It began with the bedroom mirror. Then the lamp in the guestroom. The television. The kitchen stools. The desk in the office. Where the wine refrigerator stood was now a magazine rack. He moved the hall cabinet where her dresser was. His hair products and razor and toiletries were went from his bathroom to the master where her things used to be. He left the pictures of them on the mantel because she did not take them down. His recliner whose hideousness she never failed to remark on stood in the guest room where the bed used to be. That old couch he never had his friend pick up slumped in place of her chic, minimalist purchase – an investment, she assured him - the space engulfing it, caving in on it as it lived its last days in a now empty room.
The house was his, in name at least, she filled it with her things, their things she called them, when they moved in together. With the union of house and furniture it became their home. Their space. Every thing they owned they touched, imparting themselves into them: the furniture, the cutlery, the way they hung the pictures and mirrors, the order of the books on the shelves, the placement of the rug beneath the coffee table just this way, no that way he had argued until he gave in and she won. They laughed about it later when laying on that new rug in the living room inhaling the scent of the rich fibres drunk on their happiness. It was each of their first home beyond their childhood homes and they had made it together.
It is called Undoing when a person replaces things that are taken away, trying to make up for their absence, to undo what is taking place. Crafting a new story in place of something one doesn’t like the ending to. This was their story and she hated the way it ended. He said it didn’t mean anything. That he would undo it if he could. A mistake, he said. He told her that it was just a coincidence they ran into each other. That he had not meant to see her. It was just a friendly catch up when they decided to sit for a drink. He didn’t know why he had forgotten he had plans with his girlfriend after running into his ex. That he never meant to go back to her hotel. He told her he didn’t remember seeing her missed phone calls and later the text messages at 2 then 3 then 4 AM.
Her words were her weapon, her only defence. She used them carelessly, viciously at times like she did the morning after, like she had so many times before. She didn’t mean all those names she called him out of anger and hurt and fear, not all of them. She hadn’t been turning away from him or shutting him out when she closed down. She didn’t know how to reach him and tell him what she needed because the fear of asking for help and being let down was too painful to terrifying to try.
And his birthday with his family and friends. Why didn’t she just ask him what was wrong when she saw the look on his face and felt the stiffened behaviour of his friends. She knew something was wrong but she ignored it because she figured he would have told her if something was really wrong. And she regretted ignoring his silences, the hurt looks on his face she couldn’t understand. When she finally asked him it was too late, the damage already done. She could not undo those mistakes.
And the dinner bills she let him pick up. The times he covered her share of the rent. All the times she ‘just ran out of cash’. She was just beginning her career and he was well into his. She always knew that she would make it up to him, some day. They were working towards something, weren’t they? Those times he had asked for her help, not outright, but subtly in his own way. Too proud to admit he couldn’t carry the load for both of them, that he needed her support too. She had seen them, ignored them, putting them out of mind because she didn’t know how to address them, assuming he would figure it out like he always did, that one day she would make it up to him.
Sitting in the empty living room where her things once stood now loaded onto the moving truck she wished she could undo what he did, that she could un-know what she knew about that night. She wished she could undo all of her mistakes. That this one night would be a turning point for them instead of their downfall. She was suspended in time, staring at the blank walls and barren floor while the memories of all that was done played before her as time moved inexorably forward. She watched the future she once knew slip away like water through her hands. Taking her last look at the place she once called home she left her key on the counter and shut the door behind her.