Today was Marla’s birthday.
I turned over in my bed and kissed my calendar. I kissed it like a silly schoolgirl would kiss a waxed envelope of poems from a great admirer. I sloppily turned on the light and my bedroom became visible to me at once. Posters from concert venues and dream catchers hung above me, and I felt the glow of the rising sun peek through my window.
I grabbed the letter I had written the night before from my nightstand. Today was November Sixth.
There were no secrets between Marla and I.
We met each other at our worse. It was the day after we first tried “questionable substances” at a party. In our drugged haze, we both didn’t know the exact moment we had said hello to one another. Yet I remember the moment of somber clarity where I first saw her, despite the grogginess and the blurriness in my eyes.
Her face was greasy and the wispy strands of baby hair stuck to her forehead like glue. Her clothes were crusty and smelled of dried sweat, her makeup was smudged like someone tried erasing her face, and her bed hair was atrocious. She had straightened up from the broken down leather couch that someone owned, reached beyond my body and checked the creaks for something. I heard the rustle of metal keys and her airy sigh. It was the loveliest sound.
Then I had coughed. It was a violent gust of air that exploded in the room. I felt the dryness of my throat overwhelm me. I probably seemed like a demon sprouting out bile and the remnants of the bubonic plague.
She glanced at me, spooked at my presence. We both looked horrible.
There was an uncomfortable silence, where we both stared at one another. Soon enough, we began to laugh. It was a laugh that filled the room with a new sense of feeling, and casted away the emptiness I felt when I decided to come to this room to get thrown out of my mind. Thrown out of my sadness.
I fell in love at once.
Before long, so did she.
She knew that she liked women too, even back then. It took a while for her to accept that and I didn’t push it. Nobody should push someone. My intuition told me that it needed to be, or else I’d perish. Yet I disciplined my mind, for I loved her too much - what sort of person would I be, to force her to adhere to a timeline I made in my head?
Stolen kisses and unspoken words became more and more common, until she finally accepted it herself. “I love you, Eileen. I love you so damn much.” Months had passed and she finally admitted it aloud. She began to bring me home more often, and I even met her brother from time to time. Never her parents, though. They were always working. At least, that’s what she said.
She hadn’t come out yet, even now. When I saw her parents, the first and only time in my life a few weeks ago, they thought I was “the friend”. It didn’t matter.
She whispered to me one day, while we were laying down in her bed: “I knew I was gay long ago. Before you, I knew it down to my soul. I couldn’t even imagine a man naked, nor could I tolerate the idea of one touching me. But if I even said it aloud, I would have drowned. I was so alone, Eileen.”
“I love you, Marla.” I whispered back to her. Her room was so bright, with the paintings and the Christmas tree lights she had hanging along the walls. I kissed her eyelids, then her nose, and finally her lips. “You don’t have to feel alone. I’m here, Marla.” I promised.
“But is it enough?” Marla questioned, her eyes wet. The wetness travelled down to her breasts, and I used my fingers to trail the tears up from there to her eyes.
“God, I hope so.” I murmured.
I approached the gates to the building, yet I couldn’t go any further than this. There was a man who worked in the office who would see me visit everyday, bringing flowers or envelopes. I used to ask that he drop it off himself, for me. After a while, I would stop going inside. I would instead drop it off in front of his door, so I wouldn’t have to speak. So I wouldn’t have to see.
I was in front of a funeral director’s office and I couldn’t bear it. I closed my eyes and dropped the envelope I had brought onto his crummy welcome mat. Just so I wouldn’t have to see the eyes of a man who probably read every single letter I sent to her.
Just so I wouldn’t have to accept that she took herself away from us, from our happiness, because she couldn’t bear what she was. Alone.
Today was Marla’s birthday.
Past tense. It was.
It was, it was, it was.