The list isn’t short, not exactly, not when it comes to the things we’ve broken, starting with the screen of your phone which fell out of your right hand when I kissed you because you wouldn’t stop talking (it was the hand which always sported slightly redder knuckles, the hand which always seemed to be preoccupied by holding that phone unless it was preoccupied by holding me) and ending with the two of us. How piercing my edges have turned out to be, how sharp the crimson tip of your tongue tracing my veins was, engaged in precarious pirouettes, twirling through my blood, flicking through the open book that my bones have turned into whenever you touched them.
But that’s not what this is about, even if it probably should be, and it certainly is not about the cup my grandma gave me that we knocked down when we tried to move the table in the garden, having our first breakfast together. You tasted like coffee, like the night before, like the greasy, golden crumbs sticking to your fingers after we ate the croissants I woke up at 6am to go to the bakery for, like fresh butter. A ladybird got tangled up in your hair. I don’t know if it was one of the broken pieces of the cup, hot spilled out tea dripping into the soil, or the smoothness of your skin when our hands touched that made me bleed. Then everything was still tentative, hesitant, breathless. I was always perpetually breathless when I was with you. Boundaries faded. The world you lived in was not made up of limits, but made up of spaces. When you left, you took all those spaces. boxed me in.
An oxymoron, an elision, a subversion.
An ambivalence, an indeterminacy, a ubiquity.
That’s what you were. A contradiction, a titillation in the pit of my stomach, an unavoidable avoidance.
You were a paradox, my love, you were the soft sharpness of those uncompromising raindrops cutting the transparent skin covering my cheekbones when we stood frozen in the rain, our clothes drenched, and tried to decide where to go from there. There were so many convoluted sentences aiming to postpone the inevitable, but none of it really made sense. Words were never really our thing, they tended to evade us with a mocking giggle, they were insufficient to capture the reality of us. Or were they? Perhaps we were too afraid of what that reality was and ran away instead, water splashing, wet, melted asphalt stuck to the soles of our feet, desperate laughter caught at the back of our throats. I mean, you said it yourself.
But, once again, this is not about that, it’s not about the bad turn after turn that we had taken towards the end of our journey through the maze of city lights and take-out food and cold feet that was our life together, this is about the vanilla shampoo that you washed my hair with the other day, your nails scratching my skin. It’s about the smell of the ocean in your hair and how you were the strongest when you had just pieced together the fragments that fell apart under the weight of that childhood memory that would never leave you alone.
I swear sometimes I feel the ghosts of your hands all over my body, dancing in a phantasmatic play of shadows I cannot join. You could rip me open if you wanted to. But this is not about that, it’s less about ripping apart than sewing back together. It’s less about devastation than it is about what we’ve fixed.
It’s about the blue sweater you left in my closet and never came back for that still smells like the sea, like salt, like pasta, like Italy, like that antique you kissed me so ardently in. It’s about the colour of your eyes when you smelled freshly cut grass and resisted the urge to roll in it, it’s about the memories that make joy pound through my body, that make life vivid and vivacious, that make it indescribably amplified.
No, it’s about all those cups we didn’t break that now remind of slow mornings and lazy silhouettes passing by the venetian blinds on the street, about the delight of everchanging sunrises that I only ever watched with you, of the shapeshifting rivers you whispered secrets to, of running through meadows and blinking through the seeds of dandelions caught in your eyelashes, it’s about all of that, about the way life could be lived and was lived and -
Anyway. You know what I mean. You were there, Stef, and words, after all, really are insufficient.