Remember when I said I'd be there if you needed me?  I changed my mind.  Now, if you need me, I'll be here.  I won't go to you anymore, because I shouldn't have to.

You left.  So I won't be there.  You can come here, if you need me.  I doubt you will, though.


I remember the exact time you shut my door for the last time.  I remember looking down at my watch, the one you had gotten me for my birthday, the one that tells the hour, minute, and second.  It said 4:54:33 PM.  I got rid of the watch yesterday.  It reminded me of a Thursday last month, the Thursday on which you walked out at 4:54:33 PM.  Even now, I can't stand Thursdays or 4:54 PM or even looking at that door, so I covered it with a poster of Michael Jackson.  I don't even like Michael Jackson, but it was the only poster I could find that didn't remind me of you.

Running away from problems was always your best talent.  It trumped your guitar skills, your drawing skills, even your kissing skills.  Oddly enough, that Thursday, you walked and I don't even know what you walked from.  There was no recent problem.  We weren't fighting.  You just said you wanted – no, needed – a break; that it wasn't me, it was you.

You never were any good at lying. 

Now, I'm sitting on the plastic subway bench, looking at the beautiful graffiti and I'm wondering what is it wrong with me.  Did I not tell you I loved you, needed you, wanted you enough?  No, I tell myself, I told you every five minutes.  Did I not have the domestic skills you were looking for in a partner?  No, that's absurd.  You cooked, I cleaned.  We were a perfect pair.

Looking back, I realize, of course we weren't.  You smoked, but I didn't mind, because I loved you, and I drank a bit too much, but you didn't mind, because you loved me.  Or so I thought.  We fought like sharks at frenzy then made up equally as feverous.  We could never agree which movie to watch, or where to go on the weekends, or which restaurant to eat at, so we read books, stayed inside, and ordered in.

Maybe you really did love me.  For a minute, or a week.  Certainly not the whole six months.  I wish you had.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but I loved you the moment you asked for my phone number at the bar up until 4:54:33 PM two weeks ago yesterday.  That was the exact second I saw it in your eyes.  'It' being disbelief, distrust, coldness.  All the things I was never supposed to see in your brown eyes.  Never in your eyes. 

Yesterday just confirmed what I thought had happened.  I saw you at the bookstore we always went to.  Our bookstore. 

I think that hurt the most.  It was our bookstore, our place.  You told me you had never taken anyone else to the hole-in-the-wall used bookstore, you had never taken anyone else into the corner where your favorite books were.  You said you never wanted to take anyone else there.

You lied.  I saw you there with her.  That hurt too, the fact that it was her, of all people.  She was your best friend's ex-girlfriend, and I wonder now if you hurt him also.  Probably.  She is my anti-thesis with her blondish hair and California blue eyes.  I have brown hair and green eyes.  She is cheery, in a state of perpetual happiness; you always said I was too serious.

Maybe that's it.  Maybe I never laughed enough.  You did say you liked my smile most of all.  Most of all, out of my writing, my art, my dry wit and sarcasm.  And here I thought you liked me because I was smart and made you happy.  Silly me.

Silly, stupid, girly me for thinking I could have my cake and eat it too.  For thinking maybe Prince Charming was here to stay. 

You always were popular with the female half of the population.  Hell, the other half too. Your athletic abilities, your musical skills, your inherent manliness, the paradoxical sensitivity is what made you so attractive, even to me.  Me, who always said I wouldn't fall in love with someone like you.  Guess I lied too.

Remember the watch?  I loved that watch, but I also loved you, so I was willing enough to figuratively burn all ties to you that were still with me.  I got this great big cardboard box and I threw your neckties in it, your t-shirts, your aftershave, the guitar music, the shampoo you left in my shower.  I almost burned that box, but I didn't because if it's hard to forget you, it'd be even harder to smell the fire that eradicated you from my apartment.

Friday, the day after you left, I took a shower, and I cried because I smelled your shampoo and I knew I wouldn't ever smell it on you anymore.  I would have to resort to smelling my hair, because I used the stuff you left.

So yesterday, I got the box and threw your stuff in it, taped it up, put your address on it, even the stamps, but I couldn't do it.  I told myself I didn't want to drag the big thing down to the post office, but I knew that wasn't it.

The box, now marked SHAWN'S STUFF in Magic Marker is sitting in my closet.  In the corner, covered with old clothes, so I don't have to see it every morning.  So I don't have to cry and use makeup to cover up the fact that no, I'm not okay.  No, I won't be okay for a long time.

That's what I tell people.  They'll see me with my head in my hands at work, when I want to cry, but I can't because then they'll know I'm lying.  They ask if I'm okay, and I just nod because I can't speak, my voice is rebelling.  Because contrary to popular belief, I do have feelings, I do hurt, and no, I'm not okay.

I'm looking at a particularly Mexican looking graffiti face on the subway ceiling and I wonder how the heck anyone can just walk into a subway with a spray paint can and paint on the ceiling.  Then my mind wanders to Alejandro, my best friend and his favorite movie.  I think I watched it fifteen times the week after he died.

"The Count of Monte Cristo" was his favorite book and his favorite movie.  I remember what Al would probably say to me now, quoting it, "Life is a storm. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. Shout as you did in Rome, 'Do your worst! For I will do mine!' Then the world will know you as we know you: Albert Mondego, the man!" 

He'd change it a bit, he'd say, "Tori, sweetie, life is a storm.  What makes you a real woman, an adult, is what you do when the storm comes.  Make a fuss like you normally do, 'Do your worst, for I will do mine!'  Then the world will know you as I know you: Victoria Langdon, the woman!"

I'd say how hard it is to do that, and then he'd probably laugh and hug me, telling me I could do anything, even get rid of your memory.

I almost cry, on the subway, but I think about how embarrassing that would be to myself and to Al.  He's probably watching now, laughing at how silly I'm being.  If he were here, he'd ask me if I was okay, knowing I wasn't.  I'd tell him the truth, because it's about you, and it'd be Al I was talking to.

No, I'm not okay.  But I will be.  Eventually.