“It was him. It didn’t look like him. He wore a different face. But I knew it was him.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Sara wrinkles her face in disgust.
“My dream, Sara, he was in my dream again” I sigh. I thought she would understand.
I had dreamt about him again, though it was the first time in months. After the split he’d haunted me. Filling my head each night as an thick shadow, whispering to me, tapping on the inside of my skull, demanding my attention.
Leave me alone! Tap, Tap. Let me sleep! Tap!
But he never would.
Months later, I couldn’t believe I still wasn’t over him. His touch was on everything here. T-shirts hiding in the corners of my closet still carried his smell. Constant reminders invaded my day. His name was too common, I felt a pang every time someone said it, or when I walked by a house he once said he liked, or condoms. I opened a drawer searching for a pair of socks when saw the shiny foiled packet. A flood of chemicals flushed the lining of my stomach, and he was back, teasing me with his absence.
“Look girl. He wasn’t good enough for you anyway. He didn't fit in with us.” I could never find comfort in Sara’s words of condolement.
Doesn’t fit in with us?
I look at myself in the mirror. Grey t-shirt. Grey cotton shorts. Hair in a wild bun atop my head. I’m just a girl. I’m anyone.
But Sara hit a partial truth. He never was at home in my world. We’d sit at dinner with a group of friends, my friends, sipping wine and he would nod his head, obviously bored with the conversation. With the pretension of them all, he’d later explain.
“Why do you have to be so judgmental?” We bickered constantly. From the front seat of his car he’d slip insults from the corner of his mouth. I’d break from my sally-sweetheart routine and reach out my hands to strangle the words in his throat. Somehow we’d always end up kissing until the air left our lungs.
Toxic, they said.
When darkness falls, reason loses its footing and I hear his tap.
I miss you, I whisper back to his shadow. Night after night, I miss you.
And night after night I’d fall asleep to the sound of the abyss taking up residence on his side of the mattress.
One May morning, the light broke through.
Rays filtered through the yellowing glass of the window pane, stroking my face back into consciousness.
He had been there last night, walking around in the tunnels of my dream state. I realize he hadn't visited for weeks.
My dreams had been traveling elsewhere. His shadow, now a wisp.
I close my eyes and try to focus on his face. But it isn’t there. The edges of his jaw and lips are fuzzy and I can’t make out the blue of his eyes.
It was the first morning I woke up not wanting him.
I look over at myself in the mirror by the bed. Same grey t-shirt, same anyone girl. I close my eyes again, and my sockets fill with vapors. Faceless, I feel what I am. Layered and powerful.
As the wound dries, within it something immense grows. It quiets the tapping.
The last traces of him all but evaporated. I look around the room for his fingerprints.
A film of him on my wine glass, between my sheets, or atop my desk where he’d sit write me songs? They’d forgotten his touch.
The months had slowly rubbed away at his stubborn residue.
The morning made me think of the first time I wore glasses. The world I had known was vibrant and beautiful, but through the lenses the crisp of the leaves reached out to me, and nature shone with new definition.
He was like poor eyesight. You don’t realize how blurry things are until you put glasses on.
I enter the living room and Sara glances up from her magazine. “You’re looking great today, girl!”
I’ve heard that loves remains.
Once the traces of him finally faded, his stubborn residue removed, what was I left with?
Memories warp. They thin. They dim. His became cast in a rosy glow. The fights, once appalling, breathed romance and nostalgia. The way he held my hand in the dark. The way he whispered to me with thick breathe, and I could feel the smile in his words.
I’ll never be completely clean. But as I cross the room, it’s not the residue of him I carry. It’s the love that etched itself onto the soles of my shoes.
It’s the residue of love that remains.