Taylor Panaccione

Let Her Go 

“i just—you need to go,” i find myself saying. she’s staring at me openmouthed, like she really hadn’t been expecting this at all. because she doesn’t understand why i draw away when she asks me what’s wrong and hates that i’m satisfied when she gets mad and slams the doors and cries herself to sleep. i don’t want her to be in pain, but i deserve it. every ounce of compassion she’s given me has been wasted, consumed by the demons that writhe inside me. she deserves more.

“after all this and you just want me to leave?” no no no. i never said i wanted you to go. god, i would never want you to leave. and i look away because i don’t want her to see the truth in my eyes, to see these thoughts running through my head, because it’s better if she thinks i want her to leave. if she knows the truth, she’ll never go and i couldn’t live with that. i don’t respond and she just makes this sort of hurt sound, like she’s trying to breathe but something’s stuck in her throat.

i think maybe it’s just her good-bye that’s stuck there, depriving her of the air she needs to breathe to stay alive. the longer that good-bye stays there, the longer i drag this out, the tighter her throat will close. she wastes away with each passing day, tarnished by the poison in my hands.

i just nod because if i say yes, she’ll hear the lie. she knows me so well and—can i really do this? can i really be selfless and let her walk away? the masochist in me is telling me to cling to her like i would a life preserve, but my sea of sadness is only figurative and the crashing in my ears is literal and i don’t know what i should do. i don’t know how to be without her and that’s why i need to do this. because if all she is is a lifeline to me, then i really have lost to those demons. they want me to drag her down.

it doesn’t matter though, because she’s crying her good-bye tears. she’s making gasping sounds, dragging air in little by little and then gulping it down, coughing because she’s getting too much at once. i marvel that she can breathe. “you’ll be okay,” i say, because that’s the truth.

she looks at me with these sad, sad eyes and says, “but what about you?”