Our relationship is like an empty house after a really good birthday party. Streamers flutter sadly from the ceiling, hanging on by nothing but a dirty piece of tape. Colorful paper plates smeared with cake and barbecue sauce are folded in half and stuffed in the overflowing trash. Music plays quietly from the stereo, and there's a brown stain on the rug where someone tripped and spilled Coca Cola. The wooden floor in the kitchen is wet from the kids running in from the pool and opening the freezer, desperate for a Popsicle.
But no one’s home. There's no laughter floating in from the porch, or talking in the living room, or pots banging together in the kitchen. There’s not even the muted bellow of a fight coming from an upstairs bedroom. It’s an empty house.
Sometimes a young woman comes home and looks around at all the happy mess from the party. Sometimes she’s wearing jogging pants and a sports bra, sometimes heels and a silky top, sometimes a bikini and occasionally a work suit. But no matter what she’s wearing or what kind of mood she comes home in, she can't bare to clean up the mess. The few chunks of cake uneaten on the tray have gathered a following of flies, and the leftover chicken wings are beginning to smell.
But one day, the young woman comes home and there is something different about the way she’s moving, though she goes through the same routine as every other day. She pauses for a moment to survey the kitchen and living room, and then leaves her keys in a bowl on the counter and heads upstairs.
She goes into a beautiful bedroom with lots of windows and a walk in closet. The covers are thrown back on only one side of the big bed. The untouched side is folded in a crisp line just beneath the pillow. This makes the girl sad, and she buries her face in the neat side of the bed, but no smell of car grease and cologne lingers. She stays there for as long as the pain in her chest allows.
She goes down to the kitchen and suddenly there he is: the one she loved. He's looking at her, his hands in his pockets. He's smiling broadly, like he's just about to laugh.
She smiles too, but it’s so hard to turn up the corners of her mouth with the weight of the aching pain in her heart. She reaches out her hands, waiting for him to grab her and hold her against his chest. But her hands go right through him and the ghost of him fades away.
He is only a memory. But the mess from their grand party is not, so the young woman grabs a mop and starts by cleaning the dirt and tears from the floor.
Credit for photo goes to Gesi Shilling.