The rainbow hues of the world drain to black and white when you leave. It feels wrong, strange. This is not your space and yet when you leave, the holes in your wake are gaping, as if you’d been there since the beginning.
It’s quiet, uncomfortably and strangely and achingly quiet. You aren’t there to shift the blankets in bed next to me, to run the shower while I’m in another room, to type away at a laptop while I lay on the couch pretending to read and just listening instead.
My apartment is small, capable of fitting two but filled with enough to make it suitable for maybe one and a half at most. Three years to come to terms with the silence of an independent space. But having you slot into the spaces felt right; never claustrophobic, never overtaxed, just right. In the span of just a few days, you became as permanent a fixture as the hum of the dehumidifier, or the washing machine that beats out strange rhythms when it gets a little too full.
You fit in so well that it’s easy to forget that you are not designed for this this space, that it is Mine, that you are a Guest, that you have a home and that this is not it.
I had never known what it was like to miss someone, body and soul, with every single atom of my being until I got to hold you here and then had to give you back. Until I wanted to clean out half of my dresser to make room for you. Until I wanted one of the empty spaces in the toothbrush holder to be filled by yours.
I had never known what it was like to fall so hard that someone could take colors with them.
They say you can’t love someone until you love yourself first, but I’ve found that’s not true. You can love someone deeply and fiercely, love them with every ounce of your soul and heart, love them with an intensity you’ve never felt toward anything in your life. You can love them love them love them until the world stops turning and the stars stop shining and the sun dies away, until the universe is dark and cold and warmed with nothing but that love.
They say you can’t love someone until you love yourself, but that’s not true. You just can’t let them love you back.
It’s hot in Texas.
More accurately, this particular bar in Austin, Texas is hot. Stifling. It’s all open air, and sticky humidity is stagnating in the windowpanes, the gentle occasional breeze unable to carve a path through too many bodies packed tightly together in not enough space. You can feel a bead of sweat trailing down the nape of your neck, and you take a long draught of the cold beer condensating in front of you hoping that it’ll do something. It doesn’t.
You’re buzzed – not drunk, definitely not drunk enough to mistake your decision for a good idea – but it doesn’t stop you from pushing back your chair abruptly and leaving the bar, dialing an all-too-familiar number and dropping a handful of crumpled bills from your purse next to your half-finished drink as you do. You’re not drunk, it’s a bad idea, and consciously you know that calling Him from a bar when He hasn’t called you back in weeks is A Bad Choice That You Should Reconsider, but the phone is ringing, it’s ringing, it rings twice, three times, and then, “Hello?”
You had thought that you wouldn’t be affected by the simplest syllables only half-heard through the noise of the bar and the tinniness of of an only-partially-functioning cell phone speaker, but a shiver runs down your spine anyway. You respond, “Hey.”
“…Do you need something?” And it’s confused. As confused as you are, honestly.
“So you got a new job?” You blurt it out without and pretense of small talk, the tip of a knife carving straight to the point. Get the whole damn thing over with, you tell yourself, as if you weren’t the one who picked up the phone.
“Yeah, I mean. It’s been good. Desk job. We don’t really get that much hands-on stuff anymore, but it’s good. It’s really good.” He sounds genuine. Happy. He sounds like all the things you could never make him.
You squeeze your eyes shut and lean back against the wall. Despite the miles of distance separating you, despite the lo-fi quality of a degenerating cell phone, you hear music in the background.
“Are you out?”
“Are you out? Like, are you at a club?”
“Why?” He laughs. You can imagine him shifting awkwardly at the question, a smile on his face, a glint of confused defiance hiding in chocolate brown eyes. “You’re out, too.”
And you can’t say anything, because it’s true. You don’t know why it bothers you so much to know that He’s out in a club; you’re both independent now, both adults who can do whatever you like. And without anyone weighing Him down, it’s not like He’s going to spend Saturday night in bed.
“Are you out with anyone?”
“Why?” He asks again. Trying to laugh like he did before. But you know that underlying note in it. A ‘what fucking right do you think you have to ask me that’ tone just a scratch beneath the surface.
“Dunno. Just. Wondering.”
It’s dark. Humid. Two girls clutching one another teeter by you on a pair of heels too tall and too thin to be anything but a safety hazard, and you’re distracted for a moment by the faint smell of alcohol, by a flood of messy Spanish spilling from red-tinged hips. You wish you knew how to have fun like them. Instead, you’re very aware of the silence on the line. Aware of your sundress clinging to your back. You sink to the ground.
“Babe, are you okay?”
He stopped calling you that months before he stopped looking at you.
“You’re not out with… with her?”
“…What are you talking about?”
The Spanish girls are waiting for a ride. You spoke too quickly, not thinking, too busy watching them, too busy listening to the way the words are flowing between them unhindered, too busy wishing your own words flowed like that instead of tumbling out of your gut like mismatched building blocks. There’s a dam in your throat now, thankfully, and the Spanish girls are cheering for their savior the cab driver, and He’s on the phone demanding, “Answer me.”
“I just- I saw pictures of you two online and-“
“What the fuck?”
“And you just – you never did that before. With me. Never took pictures with me like that.”
“You – I – what – I never could.” His voice has dropped, so low that you can barely hear him over the sound of music in the background. “You never let me.”
“Yeah, but. You could have… you could have…” You don’t know what He could have done. You don’t know why you’re so accusing. You just can’t stop thinking about that picture, about Him, about Him and her, about how it’s not Him and you, about anything and everything and –
“Are you… are you jealous?” Disbelief.
You don’t answer. The Spanish girls are making negotiations. You pick the sweat-damp dress away from your skin like it’ll bring you relief, and it does nothing.
You’re mesmerized by the spinning in your head, by the way the neon lights are painting the sidewalk in myriad colors.
“Babe, you‘re the one who left.”
You swallow. Your stomach is churning, but not with anticipation, not with excitement. Mouth dry. Fingers that won’t stop picking at the hem of the dress. You want to vomit. You lick your lips and it takes you two tries to say, “I didn’t-“
“I’m gonna say this one last time, okay? For good this time.”
You squeeze your eyes shut.
You stop breathing.
Second later: nothing. Just a dead connection. A spinning head. A sick feeling of immeasurable guilt that you wish you could drag out of the pit of your stomach with angry claws. A dress falling limp and shapeless against a trembling body. Even the Spanish girls have long since climbed into the cab and are nothing but a pair of taillights fading in the distance.
You don’t move for a long, long time.
It’s too damn hot in Texas.