I was reading in the park when I felt someone's eyes on me as sure as the sunshine warming my cheeks. When I looked up from the page, a man on the neighboring bench was watching me with casual interest. His mouth turned up in a smile and I dove back into my book, pretending I hadn't seen him, though it was painfully obvious that I had. I hoped he wouldn't decide to come over. It wasn't that he was unattractive. At one time, I might even have smiled back.

But his eyes were brown when they should have been blue.

Without looking toward the stranger, I dog-eared my spot, closed the book and abandoned the bench. The day was a nice one, the kind that meant I could safely leave my sweater hanging on the coat rack, but I could find no joy in it.

Sprinklers stained the sidewalk with patches of dark grey that glittered in the sun and burned my irises. A hummingbird zipped around a patio, sliding its slender beak in and out of a blazing red feeder. The sound of its wings was deafening, roaring between my ears.

The flowers were vivid, sharp things.

I reached my apartment with the pinch of a headache starting behind my right eye. Sitting on the fraying welcome mat was a bottle of white wine, a small stationary envelope propped against it. I bent to pick them up, tucking my hair behind my ear as it fell forward. Frowning, I stashed the bottle in my purse and cracked open the letter.

It will get better. But until it does…

-Jen

I fished my keys out of a pocket in my bag but as I brought them to the lock, suddenly, I couldn't go in. For a long time I just stood outside the door. Then I turned abruptly away, fleeing the ghosts that leaked out from the doorframe. They didn't travel alone; they brought all of my regrets with them as they swarmed behind me.

I should have pushed my fingers into every corner of his skin, clipped my teeth down, soft-hard-soft, over wrist, radius, the tough skin of his shoulders. I should have said 'I love you' more and spent every day memorizing his body with mine so I could never forget. But I thought I would have a million days, and the smooth rumble of his laugh was just a badly remembered echo. Jen could never know how very wrong she was. I had seen a unicorn; how could I now accept anything other than magic?

His eyes had been so, so blue.

Once I got back out to the street, I realized that there was nowhere to go. There was not a place in the world he hadn't touched. But I kept a wine key in my purse these days. Retrieving Jen's gift, I popped the cork and sank down right there on the curb, drinking straight from the bottle like the lush I'd become.


The streetlight above flickered on. I jumped and held up the bottle I was gripping loosely around the neck. It was half empty. With a sigh I got clumsily to my feet and turned back home. Dumping my purse on the floor inside the door, I forewent the bottle for a proper glass. I wanted somewhere to sit, but every surface was barbed.

This apartment was a can of missing, barely lived in with a freezer full of well-meant but untouched casseroles. The sheets still smelled like his sweat, though it faded a little every day, broken up and stolen by the air. I receded as it did, moving further into my side of the bed, and ate standing on the balcony from tiny, square Chinese take-out boxes.