01:15 Again. My eyes flicker. Take in the time. I throw a hand over my face to block out the light. It doesn’t work.
03:19 I turn in the bed, the cotton blanket twisting around my restless legs, and reach out for warmth that isn’t there. You haven’t been there for a long time. And in the daytime I can process that thought, ignore it, pretend it doesn’t taste of stale regret. But now it’s the only thing on my mind.
04:20 Do you remember the way we’d talk into the early hours? Your fingers pressing patterns into my hips. Insistent swirls that marked me as yours long before I let my heart recognise the fact. Inch by inch, you took me until my flesh seemed to develop it’s own memory. One that knew nothing except your lips, your hands, the way your fingertips felt. It heard promises where there were none. Made assumptions about a future that was never ours. It’s so easy to lie to yourself when the one you love is helping you along, whispering sweet nothings in your ear.
05:31 I reach out for a glass that’s already drained. My mouth is dry, breathing in air that seems to catch in my throat. The dying moon lends an eerie quality to the light in here, mixing with the green of the clock, casting shadows that seem to take on a life of their own. But I’m not afraid. When you’ve had the worst happen, everything else pales in it’s wake.
I laugh in the face of night time fears. The dark can hold nothing worse than the bright sunlight of your goodbye. The cool of the night is a balm for the memory. The dust kicked up by spinning wheels, clouds lingering long after you’d disappeared over the horizon. I cried that day. Angry tears that burned my skin. My eyes red, my chest hitched. And that night I promised myself I wouldn’t cry over you again.
What’s another broken promise between lovers?
06:07 Maggie always wakes with the dawn. I’ve tried blackout blinds, heavy curtains. Even changed the clock that she can barely read. Yet still she shuffles into my room, carrying Posy in one hand, the other curled into a fist that rubs at her half-sleepy eyes. Her face is adorable and rumpled, criss crossed with lines from sleeping on a wrinkled pillow. She clambers into bed, pressing her warm cheek against mine. Posy lies between us, her skin threadbare from too much love. She was mine once. Do you remember when you found her in my bed, and laughed at the remnant of my childhood? It wasn’t a mocking laugh. Back then your chuckles only held desire. Need. Love.
I miss those times.
“Is it a school day?” Maggie mumbles around her thumb. We tried everything to stop her doing that, remember? Pacifiers, tiny white gloves. You even dipped her thumb in vinegar. But she just cried until we washed it clean. She needs that thumb more than anything. Can’t live without the taste of it in her mouth.
I know the feeling.
“It is, sweet pea,” I whisper. “But it’s two hours until the bus is due. Snuggle time.” I wince as I say the word. You were the one who coined that phrase. Back when we would do anything to claw another moment’s rest. Your voice would be thick with sleep as you let her clamber all over you, but I could still hear the humor there. The love. Your patience was always astounding, until it dried up like an over used well. But that was my fault. I know that. I was always the stubborn one. The realist. Once upon a time you loved that about me. Until it became the thing that tore us apart.
07:33 “Can you pass me the spatula?” Maggie always helps with breakfast. She sits on the side and passes me things while I sing out orders. She’s like a nurse assisting a delicate operation. It’s a routine born out of need. After you left she became clingy. Wouldn’t let me out of her sight. So I let her follow, trying to reassure her I’d always be there. That I wouldn’t desert her like everybody else had. She’s lost so many people in the last few years. We both have. But it cuts through me every time she cries when I run outside to throw out the trash. So now I take her, too. I like having her with me anyhow. We ground each other.
She’s all I have left.
8:07 We pass the mailbox on our way to the bus stop. Maggie pulls the door down, a grin splitting her face as she sees the card inside. You send her one from each city, just like you promised. And though she can’t read the words very well, the pretty photos make her eyes light up like it’s Christmas morning. She passes it to me, and I glance at the caption. Gaitlinburg, TN. I guess you’ve found a gig there. I try not to think of the way your fingers would curl around the guitar. How your sweet voice would make my heart ache.
“What’s it say, what’s it say?”
I take a deep breath. This is always the hardest part. The reason why I’ve been trying so hard to teach her to read. One day I won’t have to be your go between, to read about the way you’ve moved on. One day you won’t break my heart with every word that you write.
“It says, Dear Cuteness…”
My voice cracks as I say your simple lines. Tell her of your bus journey, of the bar you’re singing in. Tell her that you miss her every day. Her bottom lip wobbles when I say your name. My tongue lingers on it long after my voice has stopped. They say it gets better with time. That life goes on whether you want it to or not. But your final words are like a knife to my soul. A reminder of everything we lost.
When I told you to leave I never thought you would. But I couldn’t take it back, no matter how much I wanted to. I watched you throw your clothes in a battered bag, your actions angry and hurt. I watched you hold Maggie with tears in your eyes.
You always end the card the same way. Simple. Effective. You break me everytime, just like I broke you. They cut right through my black heart. I think you know that, too.
Two words that sum up my life
They used to mean everything.
They still do.