It was nighttime, and we were fighting.
We had never fought like this before, but that was all before I started noticing the resin of whiskey on your lips. That was before I stopped going out, all because my duty was to keep you safe forever. I loved you, but it was getting out of hand. And I told you so.
“You don’t understand!” You screamed back at me, your mascara just heavy streams racing over your blotchy skin. I remembered winters back months before this all started, where we would sit on a snow-covered wall and I’d stray my eyes from yours for a few seconds just to look at your pink nose while you sniffed and giggled. It always reminded me of gloved fingers locked together, and there was nothing better than your little round face when your smile got too big for it, so your eyes stood out like copper buttons on silk. But now the only reason your nose was pink was the mixture of alcohol in your veins, and the sobbing from your slurring lips.
“I do. I’m trying to help.” I said.
“Look at me again and tell me you can help.”
I looked at you. I didn’t even realise I was looking away. Not until you took my hand and placed it on your cheek. Sometimes you remember gentle touches for absolutely no reason. The kisses to the back of your neck, the head resting on your shoulder, the lips pulling apart to smile through the winter storm - you just remember the touches like footprints in your mind, leading you down a rabbit hole of how things use to be. I think that touch of my cold hands against your flushed cheeks always lures me back to a time long ago when we could dance in mushy snow until it melted into grit, but still fall onto our backs and laugh like children who were trying to forget growing up. I sometimes remember how you got restless at night when you started to feel the stirring in your bloodstream as you fell deeper and deeper into that pitch black hole that was yourself. Between those movements and the way you you pulled away from me, I suppose it was a good contrast to what was to come in the end.
“I am looking at you.” I stressed every word as if I could make them mean more than stating the obvious, even if it meant nothing in the moment “But you just don’t seem like you.”
Your eyes fell to the floor. You knocked over a liquor bottle, and hadn’t been able to move enough to clean it up. You started crying just looking at it, as if it were a sign from the universe in spilt wine and vodka. It might have been. My memory refuses to let me see how many bottles were stacked up on our kitchen counters.
“I’m not like me. I know. I… I’m not exactly the woman you fell in love with. But I’m honestly so grateful for you. I wish I’d told you more…”
I put my hand under your chin, and tilted your head up to meet my eyes. You smiled. It was weak, but it was there. Your doll eyes still shone like stones under the river. To me, that’s what you were. You were resilient and ever changing, like stardust with stone banks. You ran like a million soldiers, but had the beauty of millions of birds with blue on their backs all taking flight at once. I could spend days sitting in the trees looking across at you, as you waved to me, calling me over. It’s rare, but still sometimes I wish I hadn’t gone to you, because you have a habit of running back into yourself and leaving me high and dry. But when the winter came and froze you over, I’d rather spend days watching over the cold in your bones than leaving you to defrost alone in the middle of the woods. Also, sometimes I wish you hadn’t ran back into the sea. I wish you could shine one last time, and let the sun lift you into the sky like the clouds in the hills. But I suppose it’s all too late now.
“There’s still time to tell me.” I promised. It was something I would not, and could not keep. And we both knew it, even back then.
So you just looked at me, and cried a bit, and kissed me softly.
“I love you.” You said.