i can still feel the dried-tear stains on my cheeks. the sunrise peeks through the curtains; it’s telling me to smile. i want to so badly, i do, but every time i try, i can feel tears begin to well up in my eyes. i’m lying to myself about it, about him, about everything.

i hook my phone up to the speakers and the first song that comes on is a tash sultana song (“notion”) that my best friend sent me a few weeks ago. “it reminds me of you,” she said. “it’s beautiful and nostalgic, but there’s an underlying sadness that’s begging to be released and let go of. i hope you let go of yours soon.”

the song starts to play overhead on the loudspeakers of this empty rose-colored ballroom. i feel so lonely. the music echoes throughout the ballroom and the singer’s voice surrounds my body like a cocoon.

last night’s party ended at four a.m. and now, at six a.m, the sunrise is just starting its ascent over the horizon. this is the only time of day when i feel most like myself — and most alive. all the sadness i feel is at its minimum because with a sunrise comes hope that today might be better — that today might be the best day of my life.

even though i want to curl up into a ball and cry, i don’t. i won’t. i drag my feet across the dance floor and swing my body underneath the guitar chords being played in the song. they vibrate off the silky-white floor-to-ceiling window curtains and loop themselves around my arms and feet.

the balcony doors are creaked open just a bit and the dawn air - fresh, crisp, and untouched — glides across the ballroom floor and snakes up my legs and up my thighs to my chest, and then tangles itself around my neck. i twist my hands underneath the ceiling and twirl around.

my body isn’t mine anymore. i am not mine anymore. i just move to the song like a wind chime would on a windy, about-to-rain summer afternoon; the grey clouds move in overhead and with them, the wind begins to pick up, and so the wind chimes start to rustle. i do what is expected of me.

“i figured i’d find you here.”

i don’t let his voice interrupt my dance or this song. my hips sway and my shoulders roll to the saccharine melody. i can feel him watching me, but i will not allow myself to care about that right now. i will talk to him after this song is over because i want this song. i need this song.

the sound of waves crashing on the shore outside the balcony doors only adds to this moment. i feel like i’m dancing to the rhythm of the ocean. i’m like a wave: growing, rising, crashing and unfurling, before doing it all over again; and again; and again.

i hear his footsteps getting closer and it’s not long before i can feel his fingers graze my back. reluctantly, i allow myself to fall into his embrace. i’m so lonely. he wraps his hands around my waist and starts to take lead across the floor.

my feet move lightly, almost timidly. it’s as if i’m moving across clouds. my body isn’t here. i am floating.

he turns me around to face him and takes my right hand into his left. i look at his face for the first time in a long time. he looks like he hasn’t slept in weeks and i look like i’ve been crying for days. we are clearly living our best lives.

he clasps his hands in mine and dips me. i can’t help myself and i smile. this is how it was when we first got together. it was two kids in their own world of love. we were immune to pain, fear, anguish, sadness, and turmoil. everything was nice and everything was good and everything was fine. and then one day it wasn’t anymore.

he moves to the center of the dance floor, into a spot where a sliver of the sunrise comes into the room and hits his eyes in such a way that they look like warm honey-caramel diamonds. he tilts his head and grins. i feel a warmth in my heart, but my body still isn’t here.

his smile, slightly crooked, reminds me of the time when i tried to feed him a spoonful of my frozen yogurt on our second date and i spilled it on his hands instead. he looked down and then looked up at me before bursting into laughter. his laughter soothed my pain. i was instantly in love.

his fingers move down my waist to my lower backside and rest there, carefully, as if to tell me he will keep me safe no matter what. i used to believe that. i don’t know if i still do anymore.

i look past him, at the wallpaper, at the sunrise, at the empty tables littered with wine glasses and plates. you could tell a wedding had happened here — or at least a party of sorts. the floor is sparsely covered in confetti and popped balloons because i had swept most of them under the tables with my feet.

“are you going to look at me?”

i shake my head and rest my chin on his left shoulder. he smells like he’s always smelled: fresh pine and clove. the scent pushes me into memories of us being intimate in his apartment, bodies intertwined like puzzle pieces that tried fitting in elsewhere in life before finally finding each other. it was two souls in a dark room illuminated only by the moonlight, with a speaker playing music in the corner, bedsheets half-on-the-bed, half-on-the-floor, messy kisses, and the sound of sweet, naive laughter echoing throughout the room.

we stop moving and just sway in the same spot for the rest of the song. i cling on to him like a child afraid to lose her favorite toy. he kisses my bare shoulder and i still feel empty. he probably does too. i lean my head back to look at him.

he smiles again but i can see how broken it is. it’s not like the smile he used to have. i raise my hand to his cheek and hold it there for a few moments. “i’ve missed you,” i barely get out, nearly choking on my words.

“me too,” he says. i reach up and push back some of his hair that had fallen into his eyes. i stare into them and reminisce on how familiar of a place they used to be to me. they were once the only eyes i felt comfortable with seeing me - seeing the real me. i expect them to feel foreign but they don’t; they still feel like home.

my eyes run across every corner of his face: the arch of his eyebrows, the tiny freckle above his lip, the scar across his right cheek, the bump in the bridge of his nose, the length of his eyelashes, the wrinkles around his eyes from when he smiles too much.

“i’m going to hug you now” i say and then i do just that. i wrap my arms around his body, tightly, and don’t plan on letting go, at least not for a little while. he stands awkwardly for a moment, arms at his sides like a soldier. then, he relaxes his body and wraps his hands around me even tighter. it’s almost as if we’re trying to squeeze all the pain out of one another.

why would the universe want us to be together if we’re both so broken? i cannot fix him, nor can he fix me. we’ve tried. we’re like two vases that have been shattered so many times and then repaired with super glue so many times that with every new shatter, the super glue works less and less — until it just stops working entirely. he can’t wipe away my years of abuse and i cannot wipe away his depression. i can and i will hold his hand while he burns his demons to a crisp, but there are times i need to hold my own hand and those times are far too often now.

i had to let go of him, but i never wanted to in the first place. i knew i had to though.

i can’t look at him, not right now, so i look towards the gap in-between the balcony doors. the sky is a delicate blue with a hint of baby pink. it reminds me of us. the colors meet so peacefully together and then they seamlessly blend into one another. that’s how we used to be in the beginning — and then we weren’t anymore. he releases his hold on me first and takes two steps back.

“you should finish your dance,” he tells me. “i’ll be here.”

my lips reluctantly curve upwards and then they naturally smile. i start to feel my body again for the first time in weeks. i look at him one more time, memorizing as much of him as i can, before closing my eyes.

i start to dance again.
— n.d.