The conclusion was inevitable, inevitably inevitable. Nothing good lasts forever. But you believed that maybe this time things were different. Apparently not. The important thing now is to forget, to isolate yourself as much as possible from the pain. The important thing now is to pack. And when packing the most important thing is to be thorough.
Start with a box. Sized in proportion to the depth of your love. Strong. Sturdy. Cardboard. A vessel capable and worthy of holding a flood of emotion.
First add the paper. Reassure yourself that it'll be the first to go if there happens to be a flood. Take all the letters she's written over the past four years and put them in the box. Go through your wallet; remove the receipts from New York - bread on Broadway, Swedish Fish at the Guggenheim. Find the post-it notes she doodled on, hunt down recipes scrawled on your old lecture notes, and sweep through your room looking for any scrap of paper harboring memory of her. They'll only haunt you in the weeks to come, turning up to transform you into a balloon - rapidly deflating and out of control.
Go deeper - find the few photographs that you have of her. Find the pictures she sent you from Canada, find the baby photos she copied for you at your insistence. Erase events from your life. Throw in the playbills and programs from the musicals and concerts you attended. Exhibit guides from the art museum, from the botanical gardens, from the ends of the earth. Toss in the books - the ones she sent with scraps of paper bearing scrawled "I love you"-s in her comfortable cursive script, the book from the book-reading in Berkeley, the book she sent you on your birthday. These things are triggers, innocuous now but capable of pulling you into the dark pits of loss.
Next go for the tangible objects. Find all the CDs she sent you. Scour your car, check under the seats, rifle through your glove compartment. They all go in the box. To be doubly safe, make sure you get the CDs that remind you of her - the songs you drove to together, the songs she swindled you into singing with her. Those need to disappear also. Go for the knick-knacks that you've collected. The limes - now dry and hard - saved from the fruit fight on lush, green summer grass. The rocks, the sticks, the bones, the shells - all the debris that she found on the beach and thought special enough to send to you. Add your own similar bits and pieces you picked up on your weekly escapades. Get the clam shell and his secret message, get the asparagus rubber bands. Find all the things she left in your apartment, little things- her toothpaste, her hairband, her razor. Anything that vaguely belonged to her disappears. All those memories in physical form can be exiled into the firm fortress of cardboard.
Now, the final frontier - attack your computer. Start with emails - the hundreds of emails that four years of indescribable friendship will bring. Search for them all and move them to their own little mailbox. Find the conversation logs with her on any number of screennames (even the secret ones) that you've saved forever. Track down the music she sent you, the random mp3s that have lodged themselves in nooks and crannies of your computer. Get the movies and pictures that she sent - of her room, of her friends, of her roadtrips. Get the pictures you drew together, silly doodlings in Paintbrush that you thought prudent to save. Find lyrics, stories, quotes, poems - anything she might have left on your computer. Be vigilant - don't let any of her digital presence get beyond you. Burn all of it to a CD. To multiple CDs. As many as it takes. And then delete the whole mess off your hard drive.
Take one more look. Make sure no telltale memories have escaped your eye. Get a magnifying glass and check every inch. Make sure you're not forgetting to imprison the strands of hair that are probably lurking in the corners, or any miniscule detail that waits for a moment of indiscretion. Satisfy yourself with a job well done. Your box is complete.
Seal it. Duct tape it securely shut. Wrap it three times over in brown paper. Maybe even put it in another box. Hide it. In the basement, in the storage in the laundry room, in the depths of your closet, in some closet that remains unused. Hide it so that it becomes inaccessible - under your sleeping bag and backpack and old speakers. Hide it well, its potency is overwhelming.
Let the months pass.
Forget what's in the box.
Let years pass.
Maybe, on the impulse of a single minute, give the box to someone else and let them discover the love they'd never guessed.
Maybe, in the spontaneity of an hour, take the bus across town, across the rivers, and leave it somewhere.
Maybe, one garbage day, accidentally let it make a trip to the curb.
Maybe, one weekend, when you're going back home, offer to make a roaring fire in the fireplace.
Maybe, one week, when it's her birthday, send it to her - let her deal with it.
Maybe, one month, when it's particularly rainy and lush, put it under the compost pile by the garage.
Maybe, one year, when you're foolish enough to think you're stable. Open it. Slowly. Reexamine the lives once intertwined. Reflect.