March 4, 2012

Little Black Dress

I didn't want to go. I didn't want to think about it. So I didn't.

I didn't buy a new dress. Because I didn't want to go. So a few hours before, I scrounged through the bottom drawer and pulled out the dress from one year ago.

Folded and purposely forgotten, almost crumpled in the corner of the bottom drawer. The year before my skin had bronzed and my eyes had been a clear blue. He picked me up over his head and spun me around the dance floor. I was weightless, I floated all night.

The dress suddenly an armful of bricks, my legs pale, my eyes tired. The tears began slowly, quietly, gently. I let them be.

I checked my email, wandered into corners of the internet, found my shoes, and waited for the tears to stop. They didn't.

I walked into the bathroom when I knew I wouldn't have to face another face in the few steps between this door and that door. I turned on the shower water, too hot, and a sob escaped. As if it knew the rush of the shower would drown it out. I found my face in the mirror in the moments before it steamed up. "If she was upstairs," I thought. But she wasn't and I knew better than to walk that rocky path. "He'll be here in a matter of days," I told my reflection. But I knew better than that, too. My face disappeared in the steam. The tears fell.

Every inch of my body burned when I got into the shower. As if I could burn off haunting happiness with scalding water. As if hot shoulder blades, and calves and toes, would distract from the burning on the tops of my cheeks. From the tears, cool, as they dripped off my chin. The tiny rivers cooled but did not dry.

I waited until the entire bathroom filled with steam. I waited until my fingers pruned. I waited until I grew bored. Of the shower walls, the florescent light, my own sadness. I stepped out of the shower, wrapped myself with a towel and sat down on the side of the tub. "Pull yourself together. Stop crying. This is absurd. What is wrong with you." It wasn't a question. It wasn't an accusation. It was a desperate attempt to just keep moving. As I had for months and months and months. As I had each time we said goodbye, in person, on the phone, over email, momentarily and forever. Not always knowing which. Not always trusting forever. I had kept moving, and I would keep moving through this.

Voices filtered in from the next room. Friends and friends of friends and acquaintances and strangers. We hosted all. I stood up but couldn't find my face in the mirror through the steam, so I unravelled the hair dryer to dry the mirror to find my face to observe the tears to see if I could. Keep moving. The tears fell and my cheeks carried a red rash so I dried my hair and thought to myself, "Just another minute or so. They'll end soon." When I finished drying my hair, I sprinted the few steps from the bathroom to my bedroom and held my breath as I slipped on the dress and put on my shoes and waited for the sound of my heart shattering but everything was quiet. I couldn't even hear my tears drop.

I thought the townhouse had cleared out. The TV entertaining only an empty room. I thought I could slip back into the bathroom. To use the mirror to cover the rash on my cheeks. To use the mirror to apply fake bronzer where the sun had once kissed my cheeks, where he ran his thumb from front to back. To use the mirror to find some strength.

A friend was sitting on the couch watching the Food Network. A good friend. A close friend. A best friend. He looked up as I walked out of my room. And saw my tear stained face. "I'mfinefinefine," I spit out rapid fire and darted out of his sight. He let me be.

I tried. I tried to stop the tears. I tried to ignore the tears. I tried to put on makeup in spite of the tears. Twice. It ran. Twice. I gave up.

I walked out of the bathroom and over to the couch and into his lap and buried my face into his shoulder and weeped. "Hey there, what's wrong?" He asked me, wondering which answer I'd choose, knowing it would hardly matter, he knew. "I. Can't. Stop. Crying." It came out in heaves. Each word choking me. He wrapped his arms around me tightly and let me cry. And cry. And cry.

When they came back, all of them, the voices and the friends and the friends of friends and acquaintances and strangers, he walked me into my bedroom, softly closed the door, sat me on my bed, put his arm around my shoulder, and told me I could cry as long as I needed.

"I'm just not sure I know exactly what..." he trailed off.

"It's just that this time last year -" I couldn't continue.

"Oh." He got it. "You know, you don't have to go."

I told him I wanted to go. He told me it didn't look like that to him. I laughed. It popped out unexpectedly, like the sob almost hours before. I laughed and then I smiled and then I stopped crying. I didn't want it to be a big deal. I didn't want any of it to be a big deal. I just wanted to keep moving. I had stopped crying, so I put on my make-up and my shoes and found my ticket. He went home to change and join his girlfriend and my girlfriends and I took photos and I felt the holes in everything but tried to keep the marrow from oozing out and I went. In that same dress.

I went and spent an hour with the ghost hand of a man still alive on the small of my back. The murmur of his voice in my ears.

He, the friend, the good friend, the best friend, pulled me aside at the end of the first hour. "You don't look so great," he told me. I wanted to make a joke about how to pay someone a compliment, but my eyes filled with tears too quickly. "Go home, Emily." He told me quietly. "I'll go with you." He would have and she would have been fine with it and maybe it would have been nice to have a pair of arms to hold my heavy sadness but I still had the ghost hand on the small of my back and I told him I wanted to be alone.

I remember the stars in the sky after I left and the feeling of finally being able to breath. The night was quiet and gentle.

I called him when I got back. I told him how long I cried and he told me how much he missed me. We'd see each other in a few days. He said goodbye and I thought about forever.

I fell asleep under the open window. The stars and the night sky keeping watch. Finally still.


  1. This rocked me. Like seriously shook me in my skin.
    Thank you.

  2. This was beautiful, Emily.  
    I'm so sorry, and I hope that whatever's going - it gets better.
    <3 Kiersten

  3. Thanks, Liv. As silly as it sounds, comments like yours make it easier to push the publish button on posts like these. xoxo

  4. Thanks, Kiersten! Things are fine, I promise! I just had a bit of a flashback and decided to share a story from my past. Your comment is so sweet though; it make me happy. xo