It has been thirty days since I last saw your face and the skin on mine is clearer than before we met. I count the fading red spots in the mirror and wonder if the acne left with you or despite you. When you took my makeup off the night I was too drunk to talk you told me that each spot stood for someone I had helped by allowing them to sleep their troubles away inside my body like a remedy, my body like a temple. When I took my makeup off the night I was not supposed to stay you stroked my cheeks like silk and wondered at the places on my skin where someone else’s pain had not yet touched.
There exist five stages of grief but grief never begins as a choice. Grief is easy to plot. Pain is relative. There exist no five stages of healing but a wound heals in three and maybe that’s enough.
1. Inflammation occurs immediately after the skin is broken, the vessels narrowing, the blood clotting, inflammation is the three vodka bottles in the dresser and the fourth one under your bed. Inflammation is I’m never loving anyone new again so help me God as you build a wall taller than your head made of bricks heavier than your heart. As the blood is clotting the cells are fighting to keep the area neutralized, disinfected, like a good friend holding your bleached hair away from your mouth as you puke in the toilet. Inflammation is screaming and sobbing and temper tantrums and fists thrown at the Universe like rocks through a window and it’s not pretty or pure but it’s necessary, and it hurts, goddamn it hurts but without it you’d keep bleeding forever.
2. After three days the wound is in a state of limbo called proliferation. Capillaries supply oxygen. New skin cells grow and begin repairing the damage. Only this new skin is different. It’s weaker than you remember and it looks different, too. You don’t recognize this new skin in the mirror and when you take off your bra and compare the size of one breast to the other you can’t remember if they’d always been so off. All you really can remember is his hands on your body and how to hold a cigarette in the rain without having to ask for another. There’s an aching in your legs and in between them too and you look forward to sleeping as soon as you wake up. Your skin breathes and grows but it’s like there’s too much of it for you. It’s like it’ll swallow you whole.
3. After two weeks cells begin the process of maturation. This can last up to two years; most minor wounds heal in thirty days. Skin returns back to its original color and boy, it is stronger now. It knows better now than to go to a party with strangers and it always remembers to call home. Maturation means growing up. It means not every poem has to be about him although it will be, still, because nothing has ever made you feel as much. There’s a scar on your face where he used to be and you run your fingers over it like it’s braille. Like it’ll tell you something you don’t already know.
After a wound heals the skin around it becomes 70% stronger than it was before. It doesn’t stay up all night crying anymore and it doesn’t hold its breath for someone who has long exhaled his. In one year the human body will shed eight pounds of its own skin. It hangs suspended like a ghost in sunlight beams in front of windows. It coats picture frames and collects under the couch in dust bunnies. Someday when a new lover is vacuuming the recesses of my heart he’ll disturb a corner where your dust has settled. He could clean out every crevice and you’d still be there, in my bones like marrow, in my lungs like arsenic. When he asks if I think about you often I will shake my head. I don’t have to think. I feel you with every breath I take.