my mind when it wavered next to me in the car when that song came on the radio. Maybe I’m weaker now, that I allow you to slip into my mind in the quiet moments, sitting in coffee shops by myself. I like to think it means that I’m stronger, that I’ve become more honest, more open. I wish I had your opinion.
I wonder if you ever think about me, the way that I think about you, in this constant wave of feeling that underlies my every emotion. It has never occurred to me that maybe you think about me as much as I do, you seem so other than. More like the sound of your favorite song, slipping past you, elusive. Most days you stay there, intangible, just there enough to make my heart twist when I see happy couples laughing in the street and in the shops.
Some days though are worse, and I can feel myself drifting, aimless and alone, accompanied only by a piercing sense of being on my own. On those days I can almost hear your voice, and it makes it better for a moment, before my world shatters as I recognize that it’s a lie. I read through our text messages and look at the receipts of our Facetime calls and it’s as if I can reach the old me in those moments, the me who laughed and drank over-sugared coffee. These days I wait until the percolator burns it before I pour it down my throat, as black as the majority of the clothes I wear these days. I threw out most of my old clothes.
I told my friends I threw out everything, I said it was “a healing process” and they nodded and smiled and were glad when I shut up about you. I lied to them, because I kept the sweater you loved, you know, the buttercup yellow one I was wearing when we met? I haven’t worn it since you left, but I take it down from the closet shelf and look at it sometimes. It still smells like the perfume you got me for Christmas that one year. I never liked it, and I threw it out when you left, said I was glad because I’d never have to wear it again.
Now sometimes I sit on the roof late at night and I know I would gladly wear that perfume every day until I died if it would make you return. I don’t sleep much anymore. Most nights I fill watching late night TV, blankly watching movie stars and other famous people cavort around and play children’s games while an audience laughs uproariously. Sometimes I sit like that until the TV flips to infomercials. Those are the nights I go and sit on the roof where you told me you loved me and I can see the burn marks where you used to put out cigarettes on the shingles. They told me that you would eventually fade from my memory, that I would move on and find someone else, “someone better” they said.
I knew they were lying because you were the best I’ll ever have and I never realized it until it was too late.
I started smoking, the brand you used to. I never thought I would, I always knew they’d kill you. I don’t care if they kill me anymore. They force feeling into my mind and that’s good enough for me now. I don’t think you’ll ever read this, if you did, I’m sure you wouldn’t recognize your darling who loved pink and the daisies you bought her for her birthday.
That’s okay; most days when I look in the mirror I don’t recognize myself either.