When we were finished, the world seemed to unstick itself from our thighs. It scurried away and left us, as we sat there holding hands until the stars came out and kissed our cheeks. “It’s not every day you see stars like this,” you told me, and I nodded and pressed my head into your shoulder. You smelled like hay and grass and earth. You also told me that we were born of different times. It wasn’t untrue, but I wasn’t ready to believe it. Instead, I kissed your shoulder and closed my eyes with the night. You wrapped me in a blanket and brought me inside, your body still smelling like starlight.
When we were finished, it didn’t feel so much like an ending as a dissolving. You didn’t yell or explode; you slowly moved all your things out until I wasn’t sure if you had ever been there, to begin with. My stuff expanded to fill all the empty spaces before I realized what was happening. Even when everything was gone --the old clocks you had lined up across the shelves above the TV, the small paintings of snakes that you kept like an offering on your nightstand, the leather chair in the corner of the living room that I refused to sit in because it wobbled, the stacks of your papers that you had piled on the kitchen table -- the house felt stuffy and cramped, full of all my mistakes.
When we were finished, I repeated your last words like mantras, “my heart isn’t here,” “you’re too fragile,” “you’ve never been able to see me.” Your voice echoed in our shower, sat on top of our headboard, tucked itself into every cupboard and drawer until the whole house played the soundtrack of you.
When we were finished, the rules dropped to my feet and I realized that we had been playing two different games. When we first met, you told me that women had a hard time understanding you. I took it as a challenge instead of a warning. I am very good at fixing things, so good that I have made it into a career. I assumed I could plan and schedule our relationship the same way I did all my projects. You would grab my hands and turn my chin to your face, but I was too determined to see what you really wanted.
When we were finished, I hid one of your jackets under the bed and told you that I hadn’t seen it in years. I use it as a pillow now that the bed is too big for my body.
When we were finished, you tipped your hat to us and I threw things at your car as you drove away. I waited for you to step out and throw something back, but you kept driving. My body felt out of control. I let the night swallow my screams and spit them back at me while I lay in the grass calling your name. You never came back. I stayed in the yard until my body melted into the earth and the moon swallows my anger. When I stood up, the night had engulfed the spot where you always parked your truck.
When we were finished, my mouth felt hollow, and I couldn’t remember the last time I told you that I loved you. Even afterward, my teeth wouldn’t form the words, no matter how hard I tried.
When we were finished, I could not remember why we had ever started. I had given you a piece of my heart and never asked for it back. I didn’t realize what you wanted was more than one piece.
When we were finished, my mom told me it was for the best. I could hear her doing the dishes in the background, soap bubbles popping around her elbows like the champagne we drank that night we toasted the promotion that you had declined and then the job that you had resigned from. I can still taste the saltiness of your skin when you told me how you finally felt free.