Forgetting

I don’t care about you,” she said as her mind flooded with the memories of long days spent by cold creeks where the first beams of spring sunlight broke through the tired clouds. She could feel the slight movement of his chest rising and falling, the light pressure of his thumb rubbing the skin of her hand as they lay with their fingers interlaced. She smelled the scent of his cologne mixing with the grass and dirt beneath them. Tasted the sweetness of cherry flavored hookah as it lingered on his lips. “Just leave me alone,” she demanded in a half-hearted attempt at anger. She wanted to be with him, couldn’t stop being with him, because she was with him, in every waking moment. In the mornings, she pictured herself sneaking out of his bed, tip-toeing to the bathroom to brush the staleness of night from her teeth, so that when he woke and kissed her lips, she would taste like clean mint and green Scope. She still woke every morning, 10 minutes before her alarm, expecting to continue her early morning ritual, but he was never in her bed. Every afternoon, she ate lunch and begged to forget him. She pulled the crust from the bread of simple sandwiches, nibbling on it first, and his words repeated in her ears like a record, warped from years of overuse. “The food is put together like that because it is meant to be eaten like that,” he told her. “But it tastes better apart.” “How do you know? You never tried all of it together.” She would bite into the middle portion of her sandwich, trying to ignore the unsettling combination of textures as the soft bread gave way to firm yet smooth cheese. The moist turkey felt slimy hugged against the dry bread. She choked down the combination, feeling as if the strange ball of food was caught in her throat and she would never be able to finish eating. She stared at the sandwich as it seemed to grow larger on her plate, and feeling defeated, she removed the bread and separated the cheese from the turkey. Looking at the three small piles of food, she thought, “This is better,” as she tried to ignore the image of his disappointment burning in her mind. She tried to remove all traces of him from her small apartment, to regain her independence. “You’re not a part of my life anymore,” she told pictures as she piled them into towering stacks. She ran her hands over images of their lives together. The pictures of them in dripping clothes, because the waterfalls along the hiking paths were prettier when it rained. The night when he convinced her to sing Karaoke in a tiny smoke-filled bar, an electric blue feather boa trailing down from her neck. The morning they woke to find daffodils springing from the ground in front of their first-floor apartment windows. She flipped through pictures of nights spent at the local fair, eating warm sweet elephant ears, tossing pennies into unfairly greased bowls in a desperate attempt to win brightly colored stuffed animals, riding the Ferris wheel and shouting profanities from the top for no reason other than to say they did it. She stared at a picture of “The Zipper,” the carnival ride that was so beautiful with its bright, colorful lights. She remembered stepping toward the glowing ride, transfixed by its Technicolor beauty, as he told her, “You won’t like it.” But she was headstrong and continued toward the line, and he followed her. She stepped into her seat, smiling, believing that the experience would somehow mirror the whimsical chasing game of the colorful lights covering the threatening steel frame, but the small, dark, seating compartment shut out the playful lights. They began to flip and spin, and she cried and begged to be released, and he held her hand calmly as she squeezed the pulse out of his fingertips. “You’re not so great, you know,” she said as she shoved the stacks of pictures into brightly colored shoe boxes and hid them deep beneath her bed. “I’m just fine without you.” But she clung to the picture of that ride, imagining an 8x10 version in an orange frame to match the color of the carnival lights, hanging over her headboard where they could see it every night before they climbed into bed together. They. In a single moment, she realized her mistake, and hanging her head, she the tucked the photo away, into the growing tombs of memories hidden beneath her bed. Despite hiding away the visual memories of their life together, she had no control over her thoughts of him. At night, she dreamed of him with such frequency, she imagined that she would see his face every time she entered a room. She walked into libraries, and unsure if she was awake or sleeping, expected to find him checking out worn copies of Hemmingway. In banks, she thought she would see him working as a teller, and she expected him to flash her a smile as he counted out twenty dollar bills. Her subconscious world was so vivid, so full to the brim of everything that he was, every detail about his presence, she felt as if he were standing beside her again. She felt as if he existed in her life again. As if they could be together one more time. As she prepared to go to sleep, she realized, it was the dreams she couldn’t stop. She walked into her bedroom to find him lying in her bed. A mix of confusion and rage building inside of her, she saidYou can’t be here anymore.” “Why not?” “Because you’re dead.” “Honey, I just don’t live here anymore,” he told her calmly as he stood up from the bed, running his hands over the already smooth comforter. She stared at him, confusion filling her face. She repeated the words as a question, “Because you’re dead?” And in response he flashed his radiant smile. “Sweetheart,” he said, walking toward her. She stepped back, shaking her head furiously, “No, you’re dead. We had a funeral. I watched them bury you.” He smiled, wrapped his arms around her waist, and kissing her neck he breathed, “Oh honey, can’t you take a joke?” She woke up sobbing and, ignoring the glowing red 6:50 on her clock, she scrambled across the bed, searching for his warm presence, instead finding a vast expanse of cold sheets. She lay still, lost in frozen tundra, clutching the space where he should have been, until her alarm began to scream its call like a siren on a still night. She called her office to tell them she wouldn’t be in again today and though the receptionist feigned empathy, she couldn’t truly understand this feeling. That woman couldn’t understand the magnetic pull of the graveyard, the gravity of loss sucking her in. “I can’t love you anymore,” she told the grave in front of her. The grave was painfully unresponsive, like times when he nodded his head silently despite disagreeing with her. “I can’t love you anymore,” she repeated, firmer, as she forcefully laid the strangely cheerful yellow daffodils on the ground in front of his headstone. She felt the magnetic pull of his body, urging her to stay. Stay. Stay here with the man she loved, the man she wanted to spend her life with. Stay with the man who she could not stop loving, despite the fact that the very pulse of blood in her veins was a reminder that she could not be with him anymore. “Please, I don’t want to love you anymore,” she begged into the air, her breath catching in her throat, mixing with a sob as she crumbled to the ground beside the golden flowers. She lay on the damp earth where the new grass was just beginning to fill in, and she allowed herself to touch the cold marble headstone. “I still want to be with you,” she cried as glistening tears flowed gently down her cheek and into the soil.