BY ANIKA BLOOM
The last time you see her:
She’s on the train platform. Wish you could move. Wish you could stop her. Wish the train wasn’t tearing through the tunnel like a bullet tears through the frontal cortex. Wish you hadn’t gotten her voicemail so late. It’s already too late. Watch as she steps off the platform. Scream her name from across the station. Watch as the crowd gathers: crying and shouting and mass confusion.
The first time she cries in front of you:
She’s crying and you don’t know why. Hug her even though the people in the Chinese restaurant are looking at you with disgust. Tell her it’ll all be alright. Lead her outside and hold her in the alley. Pretend you know what it’s like to feel the world moving around yourself while watching as a temporary passenger when she asks you to imagine it. Believe you can love her until she loves herself.
The time you ordered pizza:
Fall in love when you see that all she has to do is text a pizza emoji to have a large pizza and dessert delivered right to her door. Stare in awe when the delivery guy greets her by name and refuses her tip. When he says you’ve been over-tipping for so long we won’t take extra money from you anymore, leave the room because you’re laughing too hard. Tell her fruit doesn’t belong on pizza when you see the pineapple. When she says tomato is a fruit just keep picking the yellow squares off your slice as she picks them up and puts them on her own slice. Cut out the middle man and just put the pineapple on her slice yourself.
The time that she tries therapy:
Remind her of her appointment two weeks before. Remind her that you can’t come home to find her overdosed on pills that you don’t even know how she got. Remind her that the number of scars she has keeps growing. Remind her that you love her. Remind yourself after she skips the appointment that you love her. Ask yourself why you love someone who doesn’t even want to stay alive. When she doesn’t go, make a list of reasons to stay and go like your mother taught you to do whenever you’re facing a tough decision. Put Manic Depression in the cons column. Fill the pros column with notes about all that she does for you during the good times and realize that there is no way you could ever leave the woman you’re in love with.
The last time you think that she’s happy:
The two of you are beneath the sheets. She laughs in that gentle and breathless way that makes you woozy. Fall in love with her. Tell her that you love her. Watch her face fall as she says you could never love who I am. Reach for her when she rolls away from you. Let your hand fall when she swats it away. Tell her nothing she could say or do would make you love her less. Cry when she walks out without a glance back at you. Watch the door close behind her.
The time you ask about her scars:
Bring it up gently. Tell her that you’ve been together a little while now and you’d like to know. Once she starts talking don’t interrupt. Don’t judge. Don’t cry. Don’t get angry that a person so beautiful could tear apart their own skin when lying in bed at night and wanting to die. Ask about the long one down her hip. Smile when she says she got it falling out of a tree. Revel in the innocence preserved on her body.
The time you get stuck in an elevator:
Watch her breathe with her eyes closed. Listen to the alarm blare and the emergency operator tell you hang tight our best guys are on their way. Wrap her in your arms and remind her that nothing bad could happen while you’re there. When she shakes her head at that pretend it’s not because you both know that even your love can not protect her from her past.
The time you ask to meet her family:
Don’t show that you’re hurt when all she says is no. Remind her that you just took her to your family reunion. Remind her of how funny it was when your great uncle found out you were with a girl. Ask her to remember the champagne bottle you stole so you could drink in the barn. Remind her of how exciting it was when your mother caught the two of you the next morning asleep under a tarp. Wave it off as unrelated when she reminds you that your mother then stole the clothes strewn across the floor and you had to go into the house where your family was waiting while you were wrapped in nothing but a tarp and shame. Pretend you don’t notice that she still doesn’t offer to take you to meet her family.
The time that you sing karaoke:
Tell her that you’ll never sing in front of people. Tell her that no matter how drunk she gets you that you will never get on that god damn stage and get judged by mother fucking strangers. After your fourth drink get up and put on a duet. Get the crowd to cheer her up on the stage with you. When she tries to dance remember how you met. When she kisses you on the stage and the crowd cheers fall in love with her.
