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When I first met you the sunlight shifted into refracted slits behind your eyes, like a thin shell of blinds.
Later, you took my hand and led me onto the rooftop, where you explained your wish to swallow stars in your veins and feel sparks in every word you uttered and every word you didn’t.
Back then the sky was as clean as your laugh, and I listened because I believed in the way my hand fit into yours.
You used to tell me how life was as fragile and insistent as the rhythm in the wings of a butterfly.
“What’s the difference?” I teased once; it was New Year’s Eve, and we were all waiting for the past to disappear.
You kissed my ears as distant fireworks burst over the city and breathed, “Butterflies look beautiful dying.”
The morning after you left me with an empty wallet, I found a butterfly in my kitchen, pinned under a broken jar. It had crumpled wings and when I tried to collect the glass shards with trembling fingers it flew, bleached and dry, to expire against the cold pane of the kitchen window. I looked down to see my own reflection split into pieces so sharp and transparent on the linoleum tiling I couldn’t believe there was still a heartbeat pulsing in my throat.
After that I gave up trying to pick the pieces of your life back together.
A part of me wonders if I never tried hard enough.
I raise the blinds as often as I can now, even if the sunlight has been paled by the winter chill.
When you speak I feel slivers of glass slipping under the balls of my feet again. I want to grasp your fingers in mine and tell you your breath smells cold and rank, but nowadays as you grip your toes on the edge of that rooftop, I’m afraid to break that thin line between concrete grit and air. I watch how every syllable you exhale disperses into the crumbling skyline behind you, wishing to cup everything that used to matter inside a jar and away from the entire wide world.
You have left me with 2 a.m. nights spent waiting for your shadow to flicker across the doorframe (you never locked the door anyway), but maybe one day you’ll step outside and see real stars.
Just so you know: I still miss you, even when you stand three words away.
Look, I could tell you all these things, but butterflies can’t survive once they feel loneliness.
We will always be separated by a column of still air, and when I look at you all I see are little broken fragments of things that can never be made whole.