I found an old cardboard box hidden in an opening of my closet wall. I didn’t even feel anything when I saw it. No anger, no sadness, no surprise. I turned around, walked out, shut the door, and ran downstairs to eat dinner with my family but I thought about it. My heart was surprisingly quiet. I mean, I listen to it a lot and depend on it in situations like this, but it wouldn’t tell me anything. I did start crying, though. I couldn’t even eat the banana ice cream my dad had scooped into pretty sundaes. They asked if I was sick, but I just blamed the high pollen count.
I laid on my bed with my feet propped up on the pillows, my arms folded in front of me and my head laying on them. I stared down that door. I thought you.. I thought maybe you’d be in it, now. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go down that road again. Would it be like finding yourself at a dead-end, getting frustrated and lost and beating yourself up over it, only to realize that there was a little dirt pathway on the left that you overlooked? There was no pathway for me.
I turned the doorknob slowly, as a scary movie victim would do, and pulled back gently. I may have closed my eyes, but I couldn’t tell if it was because of the tears brewing or the hopeful fear. No you. It made sense, because I think I would have smelled you. I would have sensed your presence, would have felt the warmth radiating off your body, would have heard your rhythmic breathing, would have had some reaction in my heart. Nothing. Standing there, disappointed, I felt really sleepy. I put my hand against the wall to support myself. The wall was cool, like a refrigerator. I’d always felt safe standing in front of our fridge; it was comfortable and normal and everything a home should be. It felt wrong here, though – misplaced and misleading, a false sense of security. I considered leaving once more and this time never going back, but it was then that my heart made its position known. I turned away from the wall and my heart pulled me back, its strings stretching and drawing me back in. The fact that my heart was still attached to you was ridiculous. I’d been so careful to cut those strings. It wasn’t burning your stuff or anything dramatic that helped me move on, just throwing away the pictures of us and giving the things you’d given me to other people. I figured you didn’t belong to me anymore; you belonged to everyone.
I’d forgotten the box. It wasn’t even my fault because I didn’t put it there. I thought you were joking when you told me you were going to make me remember you forever, as if I’d need any help with that. How did you know? How did you know where to put it so that I’d find it at the right time? You knew me so well, that’s how. You knew everything about me, even things I never told you, things I never knew myself. That’s why losing you was like losing a part of me. I was scared I’d never learn the things about myself that you picked up on so easily, naturally, quickly. I thought we were going to be okay, because I was hoping it’d make me okay, too. Isn’t that what everyone wants? Doesn’t everyone just want to know that things turn out all right? You couldn’t give me that, I know, and it was silly to trust that you would.
I finally slid my hand down the wall until my palm ran over the top crevice. I pulled the box out quickly, so I wouldn’t change my mind. I needed to cry. I needed to admit to myself that he knew me, he knew me so well it hurt, and now he was gone. Well, he wasn’t completely gone. He’d left four pictures in the box. They were so blurry that I considered the possibility it was all just a dream – not blurry from my tears, for they hadn’t gathered that much yet, but from the pictures themselves. He always was awful with a camera. Squinting, I noticed the blurriest bits were lights. Fair lights. Ferris wheel lights, from the one we’d ridden every year for the four years we were together. Each picture was slightly more blurred than the one before, but they were all a mess. I wondered if he knew all along that he’d end things with me. Was it a message, that we just kept getting shakier and shakier until he finally couldn’t take it anymore?
My whole world was in those pictures; they contained all the answers I wanted. I stared at them until my head hurt. They were from the same fair, I decided. Same year, then. No ominous message. He just wanted me to remember. I wished I had more fairs in the future to remember.