I thought you were leaving for pizza, not for another girl.

You left my side at midnight, after stroking my hair and spoon-feeding me a pool of purple cough syrup. All day I'd laid between the arctic white sheets, turning in agony when the chills struck me, and flinching in annoyance when you read me my temperature.

By the time you finally slipped away, I was glad to be free of your hovering; the constant worry screened across your face. …I just didn't know it would be the last time.

-x-

The next morning, before the sun had even risen, I woke to a burning smell and the flashing-flickering of a bright, orange light.

I don't remember much past that point — just the sight of your car wrapped around the city's metal sidewalk rail; the fire hydrant that had toppled over in your path.

The most vivid memory I have of that day is Ginger (a tall, dark-skinned, Newport-smoking exotic dancer), bent over your body and spilling dirty tears across your face. She was wearing your flannel shirt, and not much else.

At the hospital, dogwood trees lined the space outside your window, shedding their rotting petals while you died too. She sat in the corner, shrouded in shadows, refusing to look at me while you flat-lined.

When it was over, she disappeared like a ghost, leaving me to my scattered thoughts and searing heart.

-x-

Your funeral was quiet, a small, hollow function filled with only the preacher's voice and the sound of rainfall. …I counted only eleven black umbrellas.

After your parents had gone—and then, finally, your friends, too—I stood before your grave marker and stared. A framed picture of you had been placed upon the smooth white stone, its glass splattered with stray raindrops, covering your black-and-white self. I brushed them away to look.

You appeared the same there as always, your marble face still sharp at the edges, your lips still turned in an awkward half-smile, and looking very much alive and in love.

I shattered the picture frame and walked away, wiping my eyes in anger.

-x-

A week later, boxes of your things were piled up for the trash-man to take. I reached high upon every shelf, and searched low under sofas, trying to eliminate you.

Somehow, I missed the letter where you said you were sorry.

(I doubt it existed anyway.)