The time you ask your mom for advice about her:
Tell your mom that you love your girlfriend: that she is thoughtful and funny and intelligent and go through every time you fell in love with the girl who can’t dance. Your mom tells you to remember yourself. To not lose yourself because you’re trying to take care of someone else. When she tells you that sometimes saying goodbye is hard, tell her that it’s really quite easy, and get up and walk out. How could your own mother tell you to leave the first woman who made you understand why sometimes the ocean crashes and sometimes it sits still and no person can master that? Just because she’s the ocean and you’re just a boat drifting through the waves doesn’t mean that you’re losing yourself. Criticize your mother’s lack of understanding.
The last time you listen to a voicemail from her:
Check your voicemail. She called you three hours ago. Hear the crying and know it’s happening again. She says something about trains through the sobs and know. Run. Run to the station where it happened. Imagine the flow of cops down the stairs and into the terminal. Imagine her body laying on the tracks. Imagine her as a child with fear and confusion creating a person who feels the rain as one feels the bass at a club and thinks that she’s unlovable. Imagine her brother in handcuffs as police tackle him at the terminal with her standing in the crowd of people. Run to terminal five.
The time you talk to her brother:
Look at him through the glass. He watches you with a smirk on his face and the telephone pressed expectantly against his ear. Grab the telephone. He says he was waiting for someone to show up. He wasn’t expecting someone with breasts. Ask him how she could love a man when she grew up with the constant fear that she would wake up and find one on top of her. Tell him you wish he wasn’t behind bars so you could kill him yourself. Hang up the phone when he sneers and says she was gay long before I tried to help her.
The first time you make her dinner:
Watch her face closely when you sit to eat. Wonder whether she likes it, whether she’s vegan and too nervous to say anything. Blurt out are you vegan because you can’t hold in your nervousness. Fall in love when she criticizes the insanity of the accusation. Watch as her hair flows around her like a storm when she throws her head back. Tell her you know of a great barbecue place just a short train ride away. Say five when she asks what terminal. Assume she’s scared of trains when she says she’d rather walk the hour and a half.
The last time you think about the future:
Turn on the shower. Shove your fingers down her throat until she throws up. Hold her under the cold water with your finger on her pulse. Wait until she wakes up. When she looks at you as the enemy, remember that you saved her life. You saved her life. You saved your life. You took away her chance at being happy. When she says I can’t even kill myself right tell her that the way she moves reminds you of ocean waves before a storm and that when she paints her nails you think of Picasso. Don’t cry when she screams at you. Don’t scream at her to get a grip. Don’t make her feel guilty for trying to take herself away from you. Ignore everything you’ve told yourself and get mad because how could you possibly understand. How couldn’t she?
The first time you dance together:
Go up and just start dancing. Don’t wait for her to invite you. Don’t wait and watch until you work up the nerve. Just go to her. The two of you move like you’re dancing to two completely different songs. Try and match her movements. You don’t want her thinking you’re the one who’s off. Watch her throw her long hair limp from sweat back playfully when she sees you struggling. Shrug when she tells you to relax and dance the way you know how. Say yes when she asks you to teach her how to dance. Tell her you’re more than just a dancing coach, you’re also an expert at eating pizza and would love to get some with her sometime. Try and act nonchalant when she excitedly says yes and writes her number on your hand.
The time you get really drunk:
Stop drinking after your second shot. Stop drinking after your third shot. Switch to a mixed drink to justify having four more. Call her and tell her you need to see her. Try not to slur your words. You don’t want her to know you’re drunk. Stand in front of her door and try to remember how you got there. Try and think of ways to smoothly ask her to go dancing. You’re sober. Soberly discuss the relationship together. When she finally opens the door forget everything and throw up on her door mat. When she rushes you inside to the toilet don’t feel embarrassed. She tells you to remember the time that she drank a bottle of tequila and went to the hospital. Try and forget that she downed the bottle trying to drown her past. Nod when she says that this is nothing. Stop nodding because it makes you nauseous. Curl up on the couch with her and take a nap. Wake up an hour later and kiss her. When she says you’re drunk go back to sleep, tell her that you couldn’t sleep knowing that someone so beautiful was within arm’s reach. Don’t go back to sleep until she wraps you in her embrace so you can feel her breath like the steady rise and fall of the tide on the beach and you doze off together.
