The Ways We've Learned to Say Our Goodbyes

C.C. Russell

I remember you in particular in the cold. In the snow. Though I seem to think the last time that we spoke it was raining. I recall rivulets running down the windows of your car. So much motion outside as we were so still inside. Even our mouths stiff and unresponsive. Mostly, though, you are the late fall to me, that soft sort of snow.

 

 

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 (The times that we weren’t given the chance. Flight For Life helicopters and what losses they contained/fought.)

 

 

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I find that I am not very good at writing about you. But I find that most of the time anymore, I am writing about you.

 

 

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I’m considering redoing the tattoo I got with you in Fort Collins. This terrifies me as it’s the last trace of you left on my body. But it disgusts me sometimes that the only visible sign of you I have left is the only piece of bad art on my skin.

 

 

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It is a very spring sort of day here today. The cats are at the front door (you never met them) watching a rabbit slowly search the dry grass of the yard for scraps. My daughter is at preschool (she never got to meet you) trying to break her nap habit.

 

I’ve spent the morning paralyzed in front of the screen with nothing much to show for it. I’m working on several stories but all that comes to me is you. And so I’ve decided to give in. Today, I’m going to let myself miss you. And I suppose that today I am going to use you as my muse.

 

 

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That tattoo artist was a punk. He gave us a lower rate because he wanted to fuck you. I told you that, thinking you would want to walk out. Instead, it made you smile. I understand now, even if I didn’t then.

 

But if it wasn’t obvious in the beginning, it was by the time he had finished both of our tattoos. Yours was gorgeous, fine line work and shading. Mine looked like it had been drawn by a particularly untalented ten-year-old.

 

In the car, driving back across the state line, you told me that it looked fine. That I needed to let it heal.

 

 

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I’ve told the story about the first time that we kissed so many times – I always come back to it whenever I’m telling anyone about you. But I don’t think I’ve ever really told this one about the tattoo. Maybe I don’t like calling attention to it. Maybe it’s just more about me than it is about you. Maybe I just don’t like the fact that I have to live with it while yours has rotted away now. Yours has melted off of your bones and mine is still here, staring at me every day, the thing that I hate most on my body—the last touch left of you.

C.C. Russell lives in Wyoming with his wife and daughter. His writing has recently appeared in such places as Tahoma Literary Review, The Meadow, and The Colorado Review. His short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best of the Net. He has held jobs in a wide range of vocations–everything from graveyard shift convenience store clerk to retail management with stops along the way as dive bar dj and swimming pool maintenance. He has also lived in New York and Ohio. He can be found on Twitter @c_c_russell