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The next day I wake up and spend half an hour not quite crying, in an odd state of mind that's somewhere between between moping, savouring, and wallowing in the fact that I'm alone in bed. Finally, my feelings not resolved, but set aside like fine china too delicate for my clumsy, numbed mind to handle right now, I go downstairs and make myself a pot of coffee. An overdeveloped sense of drama makes me put entirely too much sugar in the first cup, but despite my emotional state it's no more bitter than usual and simply becomes sickeningly sweet. I force it down and go back to the bedroom to begin parsing the material debris he's left me.

A poster above our bed- my bed; he wouldn't put it up until I'd watched the show too and liked it, and I think it backfired a bit when I became an even bigger fan than he was. I don't think I can look at it much longer now; I pull it down and slide it into the closet, saving it until I can forget a little and hoping that at least the four neat holes left behind won't draw my mind back to it. Turning to the bookshelf, I notice the neat segregation there: pretentious literary novels refusing to associate with his science fiction, no matter how old and respectable it is, and the haphazard collection of mysteries. I sort through the few admixed spots for a while, until I suddenly notice I can't see through the blur in my eyes to read them and decide that perhaps a walk, out in the open air where the scent of the room alone won't be making me think of him, will clear my head.

I light a cigarette, and this tastes the way I expect; like ash in my mouth, I think before I realize the redundancy of it, but anyway this smell doesn't remind me of him, except perhaps for his nagging. The neighbour's dog objects as usual, whether to my cigarette or merely my presence I'm not sure, but he sets off all the others around. Normally I'd block out the sound, but today I let it distract me and walk, unthinking, to the end of the street before the animals lose interest. Glancing down the crossroads, I notice the chinese restaurant we'd walked to so often we came to think of it as ours- entirely appropriate, I suppose, that the owner should have it back now, since there's no us to claim it any more. An absentminded grab at my cigarette singes my fingers; it's burned down nearly to the filter. I grind it out with perhaps more violence than absolutely necessary and turn back towards home.

As I step in the door my phone rings; he's calling. I hesitate for a moment, then answer just before time's up.
"Hey."
"Hey. Just checking up on you."
"I'm fine."
"You sure?"
"I'm always okay. Don't worry about me."
"If you say so, tough guy."
"How's your sister?"
"She's fine- she doesn't mind having me around for a while."
"There's still the spare room, you know. You don't have to..."
"No, that'd just make things worse."
"And calling doesn't?"
"I prefer it to worrying."
"If you say so."
"Listen, are you sure you're all right? It's just... I know I was..."
"What? A perfect gentleman?"
"Your first, you dick."
"You know better."
"Your first guy, then. It's a kind of first."
"And it should matter?"
"I don't know. I just don't want you doing anything stupid."
"Do you think I would? I'm not that depressive."
"Nothing that severe. I just don't want you swearing off guys forever or something. It'd be a damn shame."
"Really? You think I'd be that dramatic?"
"I was close, after my first boyfriend. It's rough, I know."
"I'm fine. I meant that, you know; you were perfectly good about it."
"I wasn't sure- you sounded so sarcastic."
"It's me. That's just my default tone."
"Thanks for that, then."
"You're welcome. Listen, I need to get back to cleaning."
"Getting everything ready for me?"
"I guess."
"I'll come and get it when I get my own place then."
"Any idea when that'll be?"
"Yeah, no. I haven't seen anything promising yet."
"Good luck with that."
"And to you with the cleaning. By the way... you know you can call me anytime if it's too much, right? I'm still here."
"I know. Thanks."
"It's fine. Well, back to apartment hunting for me, I guess."
"All right. I'll talk to you later, then?"
"Yeah. See you."
"Bye."

I pour myself the other cup of coffee, restraining myself this time, and go back to finish sorting the books. An hour later, I'm done and move to the closet; I always thought being able to share clothes was an advantage, but now I realize I'm not certain what originally belonged to who. I work through it with a mixture of guesswork, cigarette smell and remembering what looked better on which of us, and I only have to stop to clear my eyes four or five times. All the things he left in the room are packed away now, and I sit back on the bed, looking at the boxes of things that are somehow all I have left of him; things that, for all I remember about them, are nothing to do with me anymore. And somehow that thought hurts more than anything he could have said, hurts even more than the thought of him listening for his phone, worried that I'll feel exactly this way; hurts enough to knock me back onto the bed, my face in my pillow, and keep me there until I wear myself out crying and fall asleep again.

(Perhaps a sequel to this is what I am doing with the silence. Perhaps not.)

