The days are fine.
I play with the cat, sunbathing by the window, and occasionally light up, suppressing coughs as I inhale. The first thing I did when I drove away that day was buy a packet of cigarettes and choke one of them down.
I’m not sure, honestly. I think it’s partly because it keeps the hands that touched you occupied, and partly that it appears tough and jaded. Smoke and mirrors, to keep the audience distracted. It keeps me distracted.
It’s the nights that are hard.
In the darkness, I still lie on my side of the bed. By doing that, you’re still here, sleeping next to me. As if waking from a nightmare, sometimes I reach for you, just on the other side of the bed, but we are separated by weeks, months. My hands find nothing, yet I continue to grab, more and more desperately at the empty sheets. They are all I have to hold.
This is not a nightmare I will wake from.
In the daytime, I watch all the movies that I like and that you didn’t. I eat what I want. I wear the clothes you said reminded you of your ex. I sign up for classes and hobbies without being concerned that they might clash with you suddenly needing me. I stroke the cat, and I smoke, and I stare out through the window at the sunshine.
In the murky night I squint at your pillow as if your sleeping face will emerge from the contours. This only wakens the tears lurking in the corners of my eyes and they crawl out to soak my pillow. Looking for a dry spot, I turn over, but something cold snatches my throat. Is it guilt? Is it fear? I have turned my back on you, the place where you used to be.
I’m talking to my friends more than I have in a long time. It feels good. We meet up and talk about and do the things you weren’t interested in. It’s exciting and absorbing and I barely look at my phone. I only reach into my bag to grab a cigarette, my new best friend. You aren’t going to call or message me anymore, demanding my attention.
Instead of sleeping, I lie with my eyes wide open in the dark, arm stretched out to the place where you once were, as if to catch you. I realised one night that I sleep facing away from your side of the bed now. I guess it’s easier that way. I tell myself it was worth it.
During the day, I believe it. The sunshine agrees with me. The faces of my friends agree with me. The cigarette smoke scratches at my lungs to remind me I am alive and in control of my life and I should make the most of what I have. The cat just purrs and occasionally bites my fingers.
I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling and I tell myself it was worth it.
I listen to my heart beating itself against my ribs, alone in this bed, in this night, and I tell myself it was worth it.
I remember that I stitched a little heart in the lining of your jacket once, as a charm, a warning, a compass to bring you safely back to me when you were far away. I guess it only had a limited lifespan.
And I tell myself over and over that:
I can do so many things now that I couldn’t do before. It was worth it.
I can feel myself shaking and you’re not there to hold me. It was worth it, right?
My hand feels nothing, grips the air, grips the sheets. Oh please, tell me it was worth it.
I don’t know.
I bury my face in your pillow, but it no longer smells of you. It’s been so long since you lay here. You hardly ever came to see me, towards the end.
This was inevitable. And it was worth it.
Please tell me it was worth it.
Someone, please tell me it was worth it.
Oh god, please tell me it was worth it.
And maybe one day I will believe it.