The lack of situational clarity is unsettling. She’s read it over more than once now, realising his absence is only making things worse. The hope she associates with his penmanship is useless.
It’s an ugly feeling, fighting its way through her mind, opening closed doors, and splitting into new avenues she didn’t even know existed. It’s igniting deep-buried fears, sparking new irrational ones. The wound that’s opening twists in her chest and sobs are choking up her throat.
Tears stream down her face effortlessly, her mind flitting back in time, filing through the moments, playing back on rewind as if the months between don’t exist. As if they just happened yesterday, and she could look forward to a tomorrow with him.
Those are just words, she thinks. Those are just words, she inwardly repeats, remembering his breathy laugh over the phone, the sleepy bed-ridden promises he’d whisper to her in the early hours of the morning.
Furiously, she wipes the tears that continue to spill, coughing and wheezing on her own breath. The sobs aren’t silent, and she can hear her heart breaking through the cries she muffles with the sleeve of her shirt.
Your words mean nothing, she decides. You said we were worth it, and in a second, you threw it away. Your letter changes nothing.
She watches as everything she can easily recognise about him is just another mile that shoves her away from him. She’s staring at him through the eyes of an outsider. It’s odd, how the shadows he perfectly hid from her are now skewing his face. The arrogance and lies are tainting his artwork.
He must have always been glowing without her. It makes her heart constrict in a suffocating manner. It’s breathing with a pressure that threatens to break her. It’s getting confused with dreams and reality. It’s questioning whether time is even real. It’s realising that she’s no longer a part of his life.
Everything she’s tried and thought of doing is only pushing them further apart. The bridges are turning to ashes, and she’s burning herself trying to cross them.
The twist of barbed wire coils around her heart, threatening to pierce what little love she has left. It squeezes the emotion out of her, wanting to get rid of all the lingering hopes and dreams so she’s left barren and dry. At least that way, she has nothing left to give if he came back. It’s useless to wish because she knows he’s never coming back to her.
It’s an excruciating, thudding kind of pain that keeps her awake at night. She subdues it with excessively loud music, and hours, and hours, and hours of pouring herself over useless time-wasters to keep her mind away from him. Anything to help her forget.
How unfortunate it is, that the one person that helped her forget the world, was only making her remember it all.
Their memories come in waves, drowning her thoughts out in an instant.
The salty sea stings at her eyes, the sand leaving a bitter, raspy taste in her mouth as it chokes down her throat. She’s drowning – constantly drowning – and she never knows when she’ll reach the surface. The waves bring her under, the tide carrying her deeper and deeper into the ocean until she doesn’t know where she is, who she is. What way she’s meant to find her path back home.
It scares her that she allowed herself to feel a haven in his arms. She can’t go back to him. Now that she’s alone in the depths of the ocean, there is no such thing as home. Only darkness. There’s a reality she wants back. It’s a multitude of universes melding into one and she’s unsure of which one she’s falling into. She’s falling back through the possibilities, but there are no possibilities where he isn’t in them.
The waves are roaring, threatening to pull her in, and she’s past the point of exhaustion that she doesn’t try to fight it.
Love and pain. The words are synonymous. It’s a knife to her heart. The more she thinks, the deeper it sinks. The more she remembers, the more the memories grab the handle and cut further. When she recalls him in his entirety, with all the tiny details, the blade slashes right through her, slicing and tearing the life out of her.
They’re repressed so far down that the layers of them have to be dug up with a shovel from six feet under, but she’s in the coffin alone.
Because the essence that they have shared is dead.
The scars run far and deep. She’s realising how many minuscule aspects of her life he’s infiltrated, and how many much she was going to include him in.
She remembers his warmth right beside her.
She sees him when the sun is setting. She finds him in the line of a book. She hears him in the melody of a song. She spots him in a busy crowd.
There are places she goes, and she can only see them together.
And it scares her because he’s gone.
He’s everywhere, but he left her. He painted the truth with a black stroke and burnt her precious day- light. But he’s always there, his words tightening the chains around her heart, making her bleed.
The memories of what they were have shattered. It’s in pieces, and she wants to pick the shards up and mend them back together. But she can’t pretend like they’re okay. Every fragment is a sharp, jagged thing with edges made to slaughter. When she goes to place a piece back where it belongs, she hurts herself.
They cause her more sorrow than happiness. The smiles are distorted, the laughs are maniacal, the words are misinterpreted. His promises are empty, and greed has morphed everything into nothing more than a lie.
And now, she decides she doesn’t want to fix something she didn’t break.
Winner of the 2017 Spring Writing Competition, held by Kellyville High School. Originally posted on www.lovinajpaje.com
Now published in I Have Something to Say (2021) as 'Between the Flags'.