I used to helplessly, probably just a bit obsessively, count the days until I saw you. Monday and Tuesday and all the way through Friday were barely excuses for days, and each week more they felt like empty homes for thoughts that were inevitably, exclusively about you. I chose the perfect outfit and then chose it again, thought about all the stories I wanted to tell you, the details you might think were funny, how sweetly you would laugh, eyes glued to mine, and I of course wondered what perfume you would like better when we hugged and you kissed my cheek.
I used to count the hours until I could see you. On the cab from your house to work, not realizing my favorite song was playing on the radio, twelve hours. During lunch as my coworkers gossiped about things I didn’t really care about or a movie I hadn’t watched yet, seven hours. When I was almost done with my work but not quite, three hours. On the subway, while the couple next to me kissed, her hands on his neck and him holding her close by the waist, an hour and a half. As I showered and thought about my outfit yet again, one hour. As I chose the wine, thirty minutes. It did not matter how long we had known each other for or how many dates we had gone on or how many mornings I had woken up by your side; five minutes, my heart beating desperately as if at the same time I hadn’t seen you in years and you were a handsome stranger I was hoping to kiss by the doorstep under the light of midnight stars. You rang the doorbell, and for a second my heart always stopped. We were happy.
I used to count the months we had been together. Every 23rd felt like a tiny quiet reminder of the happiness that I too often caught myself surprised at. Life was nice and beautiful and I was happy, we were happy. I would get you something nice but not too much, some chocolate or that shirt you wanted, a bottle of your favorite whisky, sometimes a surprise at work. Usually you forgot, so often I expected it, and the 24th was always so nice, when you loved me a little extra to make up for it. We were happy.
Today it’s been two hundred and thirty two days since you left. Not yet close to how many you spent with me, but these two hundred and thirty two days feel like a lifetime, and the days when you loved me are barely the blink of an eye. Not yet close to how many you spent with me, but day by day I am much closer.
You left and all I could do is count. Count for how many days you loved me. Count how many I love yous were true, and how many were not. Count the holidays and birthdays we have spent apart – a Christmas full of questions from my family, a New Year’s Eve with no midnight kiss, your birthday, in March, when we would have gone to that cabin you were so excited about; the list of presents I would give you kept growing involuntarily, because everything made me think of you. I count the 23rds without you, every month a quiet and painfully inevitable reminder that you are not here, and you don’t love me, and I maybe should not bother forgetting because next month there is another one, and you will still be gone, and I will still be here. I count the empty days. Monday and Tuesday and all the way through Monday again, all terrible excuses to think of you. I count the days until I meet someone worth counting evey second for. I count the days until I finally believe it will happen. I count the days since you left.
Two hundred and thirty-two; I still love you.
Five, you haven’t answered any of my calls, for the first time in a week I don’t lock myself in the bathroom at work to cry and cry and choke in my own quietness. Sixteen, my bed still smells like you, but I need to wash the sheets. Thirty-nine, I found your green shirt I used to wear to sleep in my pajama drawer, I wore the shirt to go to sleep. Seventy-eight, I haven’t dreamt that you came back in over a week. One hundred and ninety, I gave the green shirt away. Two hundred and thirty-two: I still love you.
I count the days since you left. I count the times I saw a couple kissing on the subway and swallowed my tears thinking of you. I count the holidays we have spent apart, I count the movies I think you would have liked, I count the times someone asked me about you and I choked in my silence because I did not know what to say. And every morning I count to myself: one less day until the day I don’t love you.