I cut my hair in April. It had grown long, heavy on my chest. Take off a few inches, I said. I needed to be able to breathe; I needed to know that I still had a heart, that it was still beating.
The first night after you left, after you drove off and I ran after you, running and believing that you would stop for me, I slept on the living room floor. I woke up early, because I had thought I heard you slamming the door again, and then you inhaling deeply, eyes shut and one hand on the door knob, one fist clenched. Who were you that day? I couldn’t recognize you. They say that lovers oft become strangers; I hadn’t known it would be so soon. I slept on my bedroom floor until July, because I could feel you in my bed, the smell of you clinging to the bedsheet, the pillow cases. I washed them and doused them in bleach, until they were unrecognizable, week after week, but I could still feel you there, I could still feel you between my sheets, parts of you and me and us that I had lost absorbed into the mattress. The threads were decaying now from a sparkling bone white to the bleached bones of animals on a desert highway.
In the beginning of summer, there was a boy who tried to hold my hand. It was so humid that day, stifling, and I was disgusted of the sweat sticky on my skin. I stood under cold showers that summer, hoping that it would shock my body back to life. The boy was always too close, reaching for my hand or my shoulder or my waist and I would slip away. I think he was reaching for the heart that was not there. I could see in his brown eyes that he knew he was losing me, that he never had be but he was trying to fight for me in that way that I had screamed for you to fight for me. We lay on the green grass charred green, crisp beneath my shoulders and bare arms. I covered my eyes so that he could not see me. I told him that I had to go, had to leave; I needed to go and I was gasping for air. As the elevator descended into the subway he tapped me on my right shoulder and I turned and he kissed me, and I wanted to barrel down the escalator, passed the other sticky bodies matted in their suits and summer dresses standing shoulder to shoulder, step after step. What misgiving can render one incapable of ever looking at another in the eyes? For you it was the first time you left me, me by the floor of the front door and I ran after you and kissed you through your open window before you drove away, but I could not look at you. For him it was this kiss and the soft curves of his finger tips. I was repulsed by my cowardice and his bravery, and when the train arrived I left his side and ran into the train in summer rush-hour, the air not blowing, a human wall caving into me. I wanted only you. What were you doing in May?
June was only worse and I was always sucking on ice cubes, holding them in my hands clasped together because I was always burning with a fever and always thinking of you. I wanted to be strong and call you, but I was too weak. The power went out one evening, cables and wires exhausted by the heat had now succumbed to it and I lay on my bare back on the floor, watching the shadows of cars passing late into the night. Where were all the places you went to in June? Every day I thought you were parked outside my window, third parking spot from the right. Every day I looked for you. I met a boy and he was handsome and in the sun his body burned into a golden caramel and flecks of blue in his eyes and he knew how to trick my body into doing things he wanted me to, and, ordinarily, I would have fallen in love with him. But he was always telling me that I was beautiful, and it made sweat drip down my spine; he would call me beautiful and I wanted to claw out of my face. I didn’t want to be beautiful. Beautiful was what I was to you, I was only beautiful for you.
I slept in my bed for the first time in July, but I was sleeping beside a friend who was visiting. I wanted to tell her how I was without you, but when I did I started shaking so I could not speak of you, because part of me was missing. I slept on the side of the bed that you slept on and I swear I could feel your body molded into the mattress and I was sinking into you. We went to the zoo and there were no animals and we soaked our hot feet in the fountain, sun blazing on our backs. We ran about in childish fervor, our steps heavy and dramatic and our voices louder than they could be. On the train she fell asleep with her head on my shoulder, and in the late afternoon sun we were all wilting, and I quietly watched the sky and its sun and the trees turn into hollow blackness in a flash. By the time it was July I was sleeping in my bed only when I had drained my body and saw no dreams but only sleep. One night I saw that I was running after you.
August in New York City smells of rotting garbage and sweet perfume. I wore the white dress with the gold buttons, the one you never had to unbutton. I decided I wouldn’t call you to tell you I missed you, though you warned me not to, but I would arrive at 30th Street Station and take a taxi to your home because I had always told you that action spoke louder than words. Your inaction was deafening. I couldn’t remember the number of your house and dug through messages and e-mails and it was like ripping open a deep and healing wound. I would take a taxi up and down your street until I could identify your house. But then I wondered, what if you tell me to go, what if you are still unkind to me in the way that we were both unkind to each other?
And that was when I knew that I couldn’t go. That was when I knew I was done healing from you.