surviving you

I. to bathe in your scent

In the antique clawfoot tub you paid a fortune for, I decide to pour the ashes of your things and bathe in them. Black dress on the floor, dressed in the smirks you often wore, and with a Gold Flake between my lips, a 1937 Glenfiddich in my hand, like testimonies from a witness stand, I can't wait to fucking laugh in your face.

The man from the movie in the bedroom agrees as he barks with laughter, holding his stomach and I know that scene too well because you forced me to watch that goddamn movie five times the first week we dated.

Believe me, darling, it was never actually that good.

"Look! Look at him, love," you'd demand insistently, left hand grabbing my wrists. I would stare at the glare within the screen, trying to see what you see, but all I could find was how the light bounced off your skin and seemed much brighter there, like magic squares and evening prayers.

That's how I found God through my peripheral vision.

Split decisions and reduced thoughts I'd have to be thankful for the next thanksgiving day when you lowered your lashes and winked my way, catering to the lust I knew was foul play. That's all over now, though, because I know the stars I saw in your eyes were just a disguise of stillborn babies and mother's clinging to the belief that they'll be up in heaven now. And I am pretty sure that's just another fucking lie.

II. between bruises and cuts

I was always skeptic, which did me good when you rushed to brush the hair from my face, still flustered right after you punched me and then dared to say, whispering like a breeze on a sunday, that everything would be quite alright. During those times, you'd shove your finger down my throat, forcing me to give back what I'd taken from your fridge—rough heaving and ample breathing stealing the stillness from the dark.

Anger doesn't even compare to how I feel right now—mind a questionnaire on love affairs—bottled up and tucked between the third and fourth rib you broke two months into our relationship. Those days I became a melancholic alcoholic, forsaking and shaking beneath your tongue of honeydew licks, to make up for being a thin skinned "chick".

This time around I couldn't find your revolver, so burning your things was my Plan B; I suppose you got rid of it after I shot you in your shoulder when you poured my mother's ashes down the drain and told me I had a right to cry over her death then because "she's certainly gone now."

Even after that, I still loved the way you said my name, like a flame snatched from your breath after we'd kiss, and how it made me an asthmatic with wheezing lungs desperately squeezing your biceps to just stand still. Your body would always feel like home.

I know.

But now all I want is for that body to split apart as I spit the acid onto your skin with the wit, you have to admit, that came from you—knowing that everything I touch breaks after some time, you certainly drove that right to the core. So I will continue to claw to make sure you do break. I will write down the way your face looks when the pretense goes mushy and overcooks, so you won't forget how much it hurt to seem weak-hearted and aching in all the places you shouldn't for a lover.

I'll shout your favourite line right back into your face, get all up in your breathing space, and see how you'd respond to, "Fucking do something now, bitch!"

III. half-full on broken smiles

The Gold Flake hits the ground still burning and I take another gulp from the Glenfiddich, enjoying how the memories clash and flash, and how the ashes of your existence feel when I move. I can still hear your skin pop and the heavy drop of your empty soul when I offered up my heart like a souvenir in a gift shop.

Because I loved you, I thought I did, I went to hell and stayed a while, adjusting to a new life style and trying to make it worthwhile with bright smiles, forcing down the lumps of bile knowing Jesus wouldn't even come back for me there. But I was rooted, silenced by the heart and completely diluted because you said you loved me, too.

And now, now I can no longer taste you on my tongue, a drawback from wasting years on nicotine and rum. Instead, you taste like stale bread and casu marzu, rotten with the maggots still inside, which kind of represents your personality quite well.

I'd swear I would never go back, wrapping and strapping the sadness to my skin so thin you could barely see it because I was always good at hiding things beneath, and in the spiderwebs in our bathroom corners where I spent hours like a part-time job repenting for each of your crimes and humming nursery-rhymes to stop myself from crying. And even though I know—good God you knew how to put on a show—that we couldn't breathe together, I could not stop going back like the panic attacks I had when dreaming of you.

At the end of every terrified breath, at the end of each session of getting high on meth, I waited for the confessions that just didn't exist because the first thing you said to me that had any meaning at all was: "there's something damaged about you." Today it makes me shrink, re-think what exactly you saw with me beneath you, legs wide and cheeks flushed with your breaths crawling into my skin.

With regret clinging to me like cold sweat, I must admit, you showed me depths bit by bit—the ones I thought to seek out, simmering in between the words you never dared to speak.

IV. to share your kiss

For each season you had new compliments; in summer I was a rummer, nice and strange and as pretty as the holy city and overwinter I was grand. I believed them like I did every time you spoke, and laughed like I was the only one in on the joke. In the end, you called me beautiful so often that I ended up realising I was nothing but ordinary.

It was then that I knew we were long overdue, a penchant for sins consisting of broken limbs and swollen lips, forgetting the scripts you printed out for me, whispering with half-closed lids of the mischief coming undone.

Mimicking the billions of lovers before us, we twisted the meaning of it all.

And I still took the fall, accepted it like so many of your drunk calls at four in the morning when you admitted to cheating and cried apologies for the beatings I'd take beforehand.

You know, I told dandelions all about you, hoping to get through and praying that they spread the word of your cruelty, then I'd try catching the seeds so you wouldn't be mad at me and so I could keep your warmth tucked safely inside my soul, right behind the grudges I keep.

I like to call this our attempt at freedom.

V. halfway down

Please forgive me, Father, for I have sinned, ripping the feathers from your wings. I could be your everything, but especially your Judas, fixed by your side with a false smile and wink—just like you taught me while you'd pin me to the kitchen sink.

Your cluster fucked whispers of needs taught me how to stargaze in a haze of rum, watching knives cut through thighs in the horror of my everyday life—having me name dust motes just because they were as lonely as I was, and they needed love too, like you said I needed once before. Of course, it's all a lie for you're a criminal mastermind of deception, a constant slur in my mind nowadays that's as drunk as you were on our wedding reception.

You make me wish I ate the spinach as a child and grew thicker skin when my mother told me scabs to the heart won't ever heal. I didn't ask for phencyclidine until your nails grew sharper and started burying themselves into my stomach like spears.

Knuckles raw, fingers pale, I clutch the bottle until it hurts, imagining your face when I give you the taste of your dirty winks. I think of your lips, always an ashen white that's fixed with dehydration and I wonder, now, how cold your skin will feel—how it could still serve as a blanket when you're dead and forever remind me of you.

Remembering how angry you once got—your tongue flicked against your teeth the same time I pounded the rhythm of your favourite tune into the tub with the heel of my left foot; I've always hated that fucking song—I can't help but note that you also taught me how to cross my arms to keep people out.

VI. neither of us were angels

It would be an understatement to call the bathroom cold when the windows have already frozen over from the inside. I am not going to get dressed, though, because I like the way your atrophy feels against my skin. It doesn't matter that the ice starts building up on my chest because I've been living with your fingertips trailing my nipples for seven years now, which ought to be enough to get used to the cold war you called caresses.

Today, I can finally admit that it was you who made me realise I was weak, just like it was you who taught me that my bones could hold your weight when you held me down to let your girlfriend pull up her pants and sprint out of our house.

We passed rum bottles back and forth until we burned inside and rushed to drop our clothes to shed the heat coursing through our veins. And I laughed that night when you asked for my hand in a dry rasp that brushed the walls of my barriers.

I laughed even more when I realised they fell, and I let you in.