He moved out today. Completely. There are a few clothes still hanging in the closet, and he forgot his dartboard that we never used.
Every time I think it’s over. Every time I think I am beginning to heal. He manages to prove me wrong. His things were already absent when I got home from work. He helped me unroll my new mattress, fresh from the box. The frame won’t be in until next week. I bought some sheets on clearance at work. They’re hot pink.
The room actually doesn’t look that much different. Most of the stuff in it is mine anyway. And yet, I feel empty. I stand across the room from him, and every fiber within me aches to hold him close. To feel his heartbeat against my ear, his beard grazing the top of my head. I want to scream at him; beg him not to go; demand to know why he doesn’t love me anymore. My throat closes on the words. So many words of longing, sorrow, loss. Love. Why do I still love him? How can I after all this? Is this what they mean by unconditional?
“Do you mind if I keep my key so I can still come over to take care of the dog?” He asks. The key. It is as if this simple phrase unlocks the dam of words jammed in my throat.
“Yes. You have to take her with you,” I say.
“I don’t know if Noel will be ok with that,” he says slowly.
“Well, she’ll have to be. The dog can’t stay here.” I am suddenly insistent. If the dog stays, this move will mean nothing. He will still be here in a sense. I know I will be moving out soon, but if he is truly going, everything must be gone. I love that dog to pieces, but she isn’t mine. She has always been his. He has to take everything or I will fall apart.
“Ok, fine.” I can see that he doesn’t understand. I can’t explain it to him. Not without telling him how much this is killing me. The thought brings tears, and I try to blink them away. I can’t cry in front of him. Not now. Not again. And now, my cheeks are wet.
“Are you ok?” He asks.
“Of course I’m not ok,” I sniffle. “This sucks. Some small part of me has been wishing and hoping that you would realize what a terrible mistake you’re making. That you would come home. Not back to our relationship. We can’t do that. But that you wouldn’t leave me so completely alone. And now, I can’t pretend anymore. All I want is to tell you not to go, but I know you won’t listen. You don’t even care. This doesn’t bother you at all!”
Now I am really crying. I can’t look at him.
“After everything you have done to me, I still love you,” I say. It is like the words are forcing their way through my trembling lips. I don’t want to tell him any of this, but I can’t stop. “I miss you. I still have so much: my friends, my job, school. I have a lot going for me. But there’s this giant hole where you used to be, and for you, it’s barely a blip. Why is it so hard to say that you miss me, too?”
“I do miss it,” he says. Not that he misses me. He misses it. “I miss the times we had together and the life we shared. But I’m moving on. I can’t sit around and mope. It isn’t healthy for me right now.”
“Your whole life isn’t healthy right now,” I whisper.
“Ok, Jess,” he says and he opens the door to leave.
“Wait, Brad, please wait.” He pauses. I can’t let him leave on a note like that. I can’t have the last time he walks out of our bedroom be with angry thoughts.
“Please don’t be mad at me,” I say. “I’m not used to wanting something I can’t have.”
“I’m not mad at you,” he says, closing the door again. “I haven’t been mad at you at any time during this whole thing. You haven’t done anything wrong. I want us to be friends again someday.”
“I would like that, too,” I say. Then, my weakness really shows itself. “Can I have a hug?”
He crosses the few feet to me. This whole time, the room has felt like a chasm stretched between us. An uncrossable barrier. But as I collapse into his arms, his thumb rubbing small circles on my lower back, a tightness loosens in my chest. For that brief moment, it’s like I can finally breathe again.
With my face still pressed against his chest, I say, “After I move, I can’t see you again. Not until I don’t love you anymore.”
“Fair enough,” he murmurs. I am the first to draw away.
I stand there in the middle of my bedroom, hugging myself as I listen to him going in and out, moving the dog’s things across the walkway. Each slam of the door is a reminder that soon, very soon, it will be the last time he will come in here. The sounds finally stop. I am alone. I sink down onto my new memory foam mattress. It feels so close to the ground, but it is extremely comfortable. I look around my room. My space. I have to find a new apartment soon. Even without him, the memories remain.