Sometimes love means saying goodbye.
She stands in the center of the apartment, waiting for the landlord and the final walkthrough. She blinks as if she’s not used to seeing the space so empty. I’m not used to it either.
She is moving out today, and I tell myself that this is for the best, that I couldn’t be prouder.
The walls feel bare and vulnerable, mottled with shadows from where she hung her art. At first, she only painted tiny pictures, full of sickly greens and mustard yellows and dank purples. They were bruises, these paintings.
I was so glad when she replaced them with her recent work—that of cupped hands, upturned faces, and hope.
I will miss the paintings.
The landlord enters with a clipboard. He is small-hearted. He loves neither his tenants nor the spaces they occupy. He only wants to cheat her out of the security deposit. I’ve seen this all before.
He wrinkles his nose, his face scrunched in a poorly disguised mask of disappointment at the scents that swirl in the air. Lemon. Pine. Murphy’s Oil Soap, which has always been my favorite. The space is pristine.
True, for the first two months, she barely unpacked. She slept in the closet, hidden beneath a pile of blankets. In the kitchenette, she boiled water for ramen and spread peanut butter over bread. This was subsistence living, and I ached for her.
But that was before.
In these last few months? The aroma of curry and chocolate filled every pocket of space. She decorated earnest, braiding rag rugs that warmed the tile in the kitchenette and the bathroom. I’m always surprised at how little it takes to turn beige walls and gray linoleum into a home.
The landlord halts, fingers exploring a depression in the drywall. He snakes his hand back and forth—always finding fault, this one.
“What happened here?” he asks. His gruff voice is tinged with a hint of triumph.
She presses her lips together and shakes her head.
“Almost looks like someone got thrown into the wall.”
The landlord marks something on his clipboard.
That was the beginning of after, the last time she unlocked the deadbolt.
The pounding on the door continued, of course. Daily at first. Then every other day. Then once a week. Then, all at once, the pounding stopped completely.
I think we both exhaled.
Soon after, fresh colors crept into her paintings. She started taping brochures to the bathroom mirror—of students with backpacks, lounging by fountains or gazing studiously from their seats in a lecture hall.
“I’m going to have to charge you a hundred for the wall,” the landlord says now.
She glances toward the ceiling, rolls her eyes. We both know he isn’t going to repair the wall.
I so want to hold onto a memory of her. The landlord won’t let her leave the braided rugs. This is all I have, this dent in the wall. The memory of her strength. I’m glad he won’t be fixing it.
She turns over the keys, but in the hallway, she pauses.
“I think I left something in the medicine cabinet.”
She dashes inside and stands in the center of the room, arms spread wide. She spins in a slow circle, taking in the kitchenette, the tiny balcony, the dining alcove.
On her way out, she lets her fingers linger over the deadbolt, taps it once, twice, three times.
She has never slammed my door and doesn’t now. The sound of her footsteps fades down the hall one final time. I exhale into the empty space, my ventilation system rattling as if I could tell her goodbye.
I’m so very proud of her.
I’ve always wanted to write a flash fiction story from the perspective of an inanimate object. Moving Day turned out to be that story.
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