Rachel, the keepsake


rachelI could taste the bitterness from the night before when I awoke in Rachel’s bed.  A wet fart, or perhaps a saucer of spoiled milk, lingered fouly in her room.

I moved my tongue slowly across my lips. They were chapped and probably still stained purple from all the wine we had been drinking.  As sunlight seeped in through a crippled blind I pictured the broken glasses and the shattered coffee table in the living room, as well as the overturned bookcase and the box of Chinese food Rachel had splattered on the wall.  The two of us had had another go, that’s for sure.

Next to me Rachel dreamed softly and beautifully.  She looked so calm and relaxed, so utterly innocent, despite the tears that had dried and hardened on her face while she slept.  It was hard to believe that this girl had been the one in the relationship to cheat on the other.

For a moment I looked around her room and was taken by the comfort and familiarity of its contents – her crumpled piles of clothes by the closet; the paper lanterns that hung above the desk covered in law books and half-empty glasses; the blue walls and golden trim around the windows and door; the antique dresser we had salvaged from the flea market and refinished.   For a moment I knew that I would be able to forgive her and we could move on.

But then I saw the bundle of letters over by the windowsill and my stomach trembled.  My heart hardened.  They were the letters I had written her from Rajasthan.  Contained within those letters were all of the love, secrets and fears that an individual could reveal to another person. I had never missed someone so much as I missed Rachel during that time. I had given myself up to her completely. This was the girl I was to spend the rest of my life with.  And now I wished to take it all back.

Rachel opened her eyes and was startled by the way I looked at her.  Neither one of us said a word for a long time.  Her chest rose and sank slowly.  She never blinked.  She was terrified.

“Give me those letters,” I said eventually.  “Over by the windowsill. There’s no place for them within this life we share now.”

Rachel remained silent, and she continued to look at me.  Her breathing increased and I watched the reservoirs of tears break behind her eyes.  I was cutting her deep, the way she had cut me two months before, and I hated myself for it.  But I couldn’t stop.

“Those letters no longer belong to you.  They were a part of me that can no longer exist, and a part of me that you can no longer have.”

She began sobbing uncontrollably.  She begged me not to touch the letters, to allow her to keep them with her until she died.  She became hysterical and spewed one apology after another, promising me that we would one day be able to work past this moment and to live the life we both had wanted.

Brought to tears myself, I finally told Rachel that she must choose, either between the two of us moving on together or a pile of letters that once held the promise of a pure and everlasting love.

I realized later that afternoon, as I smoked alone and skipped rocks across the river, that I would have taken the letters instead, too.

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