Death Of Love
“I can’t do this all alone.”
“You don’t have to.”
“No, you don’t have to do this alone. I’m here for you, always.”
“But what if you’re not?”
“But I am. I’m here right now, and I promise not to leave you.”
He lay on the floor of the empty room and he held the letter to his chest. It had been four years since they’d seen each other, two since they’d fallen out of contact. But he was going to find her. He would take the train and walk the city until he found her. The address on the top of the letter was number 22a. He sat up, aside from his blankets, easel and paints and a couple of books, the room was empty. It was a small room in a large house with a shared bathroom, that he resented. He’d been living there two years now, he’d even written to her to tell her, but had heard nothing in return. Every week for 5 months he wrote to her and every week for five months she didn’t reply. At the start of the sixth month he gave up posting the letters but continued to write them. Everyday, even now, he checked the mailbox habitually. He opened the door to his bedroom and stepped onto the landing. He’d been given the second floor room, smallest and cheapest, it wasn’t much bigger than a closet, but it was a roof over his head. “A stepping stone.” His grandfather had said.
Outside the sun had barely broken through the clouds and the sky was still red. It looked like a painting, one of his. One of the paintings he’d painted for her. He was an hour early for the postman and no night mail had come, at least not for him. He walked out into the cold and turned down the street. He walked this path most days. If he was fast enough he would come up on the postman and watch as he placed letters into the box. That was the cruelty of living with other people, there was always mail, but it often wasn’t for him. When it was it was usually from his father, the well intentioned man who always offered charity to his disenfranchised son. He stopped for a coffee and as he waited, people began to sprinkle onto the streets without paying notice to one another.
“How much happier we’d all be if we only said hello.”
He took his cup of coffee and as he paid the man a rather ordinary woman in a black coat stepped up beside him. She smiled briefly and he turned away from her and continued to walk in the same direction he’d been going. It was brighter now, the sun seemed to have come out as cherry blossoms blossom and light the air with a delicate pink. It was another twenty minutes of walking in the cold before he came back to his street. By this time, the coffee had been drunk and his hands were cold again.
“I will leave today, 22a, I will leave today, no matter what’s in the mailbox.”
The postman stepped onto the street as he came to his mailbox. He paused. Each day for two years he’d checked the mail. He’d grown comfortable in his routine. He was used to it and that in itself was a comfort. For a few seconds he wished there would be nothing in the box, wished that she would stay out of his life, stay gone, and leave him with his undisturbed memories. He opened the letter box and flipped through the letters. He was half way before he stopped, the return address was 22a and on the front, her handwriting, had written “Pup” the nickname she’d given him when they were only children.
His heart stopped. He fumbled for the back of the envelope. His numb fingers were clumsy on the paper. He walked toward the front door. The other letters fell from his grasp as he crossed the threshold and made his way to his closet. The rip of the paper tore the silence and the envelope fell to the floor.
It’s been so long. I hope you’re still at this address. I got your letter, I guess that’s obvious, I’m reading it again now. Why did you stop writing? I miss your letters terribly. You just disappeared after telling me your address. I thought you’d maybe found yourself a girl and she was taking care of you. I hope you have and she is, you did always need looking after. We made a mistake, moving away from each other. You were a fool and I was even more foolish. We could have made a life for ourselves, here, there, it doesn’t matter, not anymore. We have to live with our choices and they could be the hardest things we ever have to live with.
Pup, there’s something I have to tell you. It’s something I should have told you a long time ago, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t bring myself to write that letter and I know how you love letters. I wanted to call you Pup, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t find the words. So I wrote. I wrote dozens of letters and I didn’t send a single one. They’re all here with me now.
I’m dying, Pup. If you’re reading this then I’ve already gone to join my parents. Having this letter sent was my last act of will. You were my last thought. You were the only person I ever wanted and I let you slip away and now I’m gone.
You see, of all the letters I didn’t send, this is one that I wish I’d sent the most. The one telling you that I never stopped loving you. I didn’t realise that two years had gone by so fast. With my treatments it seems that less time has past than actually has, you lose track when you’re sick. Time seems to change, you lie in bed and you wait, and you get sick and you get a little bit better. Unless you can hear people, unless you can see or touch them, they disappear. I’ve written to a lot of people and there were a lot of people I forgot. But they didn’t get their letters. They’re here, in a drawer, and I’m sure they’ll find them when they need to.
