Almost six years ago he came into my life and today, finally, he is gone.
I had an inkling that he had moved out a little earlier than the beginning of October like he’d told me this summer, but I wasn’t sure, so I took a little detour on my morning walk with the dog and found myself outside the back of his building beneath his balcony.
Gone were his bike and black and white patio furniture. Could he really have moved out??
I don’t know what compelled me to walk up three flights of stairs, but I did.
The dog panted beside me and my breasts swung loose beneath my pajama top. My hair was in disarray, no makeup, glasses on. This was me at my absolute rawest climbing to confront the source of so much pain.
I don’t know what compelled me to turn the handle on his door, but I did.
Perhaps it was the many little carpet threads strewn about the hallway foyer, proof of new carpet installed somewhere on the floor. Perhaps I just needed to see for myself.
And when the handled turned with no resistance and the door swung open I walked right in. The door shut with a thud and my heart matched.
My chest felt tight, my breath shallow. He was gone.
New carpet was indeed being installed, evidence that it had been several days since his departure. My breath continued to evade me as tears welled in my eyes. I looked for remnants of him, any hint that he had been there. I opened kitchen drawers, the refrigerator. I remembered where we’d hung every picture and where I’d placed every piece of furniture and plate.
The refrigerator door was still on backwards and I laughed to think that he was just that lazy he couldn’t be bothered to call maintenance to switch the hinges.
As I walked into his bedroom I could almost smell the flavor of incense he preferred, sweet and foreign, see his cherry wood sleigh bed. But it was just an empty room with bare walls and a new carpet smell.
In the bathroom the tears came. This is where I took some of my favorite photos of him. The one of him in the bathtub and the one that would later become his profile picture for many sex sites across the internet the summer after we broke up, the one of him standing behind his clear shower curtain, the striations on his naked body like horizontal pinstripes on candy.
I had bought little wooden letters for him – a T and an N – as a token of my love and of our little secret. They had been on his counter. I’m sure they had long since been thrown away, but I remembered them nonetheless.
There was nothing left behind, not even a scrap in a single drawer or shelf. He wasn’t heree and so I left.
At the top of the stairs that once was the place of frolic and love I looked out and down below and remembered the last time I had been on those steps and felt another wave of emotion.
I had returned to retrieve the note on the bag of his things I’d put on his doorstep and left feeling triumphant. Oh, how silly I was then. But it didn’t feel right to leave just yet so I walked back in and stood in his kitchen at the island, a kitchen design nearly identical to my own, and looked out the windows still as a mouse, heavy as a mountain.
The dog laid down and waited as I put my head down on the island and cried.
I cried because I could and I cried because it was finally over. I no longer had to brace myself when I saw him come and go or worry about running into him at the mailbox. I cried because I hadn’t realized how much this would mean to me, this ending, this finality.
The last time I was there was the Wednesday morning he’d pulled me into his warm, sleepy arms, looked me straight in the eyes and told me he “Didn’t want to do it,” anymore. “It” being us.
The last time I was in that room I had cried a river and raged and begged and fought and knelt down before him and admitted defeat.
The last time I was in that space he had ripped my heart out and shredded it with his bare hands and ever thoughtful words.
My heart was destroyed in that apartment on the third floor and I was transformed. How could I possibly not come back and honor what had happened to me here?
I breathed in the air that was once his space, deeply and with much personal drama and quietly left. Now this is the last time I will have ever been here. With my dog, in my pajamas, fit only for my own company. Real. Healing. Possibly better than before.
I don’t remember walking down the stairs, just that I thought, “Hey, he doesn’t have a mailbox there anymore,” as I walked toward the little house that represented each residence. And then the other older black, fancy car just like his caught my eye and I thought. “Well, fuck.”
I suppose soon enough I will stop noticing that kind of car altogether.