That familiar scent rolls through your nostrils as you toss the match and step out from under the liquor store awning, merging with the sidewalk crowds. Your hoodie quickly becomes more of a sponge than shelter as puddle after puddle shatters beneath your feet. The Technicolor influence of the city shimmers against the slick concrete.
You cut away from the crowds and split between two ancients of the avenue. Dumpsters reek with the fetid taste of holiday leftovers; rusted gutters bleed like open wounds; a pair of strays huddle beside a laundry exhaust vent; and you toss your cigarette as you climb the fire escape.
As you scamper up the grated stairs, you pluck one of Mrs. Tyler’s yellow roses from her windowsill and slip upwards as her curses chase you upwards. Vanilla cream finds your nose as you reach the highest window, telling you that you are home.
You call out. No answer.
There is an inexplicable warmth to the coffin-sized apartment, a familiar embrace that is buoyed by charcoal sketches, watercolor fantasies, and framed memories upon the walls. You unload your backpack and place its contents on the corner cramped dinner table – two bottles of Merlot, sushi from her favorite spot, and a black box that has only enough space for something so small, yet so significant.
Placing the rose into a vase, you swing around to check the clock and that is when you notice it.
The shoebox is waiting on the coffee table, a piece of folded paper leaning lonely against it. You know that shoebox, you know that handwriting.
You walk over to the couch and sit and focus on the words written in her familiar ink: I’m sorry.
You shudder as the warmth evaporates from the apartment. You collapse into yourself, rising only for the footsteps in the stairwell which quickly fade with your hope. You rummage through the shoebox, a collection of once-keepsakes, now-wreckage of your relationship, and tear them to falling pieces as simply as the rain patters against the glass.
And just like that, she’s gone, leaving only the sound of memories echoing in your heart.