Buried deep beneath my bed
among empty water bottles
and lonely, long-forgotten socks
lies a skeleton, in the
form of a battered shoe box,
once meant to hold a pair of
size nine cowboy boots, but
instead holds the remnants of a heart.
My skeleton is filled to the brim
with piles of pictures and papers—
memories of a time when things were
simple, and love was easy.
Love letters written in nothing but
lyrics from long-dead musical poets,
and dried-up rose petals, once a brilliant
red now the color of a bloodstain—His
t-shirt folded beneath that faded photograph
of his smile against my lips still faintly
smells of his cologne—the Ed Hardy he tended
to wear too much of, and tucked between the
stuffed dog with a heart-shaped spot over his
left eye from that fated Valentine’s day, and
an unopened can of Wild Cherry Pepsi—Lord
knows why that is in there—is the crystal
butterfly, perched atop the fragile stem
of that pink rose he bought me after I told
him not to. One wing is missing it’s pointed
tip from the night I had too much to drink
and decided strolling down memory lane
was the best way to spend a Friday night,
and I was a little too hasty in repacking the
box of him through my tears. I still remember
the snap of crystal coming apart in my hands
and biting back a sob as I realized that was
the same sound my heart made when he
whispered “it’s over,” across the phone line.
Is this what love is? Just a box filled
with momentos adding up to a life
once shared and now separated? Just
the brittle bones of a skeleton that
used to be a love? Is it the way my
heart leaps into my throat each time
I lift the lid and catch a whiff of that
once-familiar cologne and a glimpse
of his eyes, shining up at me from that
photograph that used to sit beside my bed
but now sits collecting dust beneath it?
Or is it knowing that despite burying the
material memories of the I spent with his
hands against my skin, and despite the
war we waged on one another, when the
dust settled, I was still standing there,
loving him even as he walked away?
I feel like this needs some editing—a lot of editing. But this is what came out when I sat down, so…
I have this annoying ache in my chest. It tugs at my heart, and it burns between the cracks you left there when you walked away. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it; I’ve been trying to decipher what this feeling is. It isn’t love; I know what my love for you feels like, and it never felt like it was burning me alive. It isn’t anger either. My anger toward you felt like a small tiger clawing at my chest, but he wandered away months and months ago. It isn’t the sadness that settled in the pit of my stomach and weighed me down like an anchor, either. Then one day, it hit me: hope. It was hope. but hope for what? Hope that you’d come back? Hope that you’d do something uncharacteristically romantic like show up on my front steps with a dozen roses and say you’re sorry? Hope that you’d tell me what a big mistake you made and how much you miss me and that you just want another shot? I don’t know. But whatever it is I’m hoping for, it’s really stupid to hope for that because I know it’s not going to happen. It just isn’t. If it was going to—if this was a movie—it would have already happened. But still, I’m hoping. And I don’t think I’ll ever truly stop hoping.
We are completely wrong for one another—complete opposites. I love country music, while he loves all forms of metal. He’s a smoker; I can’t stand the thought of cigarettes. I plays it safe and play by the rules, and he takes risks and lives life in the fast lane. He’s a neat freak, but I live in organized chaos. I’ve never learned how to let go, he was never taught how to hold on. I anchor myself onto everyone I have ever connected with, and he depends solely upon himself. I’m a chaotic jumble of half-witted ideas, and he’s nothing but common sense. I am never caught without a smile, & he’s never caught with an unnecessary one. Anyone and everyone can see that a relationship like this is doomed from the start. But I didn’t. I should’ve known.
I still wake up in the middle of the night and reach for you, you know. It’s been two years, and I still can’t get over you. I miss every thing about you. Your sleepy smile, your messy hair and the look in your eye right before you kiss me. There are so many things that are keeping us apart, and all I want to do is plow through every brick wall we’ve built between us and run straight to you. But I don’t have that choice. This one is all on you. I just wish you knew.
But i just keep thinking about that conversation we had last night. I can’t believe how surprised you were that I remember you don’t like cake. How could I not remember? Just like I remember that you love Yoo-Hoo and keep your mini-fridge stocked with it. And that you can’t sleep without the TV on. And that you know smoking is bad for you, but you don’t quit because it’s something you and your dad used to do together, so when you smoke you think of him. I remember everything. You are burned into my memory; I couldn’t forget you if I tried. And when you asked me if that was a good or a bad thing? Are you kidding me? It used to be a bad thing. It used to be painful. And believe me, I tried to forget. I tried to forget your bedhead and that sleepy smile, and the way your eyes light up when you’re excited or you get a good idea, and the way that your laugh is the best sound I’ve ever heard. But I couldn’t forget. And I’m so glad I couldn’t, because to me, your memory is the only thing that gets me through some days. It can be maddening and haunting and lonely, but mostly it just makes me smile.
You will always be everything to me. No matter where we end up. You will always be the one that got away and I will always love you.
I took the long way to class today. I could have cut through buildings, but I didn’t want to avoid the cold the way I usually do. I needed to feel the bitter air against my face; I needed to feel something—to be awakened somehow. Even though the rain has thrown all the leaves to the ground, I still see the beauty that autumn in Western New York affords. I actually prefer “fall” to “autumn” because it is “fall” that better describes the way I fall this time of year. I fall into schoolwork, a new season of TV shows…and you. This weather always brings me back to you. and when winter comes, I’ll be completely lost to you again—even if you aren’t even mine. It’s just who you are to me, even after all this time.
It’s funny you know. I was just reflecting on the way I used to have a voice. I used to sing, to laugh—and I used to be heard. People used to hear me; they used to listen to me—they used to know me. But then, I lost it. I lost everything when I lost this dream. I lost my childhood, I lost my motivation and I lost all hope. And then, when I thought I couldn’t lose anymore, I lost you. Suddenly, you were gone, the magic was gone, and my voice was gone. No one has heard me since. No one has known me since. And now, I’m fighting desperately to get it back—to find myself again. I’ve done pretty well so far, I think. I found my smile again. I even sing sometimes, the way I used to. But that piece of me that was you is still lost to me. I still wake up and reach for you, you know. I still imagine you beside me the way we used to be. And in my sleepy haze, I reach and find only the emptiness you left me. For as much as I’ve found, I’m still lost when it comes to you. I’m still lost in you, even when we’re a million miles apart. I just want it all back. I want to be found again. I want to be yours again.
It’s in these moments, alone in the stillness of the night, that it all comes flooding back to her. She can see it all so vividly: the contrast between the grey of his pillowcase and the brown of his hair, sticking out in all directions from sleep; the smooth, tight skin of his shoulder, exposed to the cool morning air from beneath that bright red blanket; the soft sound of his snoring as she watches his back move in time with his breathing. She can feel his skin against her lips as she presses a kiss to his shoulder blade—feel the softness of his hair as she runs it between her fingers. She remembers everything, every miniscule detail that composed his very existence—and her existence with him. It all comes flooding back in an instant, and she is powerless to fight. Her breath catches in her throat as the tears come, prickling her eyes in only a shadow of the pain she feels. God, she misses him—every look, every smile and every touch haunts her in these moments when she’s left alone with her thoughts and no distractions for too long. Logically, she knows everything is different now, no matter how polite and friendly they’ve become. She knows that even continuing to love someone isn’t enough to make things change. She knows nothing can go back to the way it was; nothing can ever be the same again. But that doesn’t keep her from hoping. And it sure as hell doesn’t keep her from losing sleep at night.