When I breathe into the empty blue morning, my breath fogs up in the too-cold-for-this-time-of-year air and I wish I could pull it back into me. I'm not quite awake and not quite asleep, but I'm conscious of the day and the time and the rain that prickles my face through the open screen window. I wish you a quiet happy birthday under my breath because I might have lost the right to make you happy, but I'll still wish it forever.
Your name on my lips hurts and it's a struggle to move the air past my vocal cords in a way that will actually produce sound instead of a whisper. I keep you so close to my heart that every time it beats it touches you and pulls at that small, perfect piece I've so carefully preserved which is really all I have left of you.
Every exhalation is a prayer and a thread of your memory gone. And it's time that tugs at the seams and makes the exact shade of your eyes blur and slide out of focus, but that might be the tears, actually. The salt makes the skin of my cheeks and temples tight and I've learned that crying while lying on my back makes me think of drowning.
Sometimes I decide that I want to stop breathing and suddenly I'm grateful for the icy bite in the air that, if breathed too deeply, agitates the tiny scars on my lungs from the asthma I grew out of when I was nine or ten. I've always been imperfect and when my breath freezes in my chest and makes me cough, I know it's the scars on the inside that give me the most trouble.
When you're in my head, you're in deep. Nothing will satisfy you but that I overwhelm myself with words and sounds and scents and moments in time that seemed so insignificant in their conception. But you have to know I'd give anythinganythingto spend another insignificant moment with you.
And it's when all the I-will-always-love-yous are spent, that I torture myself in earnest. I don't need pictures to recall every tiny detail, especially because so much about you is taste and sound and touch, like the day I kissed you and found out that you'd gotten a tongue ring.
I've been strict with myself. I know exactly where I hid your pictures, but the left side of my brain is always engaged in a bout of cat-and-mouse with the right and I like to pretend that I don't know exactly where you are or the combination to the lock.
I think I'll write about you forever. Until that box and your pictures are yellowed and fragile and the lock tarnishes with age.
I think I'll love you forever. Even when the box and the pictures and I am dust and only the faithful lock remains. It'll be here long after you and I are gone because it is metal and it is lasting and I'll always remember the taste of it on my tongue.