I remember the way you used to smell, even if I can’t fully describe it. Partly like grass that was just mowed, partly like the soil you worked with each day.
That’s the best I can do, but it still isn’t quite accurate. There is always something else there, a missing piece trapped inside of my memory, one that I cannot articulate in order to form the right words.
I was never good at finding missing things.
But I wish I could, so then I could write it all down, scratch it onto every surface, and read your smell whenever I needed to remember you. Every time the fact that you’re not here hits home, each time feeling like the very first. The fact that you will not be here ever again and how I wish I could finally just accept it, so that I can pick myself up and move on.
But maybe I’m not meant to move on. Maybe I’m cursed to always remember.
The way my impossibly small hand felt in yours, rough and callused but also sure and strong. Cigarettes in white packaging and wrapped in plastic. Scratched-off lottery tickets strewn around your mess of a car.
Me dragging you to obscure films at that little theater an hour away. You would fall asleep every time, but at least you were there. Next to me and breathing deeply as your chest rose and fell in a comforting rhythm.
Weekends in your apartment.
Manhattan. Brooklyn. Long Island. Queens.
A dozen homes. Just as many women.
Feeding scarps from breakfast to the black cat who slunk around from room to room, all sleek shoulders and darting yellow eyes.
The man who used to serve us coffee every Sunday still asks about you. I tell him that you’re doing just fine, even though it makes my chest hurt when I lie. I picture him watching us seated at a sticky table, two steaming paper cups in front of us.
I miss all of it. Every single thing.
Every moment that I was in your presence. Even when we sat in the same room but didn’t speak. I always knew that eventually your mouth would form into that crooked grin and everything would be forgotten, every petty argument, every sour phrase that was spat out in haste. You knew I didn’t mean the things I said.
But now I am left with so little it hurts.
Dirt and marble and grass that’s become overgrown.
Urns and ashes and empty passenger seats.
Photographs and old CDs and an unframed diploma that gathers dust in the corner of a forgotten room.
You left and I’m still sitting in the same spot, unsure of how I feel about it all. But is anyone ever sure? Does anyone ever have another option? A better choice? Do any of us ever get the closure that we deserve? Or are we destined to wander through life, our feet barely skimming the solid surface beneath us?
You are gone, but I’m still here.
And still, for the life of me, I can’t figure out if I’m meant to feel guilty about that.
Maybe, instead, I should just be unbelievably grateful that I’ve survived the swell.