I woke up sweetly and slowly this morning.
I crawled out of bed and sleepily walked to my kitchen window, tied back the curtain and said a little hello to the world.
I turned toward my tiny, white, gas stove and ignited a burner to heat the pot of water that was already sitting on top of it. I pulled my coffee grinder down from top shelf of my exposed, white, wooden shelves and I torqued the lever, releasing the aroma of breaking coffee beans into my 275-square-foot apartment. I poured the grounds into my Bialetti coffee maker and balanced it on the smallest grate of my stove.
I sipped water from a mason jar and looked out the window at the gray and purple morning sky until the water began bubbling and the Bialetti began gurgling. I poured the espresso and water into my handmade, earthen mug from a local artist, dropped a dollop of almond milk into my mug, turned on the lights of my Christmas tree, and crawled back into my warm bed.
I spent a little extra time reading between my sheets with my warm cup of coffee cuddled next to me as I learned about a little girl’s childhood adventures, within a broken home, and through her father’s death. I finished my coffee, and left my bed to start my day.
I put on a random, autogenerated playlist to play in the background as I showered and got ready for the day. One of those playlists that are made especially for me.
As I leaned close to my mirror, putting mascara on my lashes, I heard words that made me freeze.
“I can’t smile without you.”
I felt myself holding my breath. The words were repeated.
“I can’t smile without you.”
Tears started coming down my face.
In an instant, I was thrown back 10 years, to being 17, sitting in my mom’s office with a broken shoulder and a giant arm brace, being introduced to the first love of my life. He was an Army soldier who I met the summer between ending high school and going to university.
This song was going on our first date, eating pizza, and catching fireflies while walking around a college campus we didn’t belong to. This song was two and a half years of wild romance that included saying, “I love you,” and then having him deploy to Iraq the next day.
This song included spending my freshman year of college in the “stacks” of the library and at my dorm room desk late on Friday and Saturday nights just so I could Skype with him between classes, or as he was waking up in the mornings.
This song was flying to Kansas City to see him when he returned from Iraq after eight months of being gone. This song was summer lovin’ and snuggle filled winter breaks, an unstoppable romance happening between school semesters.
This song was outdoor Barry Manilow concerts that I left work early for to dance with white haired, wrinkled souls. This song was him introducing me to a world I had never been a part of—a sweet quirky world.
This song was traveling to New York City, and Maine, and Florida, and Colorado, and visiting our parents, together. This song was late night road trips to meet in the middle when distance became too much to bear. This song was waking up on Christmas morning, wrapped in each other, having a quiet moment of smiles and forehead kisses.
This song was drives to big cities to visit doctors’ offices. This song was sitting hand-in-hand at primary care doctors, and rheumatologists, and neurologists, and in emergency departments. This song was me taking steroids and gaining weight and then losing weight, and then losing too much weight. This song was nodules covering my joints, and endless blood work, and spinal taps, and CT and MRI scans.
This song was numbing medications. This song was taking a semester of school off.
This song was him holding my hand in hospital beds with cords everywhere and IV’s coming out of my arm.
This song was being diagnosed with a terminal illnesses and this song was me pushing him away. This song was the beginning of not letting people get close to me for a long time.
This song was the end that destroyed both of us.
This song was the realization that he was really gone from my life.
This song was discovering I was misdiagnosed and learning to live again after a death sentence. This song was looking at all the rubble of my past life surrounding me after years of being sick and scared.
This song was years of trying to justify leaving him after we’d ended.
This song is our love story. A story of the past that will never be resurrected, but will always live within me.
This is the song: