I can leave the light on.
Your shoes are by the door and I know I’ve done it again.
There's only a lone pair of sneakers this time. It can’t possibly be so bad. The last time this happened I unlocked the door and pushed it open to find hiking boots, dress shoes, sandals and a pair of slippers. All Size 11. Craterly & Mammoth beside my Size 7 feet.
“I’m sorry,” I yell into the dark apartment. “I know why you’re here.”
“Do you really? And are you really sorry? I guess those are just the questions on my mind,”I hear you respond from the kitchen—a small space of pots & pans tucked tight and out of sight at the left of the apartment.
“I didn’t mean to bring you up…”
“But you did.” I wait for you to come into view. Wait to see your tousled hair. Your black ankle socks. Your casual, boyish attire. “I’m worried because you did.”
“Go ahead, explain it to me,” you go on. But you don't show. You don't show.
“Alex was having a hard time. I brought you up. I told her about us. Our story.”
“Babe, how many times do I have to tell you that…”
“ I know, I know. I get it, we don’t have a story… or at least not one that I need to keep telling over & over & over again.” I walk past the kitchen, throwing my coat on the sofa and heading for the bathroom. I play with the sink knobs. The water gushes out quickly. Soon enough, the heat pours out, collapsing and cloaking my tired hands.
“I only say it for your good. You know that, right?” He waits. For me. To answer.
Stop whispering, please stop whispering to me, I want to say.
The tears stay pent inside the crooks of my eyelids where the gold shimmer faded off nearly two hours ago. Not looking up. Not letting my eyes drift back to the sneakers at the door of the apartment.
Stop talking, just stop whispering. I don't want to feel you so much anymore. Not in this way.
He goes on, “I only ever say it for your good because you and I both know that…”
“That I’ve got to move on. That I’m wasting time. That every time I bring your name into a coffee date, I am only hurting myself,” I steady my hands. I try to keep them from shaking. You stay talking. On & On & On. As if you were the damn genius who invented conversation. And it does no good because I cannot see you and I cannot feel you the way I used to.
I abandon the towel and the light switch.
I stay in the dark and crawl my way to the floor where the sofa’s legs kiss carpet. There I stay, curled up and trying to steady myself.
“You don’t get it… it’s not this hard for you,” I say into the darkness. “You are the not the one who has to live without me. I am the one who does that, every single day. In the best and only way that I know how. I am the one who gets up everyday and brace myself to lie any tell everyone I'm fine without you.
And don’t you know that you are everywhere? You are in the trees. In the leftover slices of pizza that you should’ve ate in the middle of the night. In the side of the bed that makes me want to stay filthy forever if it means I’ll never have to lose your scent on the sheets. You don’t have to go through any of that… But I do. I do. And I know, I know that every time I bring you up in conversation that I am going to come home to your shoes & nothing else, just the memory of you that doesn’t hold me right.”
I don’t hear you anymore. Nothing but the clicking of the clock all the way in the bedroom. My hands are wet and down on the floor beside me. Clawing in the darkness at what I know is a shade of maroon that you picked out back when Carpet mattered & Salad mattered & Sunday Football mattered.
I put my head down on the floor and imagined what you’d do next. I know if you were here you’d pull me into your lap and you’d change my mind. You always did that. And not because I always seemed to melt into a pile of bones when your arms wrapped me in, but because you were just one of those people who could explain the world for me. You plugged in lamps where I could not find light. You strung Christmas lights in the darkest of places throughout your whole fight. And so you say I’ve got to be stronger because you refused to leave me sitting in the dark. But it feels like dark. It feels like dark without you, dear. & maybe, maybe I wasn't strong enough for this.
“Sometimes I hate you,” I whisper through clenched teeth.
“I hate that you left me here to do this without you. I hate that I couldn’t fix you. I hate that I’ve become some town tragedy where people treat me like a fogged up window that they can look through, apologize for the loss, watch me sway back & forth a bit and then head back to their own lit home. That I feel pathetic without you. That so much of this doesn’t matter without you.
I hate that I couldn’t go with you. That you left me standing here with all these secrets & things we told one another when the rest of the world fell asleep, things I was supposed to whisper back on a day when I wore white just for you. And now I’ve got to let it all go… I don’t want to let you go…. I don’t know how… I don’t want to learn.”
I cry. For your arms. For a blanket you’d place over me. For the hairs on my head I know you’d stroke. For the tears you’d wipe. The things you’d say. For the thought of you, up in the clouds, hanging your head over an image of me rendered Helpless & Heartbroken.
“Come home… Just come home again…I cant feel you anymore…” Your shoes are already by the door. I can leave the light on. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’ll try again tomorrow. Just come home tonight? Please come home tonight.”