These memories are canker sores.
Some of the day is spent forgetful, carrying but not suffering these small points of pain. Then, in some monotonous moment -- maybe I am in some well-worn place, eating some familiar lunch -- a sudden scent, a surge of flavour, and my mouth fills with metallic sting. Our grapevine is long and stretches across many continents; news travels slowly and some people ask about you or send their well wishes through me, not knowing this washes over me like acid. My new realtor chirps that signing all of the documents goes so quickly when there is only one person to deal with and accepts my obvious lie about sudden onset allergies when I begin sniffling and touching tears out of the corners of my eyes. The first morning alone, I prepare coffee in a daze, but when I spin the mug around to me, its face is betrayal. This was a small gift to mark some special day (the Jubilee, a Valentine, a trip) and the thought of the day cannot be repressed and the tokens themselves cannot be binned because memories and gifts from you are now a closed set: numbered, completed. I know this is madness. So I practice thinking of nothing as I meander to work and then your car floats by me on the street, hollowing me from throat to knees, but we are not in the seats, and we are not off on some tiny domestic errand or some romantic weekend getaway, because we don't travel in tandem car seats anymore. As of yesterday morning, you live 300 miles away and you send me bland winding-down text messages from a flat I will likely never see. Things like: "You may need to reset the router as mine logged in using your account details when I plugged it in." Because now we have two routers. Because now you have your own account. Because our account is just mine. These nearly invisible wounds feel enormous; it's painful to communicate around them. "Thank you," I write, "Love you." I delete the last half, hit send, and close my computer for a long time so that I can cry in more perfect darkness.
Those are the accidental aches. Other times, I usher the pain towards myself. I wait until I am alone and then I test the sores with the tip of my tongue. Some of this is what you would expect. I look at photos of us on Facebook, especially from last summer: dressed up for a series of weddings, tanned, grinning, hanging loosely off one another in front of marquees, gardens, vineyards, never guessing that this was the last summer of our happiness. I mourn for the life that I had planned and I allow myself some petty bitterness. So many people carry on walking around in the sun, doing their shopping, being happy, right beside me, right in front of our emptied-out flat, I allow myself to forget their hidden hurts and peer slit-eyed through our windows between taping up boxes labelled with my name as well as the name of the destination room (to protect against mix-ups). But there are more efficient ways of hurting myself. I can play the highlights reel of 4.5 years on demand: getting beautifully lost in the Scottish Highlands, the smell of that tea shop in York, moving in, getting so close to the castle fireworks that Julian's coat got singed, those early days in the white bedroom in Lancaster when the morning sun lit up the sheets like paper lanterns and we happily spent hours laying side-by-side, sometimes talking, sometimes just breathing the same green-scented air. No fighting. For guaranteed and instantaneous tears, I think back on our last 12 hours together. The last time we slept in our bed, we had to wake up at 6am for the removalists, Cardiff's sun was milky tea through the curtains and I ran out of dry sides of my pillow. When we hugged goodbye -- this is how I dig a tooth right in -- I held the nape of your neck and the thick fuzz of your hair was so familiar and yet already threatening alienation. Will I ever be allowed that intimacy again? Will I ever even see you again, in this life which feels punctured, severed, wronged?
When do these heal?