And then, one cold day in February came to collect you from me. I still can’t recall what it was about that morning, precisely, but from time to time, I go over it in my head to try and understand what it might have been. If you’d gotten a phone call, if there was some emergency, if I’d said something wrong in my sleep. If the fact that there had been no sign of the wolf was something you found to be proof of my insanity. Or perhaps it was as simple as a punishment from God himself for my late credit card payments or being obscenely cruel to telemarketers.
The frozen morning light did nothing to warm the Bronx apartment, where it was that I woke up alone in what I had been secretly thinking of as “our” bed. I pulled the bedspread up to wrap around my torso and exposed my feet. Little exploration on your side of the bed, then cold, revealed that you had gone, having taken your favorite blanket with you, the bigger of the only two we kept there. The front door was open, the several industrial-sized padlocks I’d affixed to the door were scattered and spraying bobby pins, safety pins, and the innards of my best ballpoint pen there on the floor.
How you made so little noise in your escape, I may never know. You must’ve planned it for longer than I care to consider.
There being no sign of the wolf, I began to think you might perceive my antics as only that. Ridiculous antics to appeal to a sense of needing to be saved, which I had been assured all girls possess, thereby tricking you into my clutches for just one more winter. Of course, I would do such a thing. I have done worse. There is no amount of lies unjustifiable to keep you close to me. But I’d shrivel at your knowledge of these deceptions, as I shriveled that February, assuming you could see plainly what a pathetic loser I was the worst.
Whatever the reason, the full moon of January came and went without a drop of blood in the snow, and you were gone before Valentine’s Day. Always before Valentine’s Day.
The filthy, antifreeze scent of the unkempt alleyways surrounding Van Cortlandt Park numbed my nose of your smell as I made my daily trip for groceries. My last day there, given your departure, I planned to buy only one English muffin sold with its complementary organic grape jelly package, and only one, wholly indigestible hard-boiled egg. Only one of each today, although yesterday and 76 days prior, I was in the habit of buying 2 of everything. The weight of this deduction being too great, I pulled up the stiff twill of my jacket collar, and left without my goods.
I left the store without making my purchase. I left the Bronx without packing my things, without returning to the apartment again for anything. I bought a Starbucks at the airport after a single, one-way ticket to Tulsa, and I can’t say, for certain, that the expression on my face changed even minutely at any point of the duration of the entire day.
There ceased to be a point to living, Eve, and I lacked the facility to understand why, right then. But it’s difficult for any young man to transform the bitch who left us in this town to rot in one’s own paranoia into the genuinely devastating loneliness inflicted upon one desperately missing their true love’s touch.
I did not pursue you. Yes, the wolf was real, but unfortunately, so was my bitter disdain for you and our predicament. After my coffee, I would ascertain your whereabouts and general health with not much effort, and that was that. I would not so much as speak your name until next it was necessary for the saving of your life. My acceptance of our plight was machinelike. And I believe my awareness of that was what made the point of your salvation begin to elude me.
Without you, it was more than simple to let life fall into a clean schedule. How I spent my time, in fact, was the only thing I knew about myself, without you. And it seemed even that was dominated by you, as well. Lists of times and locations were sorted, in my head, next to dollar amounts of the things I bought in accordance with those. Do you know I spent $36,390 in expenses to keep you that winter? 1,849 hours, many of which were spent tracking in sub-zero weather. My relationships with everyone else I knew were damaged, irreparably, due to my absence.
What I was doing risking my life and the things I loved other than you by all this toil, I hadn’t the slightest. What was I doing making these arrangements for you, and forcibly, only to see you leave me when the mood took? It was lunacy. Utter lunacy.
Boarding my plane, it was as if your leaving became a cannonball, collapsing my chest of any love I once knew for you, and letting the abominable thought creep into my mind that if you died, I might get a chance to live.
That was the day I decided to kill myself.