I inhaled uneasily as I flipped open the latch to the black leather case he’d left on my bed. My hands trembled nervously. It took all of my control to keep from throwing the entire thing out of my second-story window, surely shattering everything inside. But I knew I would never be able to destroy the only thing I had left to remind me of him. The only tangible thing beyond my memories that proved we ever existed.
I lifted the lid as slowly as I could, while a part of me hoped that there would be some clue as to where he might’ve gone. But there was nothing new inside. Just the worn cardboard sleeves filled with old records- the same ones we'd listened to night after night for months in the basement of his house, while smoking spliffs or making love on the couch.
I took another deep breath and held it in, as if it would keep all of the emotion inside my body. As if that would keep it from spilling out like a broken dam. But I forced myself to replay the scene in my head over and over again, to maybe figure out what had gone wrong.
"They're coming in to change the carpet in the basement tomorrow morning," he had said to me last night. "I wanted to make sure nothing happened to the records."
"Oh, okay!" I thought nothing of it.
"I'm just gonna' put them in your room," he said, smiling.
At that moment, I had returned to the kitchen to finish up the risotto. It wasn't often that I had the flat to myself, but my sister had gone out of town for the weekend so I asked Alistair to stay over. I wanted to do something special for him, for once.
It was a perfect night. I was proud of how well my mushroom risotto turned out. We shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio over dinner, while Iron & Wine played in the background. We never even made it to the bedroom after that.
But when I woke up this morning, something was different. I shifted on the couch drowsily and was surprised when I didn't feel him next to me. A few moments later, I saw that he was standing over me, fully dressed with a sad expression in his big brown eyes.
"Where are you going?" I mumbled, confused.
"I'm sorry, Daphne."
"What happened? What's wrong?"
"I can't do this anymore," his voice was suddenly angry. "I have to go."
"Wha... what!? Why? What's going on?" I was becoming frantic.
"I DON'T LOVE YOU!" His face was bright red, beads of sweat forming at the top of his forehead.
Before I even had time to react, Alistar was rushing towards the door.
"WAIT!" I screamed. "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?"
Was this really happening? I didn't understand. I ran to follow him outside, the fleece blanket falling off my still naked body as I jumped off the couch. He stopped quickly and turned around to grasp my shoulders and he bore his eyes into mine with such intensity that it was frightening.
"DON'T... FOLLOW... ME...!"
The anger in his voice shocked me. I had never heard anything like that come out of his mouth before. I was utterly stunned. And then he slammed the door behind him, and he was gone. All I could do was stand there, paralyzed. I heard a door slam and listened as the unknown car sped away. I didn't even look out the window to see if he had gone in a taxi or if someone I knew came to pick him up. Either way, he had been planning this.
And now, an hour later, I stood at the edge of my bed, gazing at the familiar box of records that had suddenly turned into a relic. Was this some kind of joke? Would Alistair come knocking at my door any minute to tell me that everything is okay? That he just had a momentary lapse of insanity? A part of me hoped it was nothing to be worried about, that he would be back any minute to tell me he had made a mistake. But the more intuitive part of me knew that this was the end. And I didn't know why.
I was afraid that if I eased up enough to accept his absence, I would never be able to pick myself back up again. Against my better judgment, I fought harder to hold on. I pulled the first record out of the box. Carefully, I took the vinyl disc out of its sleeve and walked over to the record player near my window. I lifted the needle, and with two nervous, but steady hands, I placed the record slowly onto the turntable.
I replaced the needle at the exact spot I wanted, and collapsed onto my bed in the wrong direction. The familiar electronic beat of the song drummed into my ears, and I knew I had made a mistake. I had opened the floodgates. But maybe this is what I needed. Maybe, wherever he was, he would hear me playing this record - and maybe he would turn around and come back.
I called out to him in my head, as the tears began to fall down my cheeks. Ben Gibbard's soft voice came ringing out through the speakers...
I am thinking it's a sign... that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images and when we kiss they're perfectly aligned...
To be continued.