Heap of garbage on the old ocean barge

People of dark, ashen skin and even darker hair, draped in the remnants of once proudly worn clothing, mull about the heap of garbage on the old ocean barge, removing objects and waste they feel may be useful. The melancholy waves crashing against the low sides of the foul smelling ship and splashing the heavily salted water across an old black duffle bag. The old crusty cardboard inside once again soaked... the ink that once defaced a jolly fat Italian chef with the ramblings of a mad traveler now a mere smear of blue and black. One short, wiry thin woman sees the duffle bag and hunches down, groaning as her old knees and back resist the adjustment into this most uncomfortable position. The muscles beneath the loose skin of her arms ripple and stretch as she places her hands around the top rim of the duffle bag. She fights the mountain of diapers for the duffle bag and wins when the full length of it emerges. It is faded to the point where one could think this duffle bag is gray and not black, and jagged holes surround it on all sides. A strip of what was once an aluminum can juts out from beneath it, strange liquid dripping from the sharp and silvery tip. The woman is careful not to allow the bottom of the bag to get near her.

She pulls the string sealing the opening and leans over to peer inside, pausing only to move strands of graying black hair from her eyes and tuck them neatly behind her left ear. Her brows furrow as she once again sees that her once black hair is as gray as the once black duffle bag. A second later she is looking inside... nothing too interesting. She removes a diamond shaped shred of cardboard and looks at it, unknowingly cocking her head as she does so. It is a strange collection of symbols that she decides can only be a form of writing, but none that she is familiar with. The woman discards it along with the rest of the trash and thrusts her arm into the bag, shoveling out the contents. Strips of paper and cardboard fall out across the trash heap and as she hurriedly digs they begin to fall past the edge of the barge and into the ocean below. Once she has dug through half the bag she finds another, smaller bag. She remembers the children in the city wear these across their backs to carry school items. The woman removes this bag and sets it beside her before returning to her exploration of the graying black duffle bag. All that remains are a large, soiled green blanket, several more piles of papers and cardboard, and a plastic bag containing several rotted articles of clothing. Even her ragged wardrobe is better than these remains. She removes what remains in the black duffle bag to ensure she has scavenged what she can and then tosses the old useless duffle bag aside. It falls limp near the edge of the barge, half the bag hanging off the edge and soaked within seconds by the rolling waves.

The woman brings the smaller bag between her legs and finds several items. One is a plastic bag containing several old notebooks, all bound together by a worn red scarf. She rips the old scarf away and skims through the notebooks. The same writing from the old shreds of paper... along with many hastily drawn images. A lonely old tree... a large house surrounded by drooping willows... a round feminine face veiled by long and unbrushed hair... an old metallic oil lamp... a hazy mountain peak visible past the edge of a cliff… a large savage looking dog... all blurry and smeared across the pages they adorned. She sees no use in such frivolous garbage and lobs them out into the ocean, now angry that this seemingly unscathed treasure chest is yielding no worthwhile treasure. The notebooks make no splash and bob up and down with the waves, slowly floating away into... into... into what? The woman resumes her search of the small bag and finds yet another item containing the strange foreign symbols. A thick old book... red cover worn to the point where it is as thin as paper after having once been as thick as wood. She now finds herself curious to look at more of this foreign writing in a futile attempt to understand it's meaning. This foreign writing is not smeared, but printed. It remains steadfast on the old yellowed sheets of paper. The woman does notice one smeared line on the first page of the book, a line that for some reason was handwritten while the rest of the book was not. She looks at the smeared line and cocks her head again. She will never know what that line meant. Regaining what little composure a woman of her lowly status can muster she places the book on a diaper beside her and continues searching the bag. Not much remains... several warped pens, rolls of green sheets of paper now melted into each other, more refuse. But as she reaches into a small sidepocket inside the bag she finds something hard, and long. The woman pulls it out and reveals it to be a cracked leather sheath, and as she opens the sheath she reveals it's guarded treasure: a knife. Handle made of a strange dark wood, figure of yet another savage dog carved into it. The blade somewhat dulled yet as brilliant as the day it was received. She smiles at finding such a useful treasure and places it back into the sheath, then into the pocket of her worn dress. She stands up, and looks about for the next discovery. The old red book remains on the filthy diaper for a few minutes while the woman returns from whence she came, until a large swell rocks the barge. The book skids and tumbles along the piles of rubbish and into the ocean, joining the rest of the trash that could not cling to the side of the heap. Floating away... discarded along with the rest of the evidence that, once upon a time, a man lived.

A tiny, miniscule, insignificant portion of an unnoticeable part of the universe giggles with delight and cries in agony, if only for the smallest comprehensible expanse of time, and then resumes the mundanity of existence.

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