there are so many things i want to tell you.
sometimes i think about calling you, dialing your phone number as reflexively as breathing, to hear your tired voice across channels of static after the fourth ring. i want to tell you, baby i am falling apart at the seams.
and i know you'd laugh and shrug it off because every day i function like a normal girl. my lungs expand and my blood circulates, i can write with steady hands and speak without a breaking voice. i can pick up ripe fruit at the grocery store and nod and smile and thank strangers automatically. i can laugh at jokes in dim restaurants, surrounded by friends whose hugs last a few heartbeats too long at the end of the night. i sit up straight at work in my ergonomic chair to reply and forward emails for eight hours without pause.
and i want to tell you that this is the easy part, the automation of my life, the ceaseless functions that move my limbs and fix my smile. but inside i am hollowed out. there is nothing in a physiology textbook that can explain this, but every minute my chest is clawing like i have been drowning all my life.
i know you wouldn't understand, you'd scoff and tell me i'm fine. you were never delicate, never tactful. but your love was there, below the smoker's cough and callused hands. beneath the blunt words and raised eyebrows. it was always there. and so were you.
these are the simplest things to tell you, the sentences that are the most coherent.
the rest is harder to explain.
i want to tell you that i'm sorry i didn't cry at your funeral.
i stood by your grave, hours after hours, and the tears never came. i could only think about your bones, your beautiful body, close enough to touch but never again able to feel. something hysterical, deep-rooted in my nerves, screamed for my hands to close around yours for one last time. and i knew if i held you one last time, i would hold you forever and that six feet would never- could never- come between our bodies.
and i want to tell you that i can still drive that stretch of freeway, even though all my friends thought i would never be able to face 635 after the accident. but my hands don't tremble on the steering wheel and my eyes still focus straight ahead. i want you to know that this is the bravest i have ever been. you used to tease me because i always let those japanese horror movies sink in during the middle of the night, and i'd curl up against you with terrified urgency, clutching at your arms to wake you up as well. but i drive past that guardrail now, still crumpled and folded in like a horrifying art form, and i try not to see the flashing ambulance lights scattering neon colors into the night. and thousands of commuters follow me past, their tired eyes peering over paper cups of coffee. they grind their teeth in bumper-to-bumper traffic, feet jammed on their brakes beside the place where your blood once painted the gravel. it is just another unbroken line of city scenery, and i do not want to remember you here. this road is not sacred, this metal is no memorial, and i will not look back through the rearview mirror again.
and i want to tell you that the bullshit people say about time healing all wounds is the emptiest promise ever made. that this gaping, clutching void inside me has never lessened, not for a single second. and it feels like i drag myself across the daily landscape with a stomach wound that no one sees, hemorrhaging with your absence. and i'm so fucking angry that we spent so much of our lives together, irrevocably searing your memories into anything and everything. i wish it could be as easy as this one song, this one movie, this one place or memory that i could burn, sell, or lock away. but you fucking permeated everything and no matter where i am, i was there with you first.
and time does not change this, does not lessen this inescapability.
and i want to tell you that i always wake up at night feeling your body in bed, against me, but my eyes open to emptiness and a blank stretch of sheets. and you'll laugh, but for months i kept a body pillow under our comforter. so that if i tried i could almost imagine your back curved away from me, your sleep-flushed face buried beneath the blanket. this is the best part of my life these days, when i close my eyes and sink deep into the warm and golden place where your smile and your hugs are polaroids with blurry edges, flaring softly to life in my dreams. and i want you to know that every time i wake up, it feels like losing you all over again.
and i want to make this clear to you: that the talisman is not the worst part. i know that i will take this empty chest with me to the grave, that i will be this hollow forever. i know that i will see those flashing lights and hear the metallic squeal of brakes until the day i die. i'll carry it everywhere, but i have accepted this burden as the price of loving you.
i want you to know that the worst part exists in those moments i break down and call you.
your voicemail picks up after five rings, and i'm muffling my sobs in my arms so that i can hear you through the phone. you tell me you're unavailable right now, but that you'll call me back if i leave a message.
so i leave one. i leave several. i fill your voicemail inbox and you haven't called me back.
you'll never call me back.