3. Loss

the hardest to feel and harder to express:

this is the part of the story where she leaves you. this is the part of the story where your heart breaks. where your head, spinning, full of grief, leaves you with nothing.

this is the part of the story where she says it's been nice, but see ya later.

except that's not what she says, and you know she would never say that, because that's not who she is. instead she tells you it's too hard to fight for this. instead she tells you she loves you, but it's time to let go of this relationship. instead she tells you she wants to be your friend.

and you say yes, yes, yes, because you have never been able to say no to her, and anyway, it hurts too much to breathe and you don't think you would be able to breathe without her. how pathetic, you think of yourself, lying awake at night, torturing yourself, thinking of her with someone else, of her without you. she has always been able to hurt you worse than anyone else, but that is because you loved her in ways you would never love anyone else.

mostly, forgiveness is easy - you have never been able to hold grudges; you forgive, you forget, but that, you realize, lying awake, tears staining your pillow, is because no one had your heart like she did. when the most you gave your past was the outer layer of your shell, the scars they inflicted healed fast, meaningless; but you gave her the inside of your heart, your deepest secrets, pieces of your soul, and when she breaks you, no one can put you back together.

everything changes, after her. your brother says your tea looks like milk and you shrug, you say you like it sweeter now, and no one asks why. you wonder if she would. you don't think she would.

you drink quickly, scalding, as though by burning your throat you can burn away the words that drove her away from you, but they come back at night, haunting you. everything you said, everything you did, every mistake, hangs in the air around you and when you wake it is as though chains are binding you in place. as though the burden of the world is on your shoulders. not the world, you think bitterly, just her, but what is the difference between the world and her?

(the difference is that you only care about her.)

the last time you saw her house was years ago but you close your eyes and you're there again, she's walking towards you again, you're sitting next to her again, and it's as though nothing happened, as though you haven't broken the only thing you cherished.

sometimes when you can't fall asleep you dream of what it would be like to marry her. but the pain runs so deep that even in your dreams she slips away from you. when you see her you try not to touch her and then you're leaving and she says "aren't you going to hug me?" and you blink away your tears as you hug her and when you leave you walk so fast that by the time the tears come pouring out, she's so far gone she won't know.

she's gone now. she's been gone for a while, but she's really gone now. the days pass by and the sky goes from blue to black to blue but lately the blues have been getting darker. you tell yourself you'll make something out of the scattered remains of your life, but then you think of her soft hands and her warm smile and the way her laugh lights up the room and you wonder how people live without love. how you're supposed to live without love.

you don't.

you love her anyway, even if she doesn't. even if she can't. a small part of you knows she does, but it's not the same anymore, is it? it can't be the same. the hurt runs too deep.

so you make your tea and you see her whenever you can and you try to make her smile and she doesn't notice how hard it is for you to breathe. when you slip up, when you have her in your arms, you hold her and inhale her perfume and you feel like you're going to cry but the tears don't come. instead you think this is wrong but your hands are shaking and she doesn't push you away and you need her so much, so much, because somewhere inside your heart is cracked and she's the only one who knows how to heal you.

at night when you can't see her you ask her, "are you going to break my heart in the morning?" there's a pause before she replies.

and then she says, quietly, "i just hope i don't break mine."

there's nothing left to say. you fall asleep next to her and you dream that she's leaving. you wake up and remember she already left.

she has been slipping from you for years, and now she's gone. the loss hits you every day, every hour, every moment. you can't forget her. you won't even try.

when the pain comes, you let it wash over you. when memories with teeth bite at your wrists, you let them come. there is nowhere to run, no safe harbour, no arms where you feel safe. you learn how to pretend to smile and when you're alone you remember how it felt to hold her and you allow yourself to cry. during sleepless nights you start counting sheep, but every sheep is a reason why you weren't good enough, and the reasons pile up until you're drowning in them, in your own tears, until you're so empty that sleep turns into another hurt, because even in your dreams she's leaving you.

this is loss: a gaping hole in your life. in every day. in everything you wished you told her. in the way the world loses its taste, its colour, its feeling.

this is loss: a wound shaped like her that bleeds onto everything you touch. an ache in your lungs that makes it impossible to breathe. her love, missing from your days and nights. missing from you.

this is loss: her hair in a bun, her hands in the pockets of her sweatpants, walking away from you.

this is loss: her, walking away.