surfacing

You’re not as gone as I’d like you to be.
Our ending was as clean a break as you could ask for —
you were there, and then you were taken away,
and suddenly I could breathe better.

But in some ways, you’re still in my head.
Some ways?
I’m lying, even to myself.
And that’s the worst lie there is.
Many ways.
You’re still in my head in many, many ways.

I feel you walking behind me
in shadowy parking lots
on the way to my car at night;
I imagine your eyes in the dark
I can feel your breath on my neck
but when I turn around it’s just
leaves in the wind, or a stranger’s keys.

When I talk about myself, even a little,
I worry why they want to know;
I imagine you and your calculating mind.
You’re there when someone asks me
how I feel about something, and
my fear of their reaction constricts my throat
as if your hands are still around it.

Whenever I drink Jameson, I hear your voice.
I can hear you, even when I’m alone.
I smell cigarettes and sometimes
I still think you’re with me in my car,
pretending not to hear me when I ask you not to smoke.
Any time I cut myself and see my own blood,
I hear the sound your knife made at it sliced my skin —
that nearly-silent ripping sound following by stinging pain.

If I see an artist with his portfolio,
I can taste the charcoal and paint thinner
on the fingers you shoved in my mouth.
People walk around on their phones
and I remember how you stole mine
at least once a day, to see who I talked to.

When I hear condescension, I attack,
because I hear your words from their mouth.
I dare anyone to call me a liar
Because I know they can’t tell
when I actually am.
If I could trick the biggest liar I’ve ever seen,
who else could possibly tell that I’m lying?

I never laid next to you in bed,
we weren’t normal enough for that
but you’re there with me anyway,
because I still wait for my phone to ring
in the early hours of the morning.

But I’m fighting it. I’m fighting for someday.
Someday I will realize that it’s been years since I thought of you.
Someday I will forget to triple-check the lock on my front door, and it won’t bother me.
Someday, I won’t hear your yelling whenever a door slams nearby.
Someday I’ll forget what it felt like to struggle to breathe.
Someday you’ll be mentioned and I’ll have to be reminded who you were.

Every day, I am a little bit more free of you
and every day, I am a little bit more myself.

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