Don’t think you have me fooled.
You know I’m still here. I can hear you tell your friends, “I threw everything he gave me away,” with your lip bitten to keep yourself from telling them more. I can imagine them squinting their eyes, surveying the room for any signs that you’re lying. When you have them convinced, they drop off the chocolate milkshake and leave.
But I know better. It is very dark and quiet in here, as well as inexplicably uncomfortable; I am constantly being prodded by sequins from the shirt your crazy aunt gave you for your birthday a year ago. Everything here smells like shame and abandonment, and the air is thick and muggy with all the emotions you’ve trapped. It’s hard to breathe, but even more difficult to retain his smell. I’m trying for you, though. My sleeves hold tight to his cologne and sweat and tears. I have memories of him sewn into every delicate stitch, which I dutifully protect from moths and other creatures bent on unraveling them.
When their footsteps are long gone, and the tears have stopped rolling down your soft skin, I stay still and patient. It isn’t long before I feel the floor beneath me moving quickly, I am finally freed from those damn pearls or beads or whatever poking my sides, and I glow in the warm light of your bedroom. Your fingers grip me much more tightly than they ever have before, though, as you hurriedly slip me over your head. My fabric dries your tears as I fall down, clinging to you – though not in as many places as I was accustomed to before I was yours. It seems you always forget that he was bigger than you; he had those muscles you loved to rest your head against and the strong arms to pull you closer to his body when you were cold, so I do not fit you as snugly as those t-shirts that you are prone to wear can fit you.
I don’t think you mind, except that it makes you lonely. When you lay back on your bed, pressing me into you, I can feel the disappointment in all the empty space between your skin and me. It makes me feel horrible, as if I’ve let you down. Then you breathe in the scent of my previous owner, and I am proud to still have the power to make your heart beat like that against me. I am happy when you curl into a ball and cry into your pillow, because you inevitably wipe your moist eyes on my sleeves. You stretch my material over your knees, letting me cover you as much as I can. I will protect you, I promise.
But then you bring my sleeve to your mouth and bite hard, freeing one arm that way and ripping me viciously from the other. I am brushing past your hair too quickly to catch all the tears, and when you ball me up into your small hands and scream, there is not enough of me to completely muffle your sobs. Suddenly I am flying across your room. I hit your dresser hard and slide down, back into the drawer in which you’ve kept me hidden for exactly seventy-two days as of today. Maybe you don’t know that I know the significance of that number, but it happens to be the exact number of times you wore me in his presence. It is the number that documents how many times his face lit up to see you wearing his sweatshirt, knowing that you are his and he is yours and neither of you are scared to show it. It is the number of times I have felt worthwhile and happy. I can’t help but think that you feel the same way, even if you don’t know the number.
So I am petrified when you stomp over to my hiding place and pick me up as carefully as ifIi were trash. Before I know it, we are standing outside your garage, and I am dangling over your trashcan, and I can feel the battle you must be fighting within yourself. I hear you whisper, “everything,” like now that you’ve told your friends, you are obligated to make it a truth.
But I’m your friend, too. I was what you buried your face in when he talked of letting you see other people before you settled down with him. He was wearing me when you argued with him about something stupid because you didn’t have the courage to argue with him about if he really loved you; you punched me when you pounded your fists uselessly at his chest. We were the united front when you told him you were done with him, when you debated taking me off just to throw me at his dumb, hurt face, when you had to pull over on the drive back home and take me off, but you buckled the seatbelt around me in the passenger seat. If you throw me away, I’ll have to forget all of that. I’ll have to forget how I fit around you and the warmth I feel when you hug him. Just because you don’t love him anymore doesn’t mean you can’t still love me.
When I have finally given up and accepted that you need to go through with this, you surprise me by pulling me close to you tenderly. You have a funny look on your face, as if you’ve never seen me before, and I am instantly pricked by pain, but the pricking is replaced by tickling as your hand slips inside me and I am dizzy as you turn me inside out. I can hardly think with my whole world so disoriented, so I focus on your face. Your eyes are tearing up again, but I have no time to see why before I am turning once more, my sleeves being pulled outward and your soft fingers massaging out my wrinkles. When I have regained my senses, I am sad to be back in the secret drawer but so pleased that you’ve kept me. I shift around, trying to get comfortable. This time, the poking seems to be coming from inside me. It is a tag that I had never noticed before, for it fits me so nicely, like your hands in his. And written in his clumsy, boyish handwriting is your name, a comma, and I love you forever.