Every Woman I Have Ever Loved: Submission #10
Description: Reader submissions about women they’ve loved– all of them, or just a memorable few.
I would tell you what she looks like, but I can’t. She asked me not to. As a writer it is frustrating to be told that I can’t describe a subject, but I suppose I can tell you where we were the last time I saw her, as well as when and why:
The Firestone train station on the Los Angeles Blue Line, with dim stone and chipped archways, and lingering smells of piss. Ten a.m. on a drizzling February morning. She was returning some of my things. Our relationship was over.
I arrived at the platform long before she did, knowing that she was showing up late and making me wait on purpose to make a point, sitting on the hard, uncomfortable concrete slab that served as a bench, and watching the rain fall on the empty tracks. This could be a scene from a romance novel, I said to myself, the trains are a symbol here, of her leaving my life, of my having to move on, or of the rapid, slapdash pace at which we modern humans live. And the rainfall, maybe, a symbol of my misery.
I thought this even though I wasn’t really that miserable. In fact, when she arrived and sat beside me, giving no hello or warning and wearing sunglasses in the rain, the moment was void of romance or sentiment.
Awkward and terse, making a strained effort to not make eye contact, she held the Target shopping bag full of my things. Is she seriously wearing sunglasses? I thought, taking the bag and actually almost laughing at her, though there was absolutely nothing funny about this moment.
After I took it, she stood up, cleared her throat.
“Can you do me a favor?” she asked in her fake-deep voice, the one she used to take up when she was chastising me, like I was more of her daughter than her girlfriend. “Don’t make me a character in one of your little stories.”
She walked away, that line serving as her goodbye, and if there was any way to truly hurt me, I realized she’d discovered it. She’d read my stories before, about the other girls and the wrangling of my pain that I went through.
Writing is how I process, how I get over things, if I can turn a painful situation into a moving narrative, write our ending in another time and place, whatever pain I feel is worth it in the end.
Was she trying to take my grieving process away from me on purpose? When my train arrived just moments later, I got on and tried to keep myself from plotting points, and moving beyond the surface of things. Though it went against my self-imposed nature, I saw everything around me just for what it is and not what it represents:
It was blindingly white inside the train. The light bulbs above me buzzed dull and monotone. The teal linoleum floors were sticky, and sweat and body odor permeated the steel seats. Rainwater slivered down the grey sides of the windows, whizzing and flowing in time with the moving industrial scenery. Immortal by Marina and the Diamonds played in my earbuds, the singer’s deep voice echoed and ethereal. She crooned of love lasting forever, earth’s end in fire, and seas frozen in time.
I can’t say or imagine why the song reminds me of her, of nights we spent in the dark. Instead of redrawing the scene I stared down at the Target bag tied tightly shut, the plastic smooth and filmy, the logos reminding me of drops of blood on white cotton pads.
I opened the bag, curious as to why she tied it shut, and was overwhelmed by a sudden sinking remorse. Everything smelled like her, her skin and her house and her warmth and those nights. Will any of the following identify her? Aveeno lotion, men’s pine deodorant, faint hints of dust and cigarettes, burnt cinnamon incense. My t-shirts, lingerie, even the books were imbued with her scent. They weren’t just my things anymore.
As the scent filled my nostrils, my eyes watered instantly, stinging without my permission. Tears fell out of place and much too late, tears that I felt disconnected from. I was out of the moment constantly when we used to be together, plotting the next thing and focusing on the superficial, her body and face and what my eyes saw, what I would write about our hypothetical future, if we got there.
But as I closed my eyes on the train, her scent brought her within my grasp, and all I wanted was the present again:
It’s November and I am lying on her bed alone in her room, naked and waiting for her to come from work. I am blissful, full and content, my cheek pressed to her still wet pillow, inhaling her sweet conditioner, the way her skin smells, the pheromones of a person ever so constant. My everything.
When I opened my eyes, the deception vanished. I was in a train passing through Compton and Watts, in the middle of a storm, traveling further and further away from her home. The more miles I put between us, the more I knew, and the more I know now, that I can go no further than traces: I can see the room, and smell the scents, but she does not want me to have the privilege of imagining her there. Of how beautiful she was when she walked through the door.
I wonder what she thinks I would truly say about her if I could. If I could set the scene, puts words in her mouth, tell you her features. What is she so afraid of, when it comes to my memory? Better yet, what am I?
But she wants to be forgotten, to not be immortalized or of character, and I cannot invade that.
The temporary time travel – her scent on my things – became too much by the time I had exited the train, returned to my cluttered space. I sprayed them with my perfume – heavy, syrupy, saccharine – suffocating the portal that pulled me back into her world, a vanishing world, now a void.
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