The last time you dance together:
Her head is on your shoulder and your sleeve is stained with her tears. Rub her back and gently sway your feet even though there isn’t any music. When she holds you closer hold her back. Don’t let go of her even for a second. She might fall if you do. Tell her to hush when she won’t stop saying I’m sorry. Tell her it’s ridiculous for her to apologize. Tell her it’ll be alright. Tell her she’ll get better. Lie to her. Keep lying to her. Stop for even a second and she’ll fall apart. Lie to her. Know that you’re lying.
The time you try to get her help:
When you come home and find her unresponsive for the third time call an ambulance even though you know she’ll hate you for it. Follow the big red vehicle to the hospital. Stay in the waiting room until you fall asleep. When you wake up and they say she’s gone remember that just last week she brought you flowers at the publishing company because she knew your boss was stressing you out. Remember the picnic she set up at the park next to your work so that you could spend time with her on your lunch break. Remember that you love her. Call her and make sure you’re waiting at the apartment for her when she comes back.
The time she thinks she sees her brother:
Tell her it’s not him. Tell her you saw him in prison just last week. When she stares at you incredulously, confess that you went to see him. Confess that you wanted to meet the monster that wrecked her. Confess that you love her more than she could ever hate him and tell her that you had to see him because of that. Don’t tell her what you talked about. Don’t tell her that you asked him what he did. Don’t tell her that you now know how she got that scar. Pretend that you still think she fell out of a tree. Try to believe there is anything innocent left in her.
The time that she talks about her mom:
When she says I want to talk about my mom, wait patiently for her to gather the courage to breathe life into the enigma that is her past. Don’t seem eager to quench your curiosity. Nod along when you hear she never knew how to parent kids because she never learned how to parent herself. Pretend you understand how a mom could not be a mom and how a mom could leave her daughter when you know that your mother would never leave you. Try to understand how it feels to be left without the one person who is supposed to be by your side forever. Hold her until she’s ready to move on. Act like it doesn’t make you uncomfortable when she doesn’t bounce back from the sadness that seems to overtake her for days after she tells you about the first years of her life.
The fourth time she finds her passion:
When she says that she’s going to learn how to read tarot cards, act excited. Act like this is the time that she’s found herself. Act like she won’t abandon this in two months when she gets bad again. Say yes when she asks you if she can read your cards. Pretend that what she says applies to your life somehow. Give her the confidence she needs to learn more. Maybe this time it’s it. Maybe this time she’ll keep learning and practicing. Maybe this time she won’t just give up when she lies awake at night holding her knees to herself just trying to feel something. Maybe this time her mind won’t take her passion away.
The time you ask her what’s happening:
Walk into her apartment without knocking. Call her name. Yell that you brought Chinese. Go into her room. See her curled on her bed and assume she’s asleep. Go to the other side of the bed to see her eyes open and unseeing. Ask her what’s wrong. Beg her to answer you. Pull out your phone to call an ambulance. Start crying when you hear no come as a whisper from her chapped lips. Grab her hand and see the bite marks on her thumb. Kiss the torn skin. Ask her what’s happening and pretend she responds with nothing, my love when she shakes her head. Lie down beside her and stay there until she can move.
The time she smokes seven bowls:
Tell her it’s not real when she commands her ghosts to stop screaming her name. Tell her that sometimes people get things called auditory hallucinations when they’re too high. Shake your head and hold her close when she whispers you not being able to hear it doesn’t make it any less real to me. Try to understand that perception is reality and she’s perceiving her ghosts as they filter through her clouded mind to remind her that she shouldn’t be alive. When you still don’t understand three hours later when she’s making a cake and singing along with the Oldies station blame it on the weed. Blame it on the high. Blame it on anything but her own mind.
The first time you see her:
She’s dancing but not well. Go up to her. Go ask her to dance with you. Ignore your own directions and watch her move off beat. Watch her until she stops dancing and walks out of the club. Watch her in your dreams that night. Tell yourself that if you ever get the chance, you’ll stop watching, take her by the hand, and dance with her.