On the floor, her note lays in dozens of ripped pieces. I can’t even glance at them. Each shattered word reanimates the sentence it belonged to; every reason she left echoed in her apoplectic voice. Without her things, the room barely changes. It lived as my representation; my confections, my ropes lassoed to the past. Hers wedged themselves between, found homes on the edges of ledges and the bookcase, and without them mine appear cozy.
I run through our memories together, pissing the good times away with the stroke of a thought. I’m a time-bender, and in each place I find her grazing, a bottle of alcohol smudges presence and she becomes blur. Her voice. Her voice. It lifts above the liquid. It does not drown. It stirs inside me, and the words I tore again come out to play. My hands curl to fists.
I want her things back. The bottle-opener from Peru, a wooden Incan tribesman, stares at me. Its mouth is drawn wider with a little more room to spare. Her little vial, some mysterious creamy liquid, is a hole in the dust. I storm over and rub against the ledge, rub away the dust and rip the tribesman from its peace. I don’t hear a voice in it, hers or anybody’s. Like her vial, it was a gift. It conjures the memory of one-time use and reshapes as wood. I don’t speak to him anymore. Its weight settles in the trash.
There are other spots, more vanished items. At each place I stop and stare, try to recall the piece that once mingled with other litter, and hoist the nearest object into the trash. Where is she right now? My things can vanish, too.
There’s no reward. No escape. Every book, candle, gift, and little joy is attached to invisible rope, bound around my neck. From the moment they found me, I them, I know what they’ve done; how they performed. Where they fell once. How they were replaced. The trashcan does nothing. It sits closed, with ropes oozing out and to me. I’ll know where they wind up. Not her. Throwing them away does nothing.
I catch myself before the floor turns mosaic, staring at bits of paper that follow me around the room. They’re bound to me, too. So stupid. Why did I rip it up? In the trash, too, they’ll follow me. I’ll think of them. It will break my heart. She’s gone. I want to scream, but for what? For who? She’s gone. I let the floor turn, and teardrops trickle off the ridge of my nose. But only for a moment. I stop without want. I cannot cry. My eyes well, but the tears remain with me. She’s gone.
On hands and knees I begin to ball up each piece of note. I like the feeling they have between my forefinger and thumb. I like the smoothness of their roll. Each tiny ball, I place lovingly on the bed. I feel happy for the first time since I walked into the room. Since I first noticed her vial missing, and thought nothing at all of it. Since I saw this damned note and let it, and all things, lasso me to this room.
26 tiny balls. I smell my inky fingers and count again. Still 26. I pluck one from the group and toss it into my mouth, swallow. 25. She can’t take this. 24. This one is mine. 23. And so on. After the last piece is stuck with me, I take the trash bag and pull the door closed behind me. I’ll never speak to anybody about this. She never left a note. I never had a bottle-opener. You haven’t seen her? Lent the book to a friend, oh, you don’t know them. A coworker. Think I’ll move somewhere warm. We just weren’t right for each other. Here’s a candle. You can have the ropes.