(If you haven’t started reading this series yet, please click here for Part One.)
I sat on the front porch while five officers in blue latex gloves picked apart our home like they were combing over a murder scene; slow, meticulously, opening every cabinet and lifting every bed sheet like delicate tissue paper. I avoided conversation and every room someone was occupying. I’d seen enough crime shows to know the hovering spouse was more suspicious than helpful, although I knew my distance was likely being just as carefully documented.
When they were done they filed out silently, no goodbyes. The last one nodded in my direction and closed the door behind him. Once the cars were gone and the gawking neighbors had gone back inside, I got up and stepped into the living room.
Things looked the same, but my world felt tilted; pictures, chairs, books, all off-kilter. Our memories had been groped by foreign hands. Suddenly I felt emptier than I ever had. I navigated the stairs on heavy legs, went to the bathroom, turned the shower on hot, stood under the water until my skin turned pink and I was forced out. I didn’t bother with a towel. I curled up in the middle of the cold tile floor and slept.
When I woke it was dark, and as I peeled myself from the floor I opened my mouth to form Lily’s name, to call to her, to whatever nook of our home she was in, likely reading a book, drinking a glass of wine. Only my eyes quickly adjusted to form the shapes in the room, and I remembered. Every waking was destined to be like that one; raw, aching hurt, sudden and new.
I went to a local bar on my lunch break, one of the countless afternoons Lily was gone. I’d spotted her bag by the door before she told me she was leaving; I’d only just gotten out of bed, my eyes still heavy and blurred.
“Be back in a day or so,” she said, and kissed my forehead. She was out the door before I had a chance to part my lips.
Within months, day drinking had become a routine while Lily disappeared, as normal as the spouse that orders takeout while the wife is away on business. The bartender came to recognize me – whether it was the suit or the lost expression that helped him remember, I’m not sure – but even if a month had gone by (a rare occurrence) he’d have the same beer at the same barstool, waiting patiently on a cardboard coaster. He never asked any questions but his smile was always an open invitation to spew my problems out into the darkness of the pub.
I never talked, only drank, but this time she’d been gone for four days, the longest yet, and I was worried something had happened.
It never occurred to me that she had simply decided not to come back.
“My girlfriend,” I said, taking in a sip of my beer. He looked up from the glasses he’d been washing, surprised. He was young, maybe twenty-eight, small and soft in his features.
I stared at a nearby salt shaker, contemplating my next sentence like a game of chess. I took a few deep breaths.
“I think she’s seeing someone else.”
The words slopped off of my tongue like soot. They hadn’t sounded as permanent in the confines of my head. Yet out here, where even a whisper can hold the ugliest weight, they made my chest hollow.
Stay tuned for more installments!
Continue to Part Seven here.