You were always folding paper cranes with motivational messages hidden inside, as if it were your job to brighten the days of strangers. I knew something was wrong when you folded “everything will not be o.k.” inside of a small green bird and tossed it into the interstate from the window of my station wagon. I knew you were right, everything was not going to be okay. Not anymore.
The passion of your kisses had faded some weeks earlier. As we laid next to each other at night we could not have been further apart, both mentally and physically. Eventually you’d be laying so close to the wall that I wouldn’t be able to inch any closer – and I’ve always been afraid of sleeping next to the wall so I’d give up and return to my side of the bed, defeated. As you laid against the cold white wall I knew you were dying. The disease that had stormed through your body was the worst case of cynicism I had ever witnessed.
You weren’t dying, you were already dead.
For months your project had consumed your every waking thought – the months before had been consumed by me. But now even the passion for this great work of art had faded, and you simply sat, blank, staring at your canvas day after day.
There was no discussion, just the gradual packing of boxes. Once you were finally gone my apartment and my self were bare shells of what I once had, and I found myself sleeping on your side of the bed. Occasionally I would wake myself up by the feeling of my body falling into the crack between the bed and wall – my deepest fear – but now you weren’t there to catch me.
For the next few months I would occasionally I would see paper cranes around the city. I knew that they were messages from your lost soul. Cries for help. I did my best to ignore them.
For 673 days watched the sun rise together before going to sleep. With you gone I quit my 3rd shift job and started to forget what the sunrise looked like. Each day on my walk home from my new job on Central Ave I’d grab a copy of the local arts magazine, TITLE, to scan through the pages for your name. News of an opening, an exhibit, a death – anything.
For 932 days my search was fruitless, as if you had disappeared from the earth.
On day 933 that changed. There you were, on the cover of TITLE, staring at me as I walked home from work. There you were with the headline “Local Legend Returns!”. Dear God, had the editor only known how true that headline was.
On the 983rd day since your departure I curled my hair and put on my best dress and most uncomfortable shoes. Tonight when you saw me from across the crowded gallery you wouldn’t see the shy boring Joanna Galin that you fell out of love with nearly 3 years ago. You wouldn’t see my flaws and imperfections. All you would see was a stunning woman who had moved on and made the best of her life, and who you wanted nothing more than to have back. This is what I kept telling myself, even though I hadn’t moved on or made anything of my life. Even though you probably wouldn’t want me back.
The line outside of the gallery was long and cold, I had to continue to remind myself not to light a cigarette in fear of you walking past and knowing that I hadn’t quit. Instead I shivered in my heels and pretended to text message my nonexistent friends.
Slowly the line moved as my curls fell and the rain smeared my makeup.
I entered in the building in awe. Paper cranes hung from varying lengths from the ceiling, so many that it was almost hard to tell what they were. To anyone but me it may have actually taken a minute to realize what was above. Small white notes hung every few feet with the simple message “Take one.”
I raised to my tiptoes, nearly falling out of my heels. Carefully I grasped a crane and tugged it from it’s string.
I unfolded the paper.
There it was, your hand writing in thick black marker. I stood in bliss for a second or two, possibly three, admiring your sloppy lettering. And then I read the message scribbled inside.
you will be loved, just not by me.
Silently I left.