When you see her, it won’t be like anything you imagined. Everything will come rushing back to you so fast that it takes your breath away. The dye in her hair has washed out, the mousy brown finally peeking all the way through. You always liked the original color. She hated it, saying it was too normal, too ordinary. Too standard. She never wanted the color to fade. It was the only riveting thing in her life, she told you, drunk on wine and the thought of never leaving that place.
She always said, “I just want to live I just want to live and not look back.” You would laugh and shake your head, thinking that she was unlike anything you’d ever seen. The way she’d dance around the room for hours, laughing and spinning until she saw stars.
She didn’t want to feel pre-packaged. An imaginary cage was already starting to make her feel claustrophobic even though she was as free as a bird. It didn’t seem that way to her. Every glance on the street, every accidental brush of the shoulder, every pair of eyes she would lock onto felt like judgment for a crime she didn’t commit. She didn’t ask to feel this way.
She was unknowingly beautiful, but the spark was fleeting. There wasn’t enough electricity in the world to jolt it back to life. Hesitation was always on the tip of her tongue, an unspoken word she didn’t dare to speak. You weren’t meant to last beyond the walls she put up. She was careful…she had reason to be. Someone else was another risk and she was afraid to take that chance. Another casualty at her expense was too much to handle.
You wish you had more pictures, more physical reminders, more of anything at all. She loved carrying a camera around, capturing the laughs of her best friends with one click of a button, but turning away when someone did the same to her. Insecurity crept its way into everything she did. You wonder who she’s with when the day fades into evening, who keeps her safe when the nightmares start, who she calls home. You were the stones and the foundation of her perfect house but it began to crumble. She’s been taught to deconstruct, to carefully take each brick out using the shaky fingers you used to hold tight so the trembling would stop.
She still trembles. The anxiety has gotten bad and there are nights when she can’t breathe and everything goes dark and the floor is the comfiest place in the world. But he’s there to grab her delicate fingers and lace them through his, leaning against the kitchen cabinet and letting the words float in the 2am air. “I’ve got you.” He’s there and you’re not. She’s different, but in a good way. As good as she can be. She doesn’t skip meals anymore. She doesn’t pretend that a glass of cheap wine is all she needs for dinner. She doesn’t self-destruct every night and wonder why the ground around her is singed.
That was then, and this is now. Her skin is still paper and her bones are still brittle but she’s stronger. Fiercer. You watched her collapse over and over and you blamed yourself. But you didn’t cause the pain and the anger and the loneliness, you just stumbled in without knowing exactly what was going on in her chaotic mind. It was a case of the wrong place at the wrong time. Timing’s a bitch, and the hourglass ran out before you could make sense of what this was.
Your favorite books remain untouched on her shelf. The folded corners, the scribbled notes, the playful whispers held within each page only bring tears to her eyes. They glisten as they slide down her cheeks but he’s there to wipe them away and hold her face in his hands. He knows. He knows all about you, your memory like a ghost that never seems to move on from this haunted house. But he’s patient. He waits for the wind to stop howling in through the shattered windows and the lights to stop flickering, until all is calm again.
The layers of dust on the shoes you left by the door only remind her of time passing, passing, passing and she doesn’t want to think about that. Even the clock ticking is like a drum beating loud in her ears. She’s sensitive. Cautious. She’s only human, but sometimes she feels even less than that.
Take all of the memories you had colorfully painted in your mind and let them rinse clean.
The vivid colors, explosion of pigments across your mind’s eye, are the mistaken past. Let it be. Everything fades, even the brightest of hues. Allow time to slowly wash away each color until it’s nothing but black and white, fleeting moments of what you hoped could’ve lasted forever. Real life isn’t like the movies. It’s messy. Because when you see her, it won’t be anything like you imagined. It’ll plant a seed of sadness in your heart and you’ll want to reach out for nourishment, just like old times. But things have changed. She’s changed. And nothing’s like it used to be.