It still hurt me. A year later, even though I had removed myself from the environment, even though I had a job and an apartment and friends that shouldn’t have reminded me of him at all, I still thought about him. I was still hurting.
I sat alone in my apartment, smoking cigarettes, wearing black, forgetting who I was before I met him. Before, I was a brightly colored, forever-smiling, optimistic person. But after I thought I had met the Love of My Life, whom I thought was a pure reflection of my own soul, and after he had crushed me completely, I could not see the light in the world anymore. It had left me. It had left my eyes.
That night I looked into my reflection inside the mirror of my apartment bathroom.
My green eyes stared back at me. I did not see a soul behind them. It had been taken from me.
He wasn’t strong enough to be true to me.
Why wasn’t I strong enough to move on?
I met him when we were young and we spent years together in, what I thought was, an exclusive relationship. We were in love. For two years our relationship seemed like fairy dust sparkling through a forest breeze. Then, suddenly, on our second Valentine’s Day, he told me that he had been unfaithful to me from the start. My life had been a lie. We parted and I was swallowed into darkness.
A year after our breakup, I stood staring in the mirror. My face was only a shadow, waiting for me to follow it into the darkness. I didn’t want to be in the darkness anymore.
My cheeks hung on my face; my pink lips sank downward.
Why wasn’t I good enough for him? Why didn’t he want me and only me?
The same questions had haunted my mind for over a year.
A single tear pushed itself from my hollow green eyes and fell to the sink.
I felt so rejected by him. I felt so neglected by him. I had given him everything and he had taken my heart and ran with it, leaving me nothing left to keep for myself or give to others. I felt numb.
With repulsion, I remembered the night he called me to tell me of his infidelities. “How does your heart feel?” he had asked me. I said I couldn’t feel it. He told me he understood; he told me he knew how I felt. The crippling truth was that he didn’t feel that in his heart because of what he did to me or the fear that he might lose me, but because when he had felt that numbness in his heart it was because of what had been done to him by another. What a cruel bastard to do unto me what had been so viciously done unto him.
I can’t do this anymore, I told myself.
When I looked into my green eyes at night I decided I only wanted something pure and wholesome in my life from that point on. I wanted to stop casually sleeping with men to rid myself of potential heartbreaking emotions, I wanted to stop smoking cigarettes and drinking heavily, and I wanted to go back to the colorful, effervescent Natalie who I knew was still alive was deep inside.
How could I have done this for an entire year? I had become what I had loathed so much: haunted by my past.
I grabbed hold of the mirror in front of me.
He was weak; I wasn’t. He might have been a lost soul, condemned to forever roam the earth with a broken heart, his shadow forever searching for approval, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t a lost soul. I wasn’t weak. I was Natalie.
Natalie was a strong woman inside — she’d always been. I had to get her back.
That night I took all that reminded me of him — letters he wrote, songs he wrote for me, drawings he made for me, cards he gave me, dried flowers I had saved, pictures and presents he’d given me — and I put them into a box. I took that box and carried it to the small patch of yard between the apartment building and the alley. In the cold, February night I squatted down and looked at all of the lies before me. I took a drag of the last cigarette I’d be smoking and then dropped it into the box. After a few minutes, my memories began to set on fire.
The flames engulfed the box and I smiled as I watched the ghosts of my past enter the heavens, where they belonged. I soon put out the fire and carefully took the remains to the alley dumpster. When the garbage men came around that next Monday, my hurt would be gone with the rest of the waste I did not need.
I decided to take a walk that night. The snow was gone from the cold city sidewalks, and the air was misty and filled with the smell of dew. It smelled like the end of winter. It smelled like the beginning of spring.
I looked up at the moon that shone between the many tall buildings that guided me back to my neighborhood. It was big, round, and full. It sank low into the sky and reflected onto the ground below.
As I neared my neighborhood, I looked both ways before crossing the street. I saw no cars along the lonely, late-night roads, but instead saw one single soul wandering the empty streets.
Looking closer at the tall, lanky body that walked ahead of me, I recognized the sweet air of loneliness that loomed around him.
It was he — my lost love.
He did not see me, but I watched as he sauntered along the desolate sidewalks, the great, full moon lighting the pathway of which he meandered aimlessly down.
I wanted to reach out to him; I wanted to touch him, to hold him, to kiss him, to save his lost, wandering soul and bring him back home to me.
But he was gone. He had always been gone. He had never been there for me to hold. His mind and his heart have always belonged somewhere else: in the clouds above the world, floating along, two steps ahead of me, headed for solace.
Finally, now, I had accepted it.
I walked on ahead, down my own path, with a confident smile.