Cigarette Burns On My Heart

It’s been fourteen years and the wound still seeps occasionally, like a cigarette burn on my heart. I still miss her. Occasionally, I type her name into search engines, the only name I can type as quickly as my own: “Andrea L.”

I never find her. She married, and I’m sure she changed names, and I doubt she even remembers me beyond a silly fling in freshman year of college.

But I do.

I remember her asking me to take her virginity, tears in her eyes, because she was terrified it would never happen and she wanted a friend to do it; I remember six hours of foreplay in my bedroom, tumbling to the floor sodden with our own sweat and saliva, having done everything except The Act. I didn’t know how. I was only twice removed from virginity myself, and so I was never the one.

I remember the breakup. I remember how I pushed. I remember that dreadful silence – the one that comes right after that sentence you never meant to say, the one you can’t ever take back, two steps over that one last line that you could never cross.

I remember her leaving, her back turned to me, another overcast day in the Bronx – the click on the apartment door as I stood in the street, watching her go. I remember spending nights in my room, hunched over like a junkie trying to kick the habit – except the habit was Andrea L., and my supply was gone forever.

I remember. And it’s foolish, but it’s still there, aching sometimes in the night. My fingers fly to the keyboards, typing the words again: Andrea L.

Even if I did find her, what would I say?

Foolish, really. She’s gone. And that girl, eighteen and flawlessly beautiful, intelligent and proud, no longer exists. My heart belongs to an image on a movie screen; the picture remains, but the person has moved on.

I still remember, though.

Likewise, Gini did a silly thing tonight – an act that brought me back straight to the worst days of our relationship; back when the days felt like brillo pads, abrasive and angry. Back when the air was so charged with anger and fear that like our sentences were like cigarettes, tumbling to the ground in a gas station – any word was a spark that could ignite a holocaust that would last for days.

Days of betrayal.

She came off the computer and I my hands itched for a fight; the pain was so great that I wanted to just stab her with all of my rage. I needed an excuse to go at her full-bore, to convert all of my anguish into fury and just pound on her until she broke, all so I could just stop thinking.

It didn’t happen. She’s asleep. I’m awake.

And it occurs to me how silly and fragile I am; the worst days are behind us. The truly bad things happened two years ago, and I think we’re both different people… But for Gini, those days are mostly gone. For me, like Andrea L, they’re always a bruised heartbeat away; I can be standing in my worst day with her or Andrea like it was now.

How can I move forward when I’m so stuck in the past? And why do these silly scars still ache, the wound long healed and forgotten, leaving me the sole guardian of sick days of betrayal?

I can never forgive betrayal, especially when I was the one who betrayed myself.

So how do you move on when it’s time to leave it behind? Especially when yesterday dogs your every footstep?

Andrea’s dead, Gini’s dead; these characters exist nowhere except in my mind. They whisper sometimes, restless dead. I have to learn to ignore them.

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