Kicking stones along the highway. She has been walking for nine minutes; she has been walking for an eternity. She is wrapped in red plaid, a flannel shirt. His shirt. She is not crying. She remembers grapefruit-pineapple-orange juice. She is part of the highway; she listens to her music loud, to drown her thoughts. But she can still hear the stone, tumbling out ahead of her. English is gone; the words of the song slur together, indecipherable. The cars, noise and gleaming metal, are gone. She can see nothing but her two feet, mismatched sneakers sliding out ahead of her. Right then left, right then left. She remembers ginger ice cream, the first time they met. She is not crying.

So it’s over now, finally
I’m beneath
And I’m crawling out
On my knees

The stone skitters out of sight, veering into the road. She follows it without looking up. She is not cold, but she shivers uncontrollably. A squirrel lies dead by the roadside. Its fur is soaked, in clumps. Sticky. It grins up at her, unseeing, glassy eyes. She continues walking. Just let me be, he had told her. I do not want to cry over you again. Something clicks out of place, deep inside of her. So this is what goodbye feels like.

I can hear what you said
Echoing in my head
And I’m losing… myself
Now I’m cold on the floor

She is not crying. She sends the stone skittering in front of her again. Should I disappear from your life? she had asked. Would that close the hole that I’ve opened in you?

That might be best, he had said. That might be best. Just leave me be. Just don’t hurt me again. I still love you. I want you to hate me. That would make everything easier, he had told her. Please hate me.

And I don’t care anymore
Cause it’s over… it’s over
I can feel, like it’s real
Now I can finally feel

She trembles. A car pulls up next to her. Large and black. A man looks out. Do you need a lift somewhere? he asks. Are you ok?

That destroys her. I’m fine, she says. But as he drives past her, she melts away. She slides away into the dirty, roadside puddles. She soaks into the pavement. She cries. She cannot stop. She remembers splitting a meal with him. She remembers scary stories, told late at night. She remembers making him laugh. She remembers being sad with him. And she cries. She turns her head away from the road, afraid of the blind pity. Hating herself for evoking it.

So I guess it’s over now
And you broke me down somehow
Now I’m faltering
I can see I can be

Goodbye, she says silently. This is goodbye. She screams it to herself. She kicks the stone again, closing her eyes and listening to the soft noises it makes. Goodbye. But the words are mangled, twisting themselves into other shapes. I love you. No… not I love you. Goodbye. Forever. That’s what he wants. Goodb--

I love you.

I can leave and shut you out
So I’m leaving now, somehow
As I slowly drown…

She cannot breathe. The world slides away. She will not stop walking. Leave me be, he had said. She was the worst thing that had ever happened to him. Love is touching souls, he had told her once. It was from a song. She had touched his soul. She had broken him.

She walks, kicking a stone along the highway. And somewhere, in a little house, not very far away, a telephone is silent.


The lyrics, in italics, are from the song "Finally," by Trust Company.