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We were so close that I could see the freckles that danced in her eyes, like galaxies that saw. Galaxies saw things more clearly than anyone else, they were so brilliant they didn’t need to lie to themselves, so she saw things in a way I could never comprehend. She saw the cold and honest truth about every sight, and when we were this close I could see it too. I could feel her heat as if it was my own, and I could smell her smell so clearly I may have been able to pick out each individual ingredient that made it if I tried. But I was so captivated by her eyes that I never noticed any of those things, and I wouldn’t until we had stood this close dozens of other times.
When we were this close I could see everything she had ever seen, and in the same way that it captivated me, it also made my heart break.
I saw her first memory, a wooden table. Her head was bowed against it, and her eyes burned with tears that didn’t fall. Two people were yelling, but the young girl would not look up and only stared at the table, memorizing the grains in the wood and the color of the stain.
She would grow to hate that shade of brown.
Years later, she would lift her head and watch the people yell. A man and a woman, both looking so similar that it was odd to think that they weren’t related by blood. I felt her throat burn when she saw the woman reach out and slap the man across the face, leaving a red mark that would take a day to completely fade.
She wouldn’t like the color red for a long time after that.
I felt the heat on her cheeks as the tears dripped down them, one by one. She sat on the steps of her house in a black dress, watching the people on the green grass. Inside her mother lay in a coffin, but she was not crying for the recently deceased. She was crying for how relieved she felt when that car hit her; she was crying because her father and her were finally free of that witch’s grasp.
A hand landed on her shoulder
“I’m sorry for your loss,” A faceless relative said.
“You may be,” she said. “But I’m not.”
That was the first time she would see things so clearly. She saw how oblivious everyone was to others emotions, and how she would never be like that, so she sucked in each person’s feelings and let them weigh on her instead of others. This was both a blessing and a curse.
They weren’t all bad memories, I came to find, in the reflections in her eyes. I watched her fall in love for the first time with a knot in my stomach. She was in her classroom in middle school, nose inches from a book when she caught the smell. It was sweet and lavender, and when she looked up there was her first love. In the seat in front of her was a girl that was one or two years older, already outgrowing her awkward phase. Her long brown hair fell neatly down her back, and when she spoke there was laughter in her eyes. Like many other memories of the girl I now love heat was involved, but it was not heat of anger, guilt, or sadness, that lay behind her eyes, or down in her throat, or dripping down her cheeks, but somewhere deep in the pit of her stomach.
She fell in the love with the way her back arched, and the way her voice rose and fell. She fell in love with that lavender smell, and for a moment in that memory, I was hurt. I was hurt by a love of the past, and even worse, an unrequited one.
This was the first she would fall in love with a girl, and the heat that rested in her stomach also smoldered in the back of her mind. A fear of being different, and a fear of being hurt; that girl would sit in front of her for two years, they would smile and grow close, and someday she may even love her back, but both were too afraid to do anything about it.
I’m ashamed to say that I am glad it didn’t work out.
The day she came out to her dad she looked him straight in the eye and said it. She watched his face twist with emotions that she never knew he had. She watched all of his fears come true, and she watched herself stop loving him. It was a painful experience, but from the way his nose wrinkled and his eyes seemed to almost gloss over, she knew that he didn’t like the way she was, and that hurt her. In all of her life, in all of her parents’ arguing, and all of the hits that she endured in between, she knew what she liked and what she didn't . She knew what she would tolerate, and what she wouldn’t. And she would no longer tolerate living in a house with a man who didn’t even want her.
So that night I watched her pack a bag, and walk out the front door.
And that’s where she bumped into me.
We were 19.
In the present now she took a step back so I could no longer analyze her galaxy eyes, and she smiled this brilliant smile that made me fall in love the moment I saw her. The small bits of her memories that I had seen were scary; I saw her hurt herself, I saw her get hurt by others. I watched her tumble, and fall, and hate herself. But with every scar that she attained on her skin and in her mind I would love her the same. She did grow to like herself sometimes, but every step to this discovery was difficult, and sometimes she would fall back to her old ways. But I still loved her.
I put my forehead against hers and place a gentle hand on her shoulder as I had done before, and silently cursed God for making her hurt this way, and making it so that I could not cure her.
“You know, I’ll always be here for you,” I say, taking in your scent that I missed earlier. “I know that it won’t always help, but I will be here for a shoulder for you to cry on. An elbow to pinch, or-” I pause and grin, “A lip to bite.”
She giggles a little.
And I smile a smile that I wish she had seen, but she was too busy looking up at the galaxy above.
But that’s why I love her with every fiber of my being, because even if she falls down and feels like she won’t get back up, I’ll lie down next to her on the ground and we will count the stars until she feels she can’t stand back up and face an earthly reality of people who haven’t caught up.