It’s time for me to go, the doctors are coming. It’s all in vain but you can’t help but appreciate the effort.
I love you Pup and I never should have let you go.
With all my heart,
He sat. He wiped the tears from his eyes. He breathed, hard, short, laboured breaths. She was gone. He stood up and packed his bags, there was no longer anything here for him, not in this city. He glared at the easel, behind hit were canvases, heavily painted, colourful, moody, dark, they’d been reflections of years without Myra. They were his best work, she’d encouraged him since they were young and now she would never see what he could do. Few of his works had been commissioned, he made enough to get by but not much more.
It was raining. He couldn’t feel it on his skin. He didn’t hear it as it hit the ground. One foot in front of the other he walked away from everything he’d built towards the life he’d agreed to leave to behind. His clothes were soaked through and his fingers were numb when he reached the train station. He fumbled for his wallet, dropped his bag and after he got his ticket, the wetness of his skin dampened the paper almost immediately. The train station was a foreign place, a gate way between the worlds of peoples’ lives. It was a gateway he would now pass through many times without Myra and today was the first. Train stations were her favourite places; from the under ground worms that slithered through the environment to the small platforms with wooden bench seats and small canopies above them.
The train was full. They pushed in between gaps and they refused to wait for arrivals to alight before boarding. The young man was forced between two men with umbrellas. Their breath seemed to sweat in the air as they waited for the train to depart. As much as possible they kept away from the saturated, unshaven cheeks of the causally dressed man in front of them. He didn’t seem to notice them. His stared into the distance. Or perhaps they didn’t, perhaps that was an illusion and he was so deep in thought his eyes didn’t see. They fell on a space without acknowledging it. Beneath him the train jolted into life and lurched away from the platform. The well trained suits and regular passengers held fast. He fell forward into the man before him and was briskly elbowed back into place.
He didn’t seem to notice.
He didn’t seem to care.
His face was reflected in the window, his hair was mattered to his forehead. One hand held onto his bag and the other onto the overhead railing. His head leant clumsily out from his body. It was several stops before he was pushed back into reality by a shoulder of the man behind him. Without conscious thought he alighted and watched as the train pulled away destined for the distance.
This was Myra’s stop.
A small station that consisted of a platform divided into halves. One followed the train he’d just abandoned and the other followed the past. The man that pushed past him sat on the bench seat and read a magazine. He was waiting. Whatever he was waiting for was going to arrive. The man didn’t look up from his magazine. If he noticed his eyes on him but he didn’t care. The man with the magazine turned the page. It was a magazine for teenage girls. Daughter? Lover? He didn’t care. He turned away from the man with the magazine knowing that his wait would end. But his wait for Myra would be one that never ended.
It was midmorning by the time he stepped down from the platform and the rain had stopped and the chill from his clothes pricked his skin. He felt it this time, a definite coldness, a sadness. Myra’s house was a short walk from the platform. She could feel the trains pass by as she lay in bed. Much to the displeasure of her boyfriend. Who she started seeing not long before the letters stopped. He’d always hated Myra’s boyfriend. He was exactly that, a boy and yet, he claimed as children do that he loved with his whole heart. He rummaged around in his pocket for a cigarette, he’d always, always told Myra how revolting they were. The stench, the taste. “I’m glad I’m not kissing you!” he’d quip, while his heavy heart ached a little harder. There were no cigarettes.
On the road he stopped. It had been months since he’d walked these streets and it had been years more since he’d walked them with her. “He’ll never love her like I do, he doesn’t have the heart. He doesn’t know love.” The words he’d written in his journal found their way to the tips of his tongue. The boyfriend, whatshisname?, had never been more than a play thing and he was only supposed to keep her occupied. But play she did, and he knew, deep his heart and throughout his being that there were actions better not thought of but that crawled into his mind in the hours she slept and the months after she’d stopped writing. He crossed toward Myra’s street. He didn’t watch the buildings or the people as he walked through the streets. His mind was on her, as it always was, but it was on jealousy and it was on anger.
Her front door, foreign as it was, seemed somehow familiar. It was, after all, hers. He placed his hand on the doorknob and turned it.
“My door is always open to you.”
She used to say.
He’d never, after all this time, taken her up on that.
He’d only smiled and said “okay.”
