Mosaic of Broken Everything

By Evelyn Martinez
May 2, 2023

You’ve haunted me for so long now I’ve given up trying to get rid of you.

Standing by the bus stop, I feel you sneak up on me. I don’t want to look at you but I can feel your arm next to mine. I can see your breath, hot and heavy in the cold January air. I wave down the bus as you tell me you love the color of my hair in the winter. You reach out to touch it but your fingers don’t make it that far.

It’s been over a year since you told me to lose your number. I was in denial for a while, texting you and letting the messages fail to deliver. I’d tell you about new shows you’d probably like, new movies we’d love, people we could make fun of. I’d imagine what you’d say to me in response.

The night before your birthday, two months since our demise, I was getting ready to go out for the first time without you. I thought about driving by your house after, the same way I did the last time I saw you. New Years Eve spent in my car before you ruined everything. So much of you consumed my mind. It was overfilling, spilling out into my room, my world, my whole life. My future looked like a white canvas covered in your red handprints. Sitting on my bed, you asked if I needed help zipping up my dress. I was scared shitless [HOW DARE YOU SHOW UP LIKE THIS?], but hearing your voice plugged the open wounds I’d been walking around with for so long.

“Did you wear that just for me?” you asked. I hesitated, averting my eyes from your burning gaze.

“Everything I do is for you,” I responded.

Bebe texted me she was outside and I left you alone. By the time we made it to the restaurant, you were already inside waiting.

You showed me this place, a pan-Asian fusion in the middle of Corpus Christi, Texas. You were the first person to get me to try something different. I still have your order memorized. Would it be wrong to tell her being here reminds me of you, that your ghost is in the chair next to mine, staring me down like an animal? She used to know you well, but I don’t think you’d ever claim her now. [YOU LIKED ACTING AS IF WE WERE LOWER THAN YOU.]

“You need to stop simmering in it.”

Bebe’s words snaked up and wrapped themselves around me, pulling me down and planting my feet on the ground.

“I know you’re not here with me,” she said. “Stop simmering in it and start getting over it.”

“I am getting over it.”

She laughed at me, her expression dripping with pity. But I wasn't lying to her, I was getting over it. Who knew me better than I did? How could I possibly be healing my own wounds wrong?

I get it, you’re showing up wherever I go. It’s unnatural. But what if this is the best I can do? I am a mosaic of every person that has ever left me. I sit in my agony for much longer than anybody else would and that’s just how it’s always been. I’m shaped and broken and put back together at the mercy of those I love. If I disentangle myself from you I’m not sure how much will be left of me.

I hoped moving back to Austin would be enough, but you’re still here.

Every time I see you it feels the same. It’s like the smell before rain, unmistakable. Sometimes when I’m cooking I hear the fizz of carbonation from the Ramune you used to drink, or late at night when I’m smoking alone I’ll hear a lighter clicking in the distance, or the sound of joysticks popping as you mutter expletives under your breath when I’m trying to sleep. It’s an unshakeable feeling. I get on the bus and pray to God you don’t follow me, but of course you do.

The bus is full but you find room to stand next to me. Your breath tickles my neck and your voice is full of honey. Words drip down my back, coating my sweater, filling my ears. I can’t hear anything else. The world goes dark and I’m back in your Nissan where we’ve parked by the shore back home. We knew that place better than anyone else. It was public and a tourist trap and the dirty bay water made everything smell like shit but all that mattered was that it was ours. I remember sitting on the beach and pulling a brown seashell out of the wet sand. It was bigger than my hand.

“Doesn’t this remind you of me?” you asked.

“Of course it does,” I told you.


I don’t know how much longer I can take it. I haven’t slept. My dreams are haunted by the ghost of you: my best friend, my ex-friend, “the love of my life.” We went through hellfire [JUST FOR YOU TO FORGET IT ALL]. We fought together and against each other, got torn apart just to find ourselves again on the other side of the war, adorned with the same scars in the same places. I remember how much you hated your ex-boyfriend and how much I hated mine. We talked about it endlessly, and I remember thinking what we had was so special, so different. I was honored to be the level-headed person in your abrasive world. I was honored that you loved me when it seemed you were incapable of doing so with anybody else. I used to think it was sweet how everyone hated you and, eventually, the both of us. I don’t blame them; we were germs, full nihilists, poisoning every well we came across. [YOU SHAPED ME OUT OF A SIMILAR MOLD TO YOURS, FILLED ME IN WITH YOUR COLORS, JUST TO THROW ME OUT ONCE I LOOKED TOO MUCH LIKE YOU.] But none of it mattered to me because we had each other, we understood the world in ways no one else did, and I believed those outside of our orbit deserved to suffer for it.

We were both writers and I always loved everything you made. The first time you published a piece of yours, it wasn’t about me. But every one that came after it was. [GOING THROUGH YOUR WORK FEELS LIKE WALKING THROUGH A GRAVEYARD WHERE EVERY GRAVE HAS BEEN DUG UP AND DESECRATED. YOU NEVER REALLY UNDERSTOOD LOVE, DID YOU?] The way you carried yourself and talked about your art was mesmerizing. When I watched you it was with the eyes of an artist. You were my muse, my reference photo. The best pieces I’ve ever written have you splattered all over them. Half of my words are yours. [WORDS STOLEN OFF THE BACKS OF THE DEAD YOU LEFT BEHIND. YOUR ABSENCE HAS PROVEN MORE FRUITFUL TO MY ART THAN YOUR PRESENCE.] Now it feels like writing is all I have. Translating my pain into words put onto a blank page and hoping you find yourself trapped within them. [A FITTING JAIL CELL FOR YOUR TYPE OF PRISONER.]

Healing is not, has never been, and never will be defined by one schema. This is how I heal, by letting you haunt me indefinitely. [WE’VE FOUND OURSELVES IN THE CROWD OF A CONCERT FOR A BAND YOU INTRODUCED ME TO. I KNOW YOU FEEL MY PRESENCE. I HOPE IT FEELS LIKE WHEN YOU WERE LITTLE AND SAW A MONSTER AT THE EDGE OF YOUR BED.] I heal by letting your presence wander for as long as it needs to. I let my hands take care of me in ways you never could, writing out everything I should’ve told you and everything I should’ve done. [YOU’RE STRAPPED TO THE BENCH WE MARKED WITH OUR KNIVES AND CIGARETTES. YOU’RE DOUSED IN GASOLINE AND I WATCH AS YOU’RE SET AFLAME. I STEP BACK AS THE FIRE NIPS AT MY SKIRT.]

The bus stops and I’m briefly brought to Earth again. I thank the bus driver and step out into the biting cold. It’s gray and sad and freezing, our favorite time of year. A year since the last time I saw you,  I make my way to my first class. I head to the back of the room, where you’re waiting for me.

Let me take ten years to forget you. I won’t mind it. [I HOPE I HAUNT YOU IN WORSE WAYS THAN YOU HAUNT ME.] ■

Layout: Jaycee Jamison 

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