I couldn’t stay. Not with every memory of us littering the streets of the city, playing out like the scenes of a movie. The corner store where we’d buy off-brand Oreos and use them as spoons for the pints and pints of ice cream we’d go through in a weekend. The local coffee shop where I’d write and you’d read, with a silence that fit perfectly, just like the sweeter you bought me for our first Christmas. The old run down movie theater that only showed one film every week, yet sometimes we’d go over and over again and never get tired of the same thing. I never thought we would, until one day, I guess one of us did.
But I also couldn’t leave. I couldn’t leave the sweater that you gave me in the dresser of my now almost empty apartment, with it’s hole in the left sleeve and it’s peeling letters now spelling out “liz navida.” I couldn’t bear to go to a coffee shop where the baristas didn’t see me and immediately know I was ordering a large black coffee and the girliest drink on the menu, knowing fully well that the coffee was for me. The silence as I wrote wasn’t fitting, it was so loud, it was deafening. I ducked when I saw your silhouette outside the corner store, tucking my head further into my hat hoping you didn’t know that was me crying on the curb. That week, I watched the same movie seven days in a row, hoping you’d show up too with the ice cream to go with the Oreos I brought. I couldn’t leave.
I couldn’t stay. I could leave. Paralyzed by the memories and plagued by the fear of having to change, I froze. I froze, and I fell, and I eventually, sunk. Sitting in the heart ache, I was sinking in the quick sand of darkness, silently hoping no beam of light would ever reach my eye again. Days passed, and none did. Weeks passed, and still, I sat. Everyone told me it would get better, that all I had to do was let go and move forward. My hole was comforting, I had built it myself with the memories and the pain and the things I could never part with. Yet still, I wanted to leave. I couldn’t stay. With trembling legs, I stood. I stood and looked around at the darkness, expecting rubble and ruin and clouds scattered along the horizon. The monsters I built up were just shadows, and their growls registered now to me as branches rustling in the wind that scattered crunchy dying leaves. I reached up to my face to wipe my tears and found something hard, something plastic, like glasses or goggles. I used my fingers as wipers to wipe away a thick bed of grim that covered the lenses. The word got a little brighter. Taking in a breath, I pulled the glasses off to reveal an unseen world that I would face for the first time, alone, sunny and full of fresh air. I was never stuck by heart ache or some evil happenstance. All I had to do, the entire time, was look.