The simple sentence “I love you.” Would have fit just as well as “okay.” Myra lived on her own, or at least she had done in the letters before today’s. Her shoes were by the door and he took his off beside them. Inside was small, it was neat, tidy, unlike her. There were floors that had been well travelled in this house. Family, doctors, friends, he wondered if he had come to see her. He shook the thought from his body and followed the stairs upwards.
He wanted to call out,
“I’ve come. Myra, are you here?”
The words were on his lips and in his breath, but they always caught. He opened the door to the only room at the top of the stairs. He’d never been into her bedroom before, not before they’d moved apart. She’d always come to his house. His old bed was laced with their scent. Her parents hated him. He closed the door to the bedroom. There was a single bed against the wall, a large window at the back of the room with a thick black curtain drawn across it. Her dressing table was a mess of make up, a box of tissues, hair products and several small gift boxes. Beside it her small bookshelf held the books he’d given her. They still looked new, their beautiful spines not cracked and pages still perfect. He smiled, she was just like him. He took one from the shelf and opened the cover. He’d written on the inside covers of all the books he’d given her, she had always loved his handwriting, he considerate it bastardised script, but she had adored every movement of the pen. He didn’t read the verse he’d written. He placed the book back onto the shelf and sat down on her bed.
On the other side of the bedroom door the house was perfect. It had been tidied, groomed, looked after. It had, no doubt, held the mourners after the service. Her bedroom was exactly the way she’d left it. It smelt of her, the type of smell you catch on strangers, for only an instant, before it takes you back to a moment, and the moment vanishes. Her sheets we cold.
He looked into the mirror on top of the dresser. He could see her standing there. Her foundation spread evenly across her face to conceal the freckles he’d always adored. He began to cry. He would never see her again, would never touch her skin or hear her voice. It was already fading in his mind. He remembered a few things. He remembered the words, but nothing else. Not the tone, not the pitch, not the sound of her smile. Nothing else. His tears dripped from his chin.
“Pup, you promised.”
He made his way into the kitchen and searched through the cupboards. Nothing. She wasn’t a big drinker. Upstairs he opened the bathroom cabinet. There were bottles, pill bottles, by weight they felt half full.
“Drowning in optimism” he thought.
He turned them over in his hands. She didn’t live alone. She’d lived with him. Lived with him while he’d tried to make something of himself. Tried to build a life for them and he’d slipped in behind his back and she had slipped away from him. And where was he? He was nowhere. He was a man in a closet, with an easel and some paint. He was a man with nothing but dreams. He could see now why the letters had stopped. He took several of the bottles from the cabinet and walked back Myra’s bedroom.
He tipped four of them into his hand and stopped.
“You promised Pup, nothing to deal with pain, remember?”
He closed his fist around the pills and stared at the bottle.
She was dead.
And all that was left was her boyfriend’s pills.
There was a pain in his heart, it wasn’t the deep ache that he’d become used to over the months. It was another pain. One he couldn’t place, but it was a pain he knew he would become familiar with. He would never have known that the bitch’s boyfriend would be the one to bring them closer together.
He opened his fist. He tipped more the bottle into the palm of his hand and he swallowed them. He swallowed them. The bottle fell to the floor and he took up another. He tipped the contents into his palm and then he swallowed them. He swallowed them all, her boyfriends pain pills, the pills that had nourished the intimacy of their relationship.
He lay down on her bed and he closed his eyes. He always closed his eyes when he thought of her, always. It brought her closer to him and when he could see her, it didn’t matter that he no longer knew the sound of her voice. She was there, as though she were a part of him, and he fell into thought. He didn’t feel the pills creep up on him and he no longer felt sadness. He felt hope and he felt love, because he knew he would be with her soon, he would be closer to her. He could feel her already, the warmth of his body in her heart.
Today had been years in the making. They were meant to be together and they’d promised each other they would be together, that they would follow each other into the darkness. It was a darkness that he’d never been scared of, as long as he knew she was there, waiting for him, he wasn’t scared of anything. She encouraged him to leave, he knew that when he came back, she would be there, waiting for him.
He would always have her to return to. He’d come here, searching for her, hoping she would wait as she’d promised. But she hadn’t, she couldn’t. The letter had changed everything. He took it from his pocket and he placed it on his chest. Someone, someone would find him and they would know that he had gone to her, gone to be with her. Because love, it doesn’t expire, it grows and it changes and in this life and in the next, it exists within our souls and that’s what they’d have, they would have their love and they would have their souls.
He drew a deep breath and with it he let himself go.