In a bath I soak, almost every night.
I think it’s going to help me sleep, but it doesn’t.
I lather, I rinse, I scrub, I rub expensive, sweet smelling lotions into my skin, and I remember your hands in all the same places. On my legs, my back, my belly, I remember the way you wanted me, how you held my flesh, how you squeezed me gently, how you caressed my arms, my face, my breasts. The touching is what I miss the most. The way you casually brushed up against me, on purpose, just to feel my softness, my warm body, like a magnet force, you were.
When I make the breakfast, I make your eggs, the way you always liked them, with salt and cheese and garlic, and then I remember that they are not my eggs, and they do not belong in my pan, and they do not fit inside my kitchen anymore. And so I stare at them too long, and they burn. The aroma offends my senses. It makes me want to throw our delicate juice glasses at the wall, the foolishly ornate ones you bought for me from Anthropologie.
You are no longer sitting across the table from me, sipping your coffee, making faces at the news, dropping your arm down to stroke the cat before you fold the paper pages and make furrowed-brow comments into the air, your thought process on display, because your wheels were turning and you were always thinking. I look at the charred remains of breakfast, while the cat, our weird, intuitive cat, stares at your chair, flicking her tail.
In the dark, when it’s quiet, when the house is creaking and shifting, I see your face in the sheets, in my pillowcase, in the crevices, the folds, and I roll and lean and pretend but you are not a pillow, you are not in my bed, you are not softly breathing anymore, next to me, with other random house sounds chiming in, the silence of nighttime permeated by the pings and dings of our house being a house, and you being you. The only place you are these days is in my head. The bed is so big and cold and vacant. It is empty, and I am empty too.
They ask about you, they say things like, “Do you ever hear from him?” to which I nod because I still hear you in the wind. I hear you in every pounding beat blasting from every car that flies past, I hear you on the bridge, in the sludge of traffic rustling along, the bridge we complained about, the one I’m crossing without you now, I hear your sighs, I hear you slouch in resignation, I hear the back of your head thud against the headrest as you exhale. I hear you in the morning, padding to the bathroom, trying to be quiet, but your feet are large and they make noise. I hear you downstairs when the furnace pops on, your tools clamoring, your incessant hammering, the building of unfinished wooden pieces that now gather dust in a damp corner.
“Yes, I hear from him,” I say, but I look distant as I say it, and they don’t know where the conversation should go from there so they change the subject to things like weather and sports and f*cking airborne viruses.
I remember the way you pushed my hair to the side and kissed the back of my neck, lightly, gently, in the woods that day, the way you shimmied my stupidly loose jeans down to my thighs, the way you gripped my hips, pulling me toward your wanting, in that spot by the rushing water, that little, mossy alcove that hid us from the world, like unrestrained animals, we couldn’t wait for the formality or comfort or privacy of our home, the desire for coupling too urgent, too necessary. We laughed that day, and one of us said, “That isn’t the first time that spot has seen some action,” and individually we pictured foxes and deer and bear getting it on, assuming, like idiots, that they would hide their desires, like people.
Your lips. Of course I remember exactly how you tasted, but also, I remember the shape, the bow, the way the thinner top one protruded ever so slightly over the bottom, how sexy they were when you licked them as a joke, the fact that you weren’t really joking, the way your lips sent fair warnings and clear, hungry signals, back when you wanted me.
And I remember the day we cried together, how we both couldn’t take the pain of it, the shock we both endured when our sweet little wiggle-worm puppy passed away suddenly from a recessive gene that causes seizures, the way you grabbed my hand and held it and wouldn’t let go. I remember the way you wanted me to feel better, wanted us both to feel okay again, knowing it would take a good, long while. You are no longer here, but your tenderness remains inside my memory, inside all the gray matter that keeps you alive.
My tattoo, the way you traced it over and over again, that morning on my side, my back turned as the sun streamed in, the first time you saw my shoulders bare, after our first night together, how you asked me, you said why this, and why here, and what does it mean, when you were trying to get to know me, to know my body, my mind, and your fingertips were light and sweet, your hands, they loved me, every inch, while I relaxed and kept my eyes closed just so I could feel it.
I feel you still.
And, I ache. Is it too much drama to say that I ache? Maybe. But my soul is sore, so I will say it here. My bones, my joints, my limbs, they throb from the heaviness of doing nothing and of trying to bear nothing. My fingers, my nails, they are chewed up and rough, each one scarred, sore, and I have spit them out into space. My heart is overrun, it’s tired, it needs a break from being broken.
You are gone now, but I remember. I remember the way you wanted me.