He woke up with a jump.
Dammit. Not again.
He had been dreaming about her. It happened every time he thought he was getting better. It seemed like she didn’t want to be forgotten. She kept finding her way into his mind. He sat up in the dark, shaking. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep in the bed for a while again. Too many memories there. Too many thoughts of her wrapped around him under the covers. He couldn’t handle it. Once she got into his head, it took weeks for him to drive her out again.
He went out into the kitchen and got some water. Then he stared at his reflection in the window above the sink. He looked terribly exhausted. He was terribly exhausted. Acting like everything is fine gets tiring. His eyes were droopy and he rarely ever smiled anymore. He had no reason to. She had been his happiness. And now she’s gone. That realization caused him to let his head hang down and his eyes fall shut. He let out an exhale as images from his dream flooded him. He shook his head angrily, trying to force them out. But they refused to leave. Her smile. Our first kiss. The time we stood together in the pouring rain. They wouldn’t leave him alone. It wasn’t that he regretted what had happened. He could never regret the best thing that ever happened to him. He just wanted to not be reminded about what he was missing now that she was gone. He just wanted the memories to quit taunting him. He couldn’t get her back. There was no way. And because of that, he didn’t want to remember what it was like when he had her.
Not willing to go back to sleep and risk dreaming about her again, he sat down on the couch and turned on the television. He mindlessly flipped through the channels and landed on some old movie. We watched so many movies together. He missed her dreadfully. All he wanted was to look over to the other side of the couch and see her, but when he turned his head to look, it was just as empty as her side of the bed had been. He let a few tears fall down his face as his chest tightened. It hadn’t gotten any easier. He didn’t remember if he had expected it to, but it hadn’t anyway. Sure, there were now times when he didn’t think about her for extended periods of time, but that just made it all the more painful when he did. Sometimes he wished he could just have one more day with her. One more day when he could look into her eyes and hold her and tell her how much she meant to him. He wished he could feel her and smell her again, even if it was just one more day. But he knew how crazy that was. She wasn’t coming back. And even if he could have her for one more day, he would still beg for another day soon enough.
He wondered for a moment if he should let her in for a while, let her fill his head again just for the remainder of the night and maybe the next day. He thought of the boxes in the closet. The boxes of things that reminded him of her. There were so many things. He had gathered them all up once with the intention of throwing them out so he’d never have to look at them again, but he hadn’t been able to do it. Instead he had tossed everything into a couple of boxes and hidden them on a shelf high in his closet, out of sight. He debated with himself about whether or not he could look at it all again. What’s the worst that could happen? You’re already there anyway. It was a useless debate. He had already made up his mind.
With great care, he took the boxes from the shelf and brought them back out to the couch. For a few moments, all he could do was stare at them, trying to prepare himself for what he would find. He remembered a few of the things, but the weight of the boxes suggested that many more memories were being stored in them. That was the problem with things. They weren’t just things. They had memories attached to them. They had stories. They had feelings. He didn’t even need to open the boxes to feel the feelings, to see the stories like they were happening right at that moment. They filled his mind. The handmade birthday cards. The photo booth pictures. The bracelet she gave me. The images swirled in his head, almost making him dizzy. He stood up and paced around, all the while keeping his eyes on the unopened boxes. He wondered if he could do it after all, if he could revisit everything and keep it together. Of course I can’t. But how can I walk away now? He sat back down and took a deep breath and opened the first one before he could think about it again. God. There was a lot more than he remembered. His shirts and jackets she had worn. Their favorite movie. His old cell phone with all their text messages. He pulled the phone out of the box and turned it on. Their last conversation had been nothing special. Just going over the plans for the day. She was going out with some friends, he was getting a new phone. He had known it would be the last conversation he’d have with her on that phone, but he never thought it would be the last one they ever had. He smiled for a moment as he read through their messages. He loved her so much. Even the littlest things like that had always made him so happy with her. The boxes were full of those little things that had made him happy once upon a time.