The sky was bruised when we got into bed.
She asked me about the light I always leave on, asked me why I didn’t turn it off. It never bothered her, she always understood; always held me as she fell asleep with her head next to mine. She was just curious, just wanted to know.
I guess that comes with dating someone who works in Research and has a PhD in neuroscience.
“Just in case,” I told her, winking as I rubbed antiseptic cream all over my hands.
“Just in case the monsters return?” she flirted back, her lips connecting briefly with my cheek, turning everything that was ugly inside me into a beautiful pain.
Just in case.
My head tilted to the right, not knowing how to tell her that—sometimes—monsters aren’t hiding under our beds or enter our lives through our closets, but—perhaps—their deadliest weapon is their ability to hide inside the souls of people we love.
I didn’t know how to tell her that—sometimes—a light doesn’t mean, “Stay out,” but, “Welcome. Please, come in.”
“Yeah,” I laughed, desperately trying to cover the sound of my heart beating to the rhythm of your name, not wanting to remember the New York nights I spent in your bed only a few weeks ago.
She sat up next to me, her back leaning against the black headboard, her eyes illuminated behind her dark brown frames. Her hands moved to the makeshift nightstand I put together for her, her mouth curving as she applied lip balm to her lips—the lips that were smaller than yours—and I tried so hard to want to keep my hands away from her.
I picked up the glass of water that was on the nightstand on my side of the room, and gulped it down until it was almost all gone. And it was cold, and it was good, and I prayed for my soul to be baptized in her name. She narrowed her crystal blue eyes like she knew something was wrong, and I knew if she dusted my heart for clues she’d know exactly what she’d find.
“Is your anxiety back?” she whispered and I nodded, trying to unchain my heart from sin. I looked at the woman whose caring nature and ability to explain medicine to me so patiently was part of the reason I so wanted to be in love with her.
“It’s okay,” she continued, knowing all about my need to check the stove every time before I left my apartment. She saw how long it took me to get into bed, watched as I turned the lights off then on then off then on—off, on, off, on, off—on and then off again. She knew how many times I had to wash my hands.
Just in case.
“It’s alright,” she leaned closer, her hand covering mine over the covers. I guess I must’ve jumped because I spilled water all over us, making a mess.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I am so, so sorry.” I reached over and grabbed a few tissues off her nightstand and—right on schedule—my Amazon Echo dimmed the lights.
I patted her arm, and then her thigh; kept muttering how sorry I was. So very sorry—and God forgive me but the only thing I still hold holy is your name in my mouth.
“Oh, don’t worry about it, darling,” she laughed, and I was very aware of the weight of her hand on my stomach, grounding me to reality—just like she always did when she guided me through my anxiety attacks. “And if you want to keep rubbing my legs, I’m not going to say no,” she finished, winking.
My hand froze knowing I couldn’t keep doing this to her; not when I still saw your face whenever I brought myself a little closer to heaven.
“You know,” she started, shifting closer to me, her mint toothpaste cooling my face, “you’ve been apologizing from the moment we got into bed.” I looked at her eyes that held an ocean instead of a sunrise. “As if everything that’s gone wrong in this world is your fault.”
“You can’t say things like that,” I warned her, wondering when the world created a monster out of love.
But things like that could not be said, not when seeing you again—seeing you in the city where we began—uncovered all the feelings I told her I most definitely did not have. Not when you and I sat in a bar in the village, and you teased me about our song playing in the background, making my chest swell with so much emotion it felt like whatever lived there was trying to climb out and hold you.
Not when the love I have for you started pulsing through my veins all over again—and her name in my head started to sound a lot like, “God, forgive me.”
And in that bar on that early Fall night, you smiled and I saw the dimples that always made my heart forget how to beat. And I saw your hand reach out towards me—towards my face, my cheek—your eyes looking into mine like you were going to kiss me; and I forgot how to breathe.
Just in case.
“Can’t say things like what?” she asked, her Southern accent drawing out the vowels like your Northeastern one never did.
“You know what,” and she looked at me with eyes that held the memory of the look you used to give me before your hand found me in the night. Like the night we laid our love to rest, my lips muffled against your neck, praying the heavens weren’t listening.
“Tell me,” her voice was quiet, her breath hot on my mouth.
“I would shatter you,” I replied.
And there was no turning off and on and off the lights then—because you were the only guiding light my soul ever needed.
And there was no washing of my hands after worshipping your body—because your skin was the purest thing my fingertips ever traced.
“You’re okay,” she said, “you’re going to be okay. I’m right here.”
I’ve never written about the day we fell apart; never spoke to anyone about it. But going back to the city were we fell in love, the city that gave me my fairytale, where I walked under city lights with you, was just another way of travelling back in time—if only to see the moment you stopped loving me.
But it’s okay, and I still love you, and what an honour it would’ve been to grow old with you—and so I thank you. Thank you for everything that you were to me. But I think I need to try and move on now, and I must go alone.
Because maybe it’s time to let the always go.
And maybe one day, maybe in another life, the love I have for you—the love that has seeped through down to my bones—will pour out of my body and find myself in another universe with you.
But until then, I hope you remember to stay warm. And I hope to never fail being kind, but I have to tell her that now I’m back in London, she doesn’t have to ask about the light anymore because tonight I’m turning it off.
Because there’s no more just in case.
Just in case you wanted to come back home.