Some days he doesn’t know why but he thinks of her. It’s not when the sky is grey and it rains—for that he is glad, because this is Vancouver (Raincouver), and that is the standard weather all but during the summer. It’s when it is 25 degrees Celsius outside, with the sun bright enough to burn you raw. That’s when he thinks of her.
She was always perpetually cold, her skin just a few degrees away from the norm. Perhaps that is why she loved the sun. Almost worshipped it. It had kept her from freezing over. Perhaps that did not matter in the end, because even as she burned to ashes, they emanated coolness—a coldness that froze him over, for a moment.
When he thinks of her, she is always smiling, squinting as she tries to keep the sun from her eyes. He always has to look extra hard to see if that smile is genuine—he can never be sure. Sometimes, he doesn’t think she herself even knows if she is happy. Happy or not, she is always wearing that oversized button-up, maybe because when she bought it, it had been at the climax of her life. Or maybe it was because he had always liked the way it looked on her, as if she was wearing his shirt. The one he had in the back of his closet, now that she had gone.
Sometimes, he can see the way her hair flew in the wind. It wasn’t graceful, or elegant, per se, but it had its charm. Once, when they were having ice cream, the wind whipped her hair into the cone, and it transferred all over her face. She just made a face and laughed. Moments like this he remembered best, because despite the bleakness of their relationship, it reminded him that she too, could have fun.
He wasn’t sure it was a relationship, actually. Sure, she had said yes to being branded as his girlfriend, and they were intimate, but she kept herself distant from the present—always just one step too far, whether it was in the future or past. Being with her was exhausting—she was just never there.
But he loved her in the moments that she was there—one arm extended towards his chest, the other around his neck, eyes closed and lips on his. Strange was it that she was always there when her eyes were closed, but never when they were open. He knew thinking it made it seem like he missed her touch more than her soul, and he didn’t know how to explain it, but he had loved her—that much he knew. She had meant everything to him, despite knowing that she could hardly say the same.
He looks up at the sky and is temporarily blinded—was it the sun, or the memories? There is another girl next to him and this girl is his life, but right now she does not dominate his mind. When he first met her, he kept making endless comparisons. She has her hair, but they don’t flow the same way in the wind. She laughs at my jokes more often, but her laughter is higher-pitched. He could not see a future at first—he was not her, but time told him he didn’t need her.
Sometimes, he’s certain that he is obsessed with her. It was the way they ended. If she had one day decided that he wasn’t enough, he would have let her go. It was the way she left—he could still see it stamped underneath his eyelids.
The sun was shining on the day she decided to visit the beach with her friends. There, the waves took her away and she was lost to the world, forever. When he is being romantic, he likes to think that the ocean fell in love with the way she was in love with the sun.
Bye, bye, Romana Song.
There was a note that she had written him when they had first met. He holds onto it and reads it on sunny days. Her handwriting is loopy and sprawling across the yellowed, crumpled page. He runs his finger along the ink even as it fades, imagining how her pen scratched word after word, crossing out the ones that failed to satisfy her poetic heart, desperate for the diction to be beautiful.
He knows how she loved the cynical and ironic, and he finds it funny how the thing she loved the most took her by the throat and squeezed the life out of her. Rather, he muses, it pours down her throat by force and fills her until it is all that is left of her.
When he looks in the mirror, he sees his face, wearied by the years that passed, but she is still fresh in his mind. Always in those tiny shorts and top, figure pristine, hair fanning behind her. She was nineteen when she died and she will always be nineteen in his mind, always youthful as he grows old.
Perhaps this is for the best, he thinks, because he had never been able to imagine her any other way, and she had always detested the inevitability of aging. Was dying the only way of ensuring that she was young and pretty in her coffin? The thought died in his brain, because the ashes that were burned belonged to some synthetic body, some poor animal that took her place when they realized she had not left a single trace of herself on earth.
He thinks of her from time to time, and can’t help but harbor a little hatred for her selfishness. In life, she had chosen to stay by his side despite the baggage she carried, and in death, she lingered in his mind just when he thought he had forgotten. So selfish, he thinks, because her poetic mind knew that dying young meant staying young.
Now, to leave him here, trying to figure out how to love someone, how to grow old with someone. She was supposed to teach him heartbreak—she was supposed to be a target for him to direct hate, but when she had gone it was just… emptiness, sadness, desperation.
The sun hides behind a cloud and the only light left behind forms a pseudo-halo around his shadow. He thinks, is that all you’ve left for me? Left and made me a martyr? A tear is about to escape his eyes but the love of his life takes his hand and squeezes. He parts his lips to explain but some things are left unsaid so he just looks up to tilt the tears back in, just in time to see the sun come out again, and they are bathed in light.