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. Just checking up on you."
"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'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."
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.)