Before we broke up I started work on an embroidered portrait of your cat. It was my intention to give it to you before your housewarming party. When I got home the day you ended things I cried for a little while and put all the things that reminded me of you into a box underneath my desk. Six days later I reopened the box. I thought going through the contents might help me process what had happened between us. I thought it might at least help me process what hadn’t. I thought: “at least this is something I can do.”
This is from our third date. I thought if we made it to a milestone I could do something with the scraps I kept from our journey there. We never made it to a milestone, but I still have all the scraps.
Bottle cap, peach soju
You said: “I wanted to kiss you so bad last time we were here.” We picked up two bottles of soju on the walk. I kept one in my backpack and we passed the other back and forth taking long swigs racing to the bottom. The last time we were here I’d invited you to accompany me in feeding my ex’s love letters to the East River. It was an impulsive disposal—a decision made after it was already done. Sometimes I wish I could jump in and fish them out. Who will accompany me in sacrificing my memories of you?
You made this for me when we first met. I saw it in a movie and spoke of wanting it and that was it. The deed was done. You gave it to me and we got dinner and then we didn’t speak for four months.
Dice, mismatched set
I wanted to get into Gryphons & Gargoyles so we made a trade. A drawing of you in exchange for these. We met for coffee and I picked this mismatched set from a bag you brought full of assorted dice. You gave me a white velveteen bag to keep them in that has since turned gray from dust. I never got into Gryphons & Gargoyles. I played a few rounds and I couldn’t commit to it. I was all in, but it drained me completely. I was all in and it drained me completely.
Now I have these dice. My handful of things I couldn’t commit to.
It reminds me it’s yours because it has a short dash of blue nail polish on the back of the neck. I put it there like a hickey. I put it there because otherwise it would be indistinguishable from my own toothbrush. The grocery store nearest me only carries their cheapest toothbrush in two colors. Purple and pink. I already had a purple one for myself and a pink one for my retainer so I bought a purple one in case someone stayed over. And then I met you. And then you left us—myself and your toothbrush.
My refrigerator has racks, not shelves. I can’t say they rolled to the back and I forgot about them. They sat right up front, cradled between the metal bars. We were supposed to take them with us to a house show, but we forgot them. We did lime-less tequila shots in a stranger’s bathroom. We remembered the salt, but we forgot the limes. Forgot them then like I forgot to find another use for them. Forgot them for weeks that turned into months. Forgot them until they finally went completely brown. Maybe I thought if I ignored them they’d cease to exist, but they didn’t, much like my feelings for you. I still have the limes like I still have the feelings—wrinkled, useless, unforgettable.
Reusable Grocery Bag, empty
This is from the last time I saw you. You gave it to me to carry home a gift your roommate got me. You never got me a gift that wasn’t really a gift for yourself, but she did. I should have known you’d never love me then, but I was as naive to the reality of your condition as I was to the reality of my own. We were lonelier together than we were apart. So why do I feel even lonelier now?
T-shirt, too big for the both of us
I used to wear this because it smelled like you. Now I wear it to bleach my hair. I think I believe—in all my usual delusion—that if I destroy this shirt I can also destroy my memories of you. It hasn’t worked yet. I’m not a hopeful person.
Can tab, lime hard seltzer
From the first night you slept over. This little piece of metal got lost in the couch cushions. I found it the next day. I couldn’t bear to part with it. It felt important. I needed to hold onto it for something—for this, I suppose.
Inspector Spacetime Chest Plate, lightly used
When we first got together we would talk for hours. You shared with me your childhood desire for the 1999 Inspector Spacetime toy—the one that came in multiple parts you had to collect and assemble. My family had it growing up because my grandmother was highly committed to collecting all the parts.
I stashed that conversation until your birthday came around. I ordered all the parts, but I was never able to give you this piece because it got lost in the mail. I never gave you all of him like I never gave you all of me. You told me you’d keep him forever, even with a part missing. You couldn’t keep me forever, not in any condition.
Game cartridge, Ninja Ninja Revolution
I need to find a way to get this back to you. It would hurt too much to play it now. If you’re reading this please contact me with your mailing address.
Sleep mask, polyester
I know it’s silly, but this always felt like a wall between us. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with you wrapped around me and I couldn’t see you sleeping. And you couldn’t wake up in the middle of the night with me wrapped around you and see me sleeping. You couldn’t see anything at all.
A box of tissues, unopened
After you stayed over the third time I made a note to buy these. You sneezed so much and I felt bad offering you napkins when you requested tissues. I never need tissues, but you do, so I bought them. I wanted you to be comfortable when you were with me. I know the desire wasn’t mutual, but reciprocity wasn’t something I needed then.
Your heartbeat, on printer paper
I gave you my dreams and you gave me this. I’m not sure it was a fair exchange. It is still the sweetest gift I’ve ever received.
White undershirt, clean
A white undershirt that smelled like you first and bleach second. Bleach after I washed it for you. You always left something behind. When it was your keys you’d ring the doorbell ten minutes after leaving and shamefully proclaim “I left my keys,” when I opened the door. But you left your shirt for as long as it took me to get it back to you. I’m not sure how to get it back to you now.
Cat treats, new
I bought these for your cat and I never got to give them to her because I forgot to pack them the weekend we broke up. I like your cat, she has trouble trusting people. So do I.
I think I thought if I could win her trust I could win you too. But that’s not how this works. There are no winners here and as inclined as you are to talk about her as an extension of yourself that’s not what she was. That’s not what she is. Or maybe I saw earning her trust as a path to finally trusting myself again. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll ever know. For that, and so much else, I am sorry.
A bottle of eye drops, used twice
“I didn’t buy these for myself.” That’s what you said when you put these in my hand the last time we saw one another. “I didn’t buy these for myself.” I didn’t ask you to buy them for me. I didn’t even know you bought them for me until you made me take them. I asked you on my way to your place if you had any. If you didn’t, I was going to swing by the store en route. You said you had some. I believed you. Did we break up because I didn’t believe you, or did we break up because I believed you too much? I believe we broke up because I didn’t ask you to buy these for me. I should have. I should have asked for more.