And maybe the sun shines brighter at night behind the Velcro moon, you said with a phosphorescent smile, but I loved you better when you were broken. A smirk danced at the corners of her passion-red lipstick and through the cancer she said, "I may be broken, but you're a hypocrite." The pain was so much more colorful when filtered through a cigarette, and the smoke coiled like slender fingers through the uncut air. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put you back together again; it's funny how an implicit crush can, you said, and your voice was like a tangerine disease biting cracked promises through her wicked soul. Piece by piece. Peace by peace. Life was so insubstantial without your Cheshire smile.

God, your fingers were liquid against her skin, spontaneously merging with her freckles, her scars that were kissed away every night by a guy who hated ties and commitment. But it's so cliché, isn't it? Once Upon a Time was something cherished betwixt dusty pages of fairytales and Happily Ever After a term meant only for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. You were too much of a cynic for games but every time you smiled it was like you were Prince Charming and you saw that she could be beautiful if she really wanted to be. Your dimples lied, cobalt eyes deceived; she would never be beautiful, not when she was like porcelain, fragile, don't touch, please. Not when she couldn't have you--you, who thought that f o r e v e r was way too long, that n e v e r suited you like a just-now purchased pair of pants.

Now when she goes home to that other guy, the one whose hair is jagged like your poison words and whom eats Chinese food from the bucket with his fingers instead of the exotic chop-sticks that she likes to put in her hair, you realize that you're envious of the connection you never had, but n e v e r was a promise (--or maybe it was a threat) you could work with. And Sunday nights were passion red across lips that said I Love You like they meant it, but you knew better, didn't you? Lies never mattered; they were what duct-taped relationships for recuperation.

Even when you got that phone call, the one that said she's in room twenty-six, sir, on the second floor, please be quiet 'cause the other patients are trying to die peacefully, you wondered if you were the first one they contacted. Maybe you were there first in her mirrored mind, but you were just the white square left after the picture was taken away. That molecule of dust that lingers across her mind subsequent to midnight bubble-baths, or for that split second between the sweaty sheets. You wondered if she stapled another face to yours while you brushed your lips across her straight teeth and breathed in white lies through the planes and valleys of her face.

The building was air-conditioned; could she breathe beneath that mask of agony? Before that final heartbeat, you loved her fragile mistakes.

(Everything's porcelain to you, isn't it?)