I took my right hand to stroke the goosebumps on my left arm. It still got very brisk at night during the winter months in the south. I kept pinching myself slightly to remind myself that I was actually awake, and that this was actually happening. It was important that I feel something. Nothing on but pajamas, the ones you bought for me on clearance. Everything else went up in flames. I don’t remember how I did it, I just remember splices from this evening: yelling, packing, drinking, pouring, exiting, striking, standing, staring. It started in the living room. We spent many times talking about everything and nothing on that couch. It was a gift from my mother. You slept there on the nights we fought, though many of those nights, as I’d be fast asleep, you’d find your way back to me. The coffee table that doubled as a storage for old magazines, even a few of the vinyls I bought you, was now gone. It was worn down anyway. I knew you grew tired of shoving coasters under to keep it steady, but you should’ve fixed that broken leg when I told you a long time ago. It moved into the halls, swallowing our framed photos whole. The Grand Canyon trip, your company’s holiday party, the first day we brought Fido home as a pup. Gone. I’m sure our stainless steel appliances took a while to melt down. We spent most of our time creating magic in that kitchen, like your Texas-style Frito pies or my potato salad you loved so much. We burned so much shit in there, getting ourselves into all kinds of trouble, but we’d pig out all the time. Just me and you. Somewhere between hearing glass break and seeing the upstairs bathroom on fire was when I felt it, and emptiness in my chest that was so heavy it made me drop to my knees. We stood in the bathroom mirror every morning to brush our teeth and wash our faces together. Your favorite thing was face masks. I bought you an entire collection of organic products to treat your blemishes, even my occasional stress warts. All of that was now gone, too. I stretched my hands in the grass, interlocked my fingers with the blades, closed my eyes, and inhaled deeply to take in the crisp nighttime air. The fire kept me warmer than your arms ever did, and that’s what made me cry. Last was the bedroom, of course. The design was our little passion project. We stressed over what color represented the both of us, and it was in that moment we realized how different we were. Somehow, we settled on crimson. Read somewhere that it symbolized the celestial love of good. You thought it’d be funny to splash some of it on me while we coated the walls. I complained about you wasting money, then got a few speckles behind your neck, head, and ears when you got back to work. Then, we kissed. After, we fucked. We rolled around on the tarp, our bodies covered in crimson and newsprint. I made you cum twice. As much as we bickered, my body just knew you. And it was the one part of me you couldn’t argue against. When we finished the bedroom and slept for the first official night in there, you woke me up at 3AM. You were shaking as if you were cold, but the window was shut. Anxiety always crept up on you in your sleep. I’d always be right there to talk you off that ledge and hold you till you fell asleep again.

As much as you were my protector, I’d proudly shield you from all the bad things life could throw your way so that the good things about you can flourish. I reminded you that you were one of the most gorgeous souls I’ve ever encountered, and that I’d spend a lifetime fawning over all the things about your appearance you seemed to be ashamed of. I adored every flaw. Every single one. But I just couldn’t get you to see what I see.

Somewhere along the way I lost myself looking for you. You knew, in all of your hurt, how to hurt me, too. It’s so conflicting, how your love both soothed and scarred me. I eventually became someone I didn’t recognize. In all of the things about you I was unsure about, one thing that has always been for certain was that I loved you unconditionally. I thought you felt the same. The ways I’ve hurt you have softened me, conditioned me to remain sensitive to your scars. But you were so powerful, and you knew it. You took advantage of that nearly every chance you got. You became both the best friend I’ve always wanted and the worst person I’ve ever met.

The things you told me tonight, right before you left, made no sense. The person you were, right before you left, I both knew and didn’t recognize. You took the life right out of me, and walked away, as proudly as you looked at me at random times of the day and called me beautiful. I don’t know why you thought I’d ever deserve that. Loving you has been a double edged sword. It was as liberating as it was limiting. Watching you drive away, with him, made my insides burn. I stood in your rear view, hoping our eyes would lock one last time. Maybe we’d have another moment where we’d speak without using our words and you’d know exactly what I was thinking. You didn’t look back. You drove further, shrinking yourself down in the distance until you became a distant memory.

So, to feel something, I set ablaze everything we’ve built together. I can’t occupy a space we once shared with you gone. What was ours simply can’t be mine to maintain. Hopefully, as all this turns to ash, I can rebuild something that can keep me safe. Right here, in this same spot. In these ruins.