I’ll have to think of all the hope I had. Of how I fooled myself into thinking that I was a miracle. Of how the world I wanted to be a part of so badly didn’t want me back.

I have to let Olly go. I’ve learned my lesson. Love can kill you and I’d rather be alive than out there living.

I once told Olly that I knew my own heart better than I knew anything else, and it’s still true. I know the places in my heart, but the names have all changed.

Map of Despair

Life is Short™

Spoiler Reviews by Madeline

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Nausea by Jean-Paul SaRtre

Spoiler alert: Everything is nothing.

Select All, Delete


I’m stronger with each passing day. Nothing hurts except my heart, but I’m trying not to use it. I keep the blinds closed. I read my books. Existential or nihilist ones. I have no patience for books that pretend life has meaning. I have no patience for happy endings.

I don’t think about Olly. He sends me e-mails that I trash without reading.

After two weeks I’m strong enough to resume some classes. Another two weeks and I’m able to resume all of them.

I don’t think about Olly. I trash still more of his e-mails.

My mom is still trying to fix me. She hovers. And worries and fusses and administers. Now that I’m stronger she coaxes me back into our mother-daughter nights. Like Olly, she wants our lives to go back to the way they were before. I don’t enjoy our nights together—I don’t really enjoy anything—but I do it for her. She’s lost even more weight. I’m alarmed and don’t know how to fix her, so I play Fonetik Skrabbl and Honor Pictionary and watch movies and pretend.

Olly’s e-mails stop.

“I’ve asked Carla to come back,” she says one night after dinner.

“I thought you didn’t trust her anymore.”

“But I trust you. You learned your lesson the hard way. Some things you just have to experience for yourself.”


The next day, Carla bustles in. Her bustle is even bustlier than normal, and she pretends no time has passed at all.

She gathers me up immediately. “I’m sorry,” she says. “It’s all my fault.”

I hold myself stiff against her, not wanting to dissolve. If I cry, everything will be real. I really will have to live this life. I really will never see Olly again.

I try to hold out but I can’t. She’s the soft pillow you’re supposed to cry into. Once I start, I don’t stop for an hour. She’s soaked and I don’t have any tears left. Can you reach the end of tears? I wonder.

I answer my own question by crying some more.

“How’s your mama?” she asks when I finally stop.

“She doesn’t hate me.”

“Mamas don’t know how to hate their babies. They love them too much.”

“But she should. I’m a terrible daughter. I did a terrible thing.”

More tears leak out, but Carla wipes them away with the side of her hand.

“And your Olly?”

I shake my head at her. I would tell Carla anything, but not this. My heart is too bruised and I want to keep the pain as a reminder. I don’t want sunlight on it. I don’t want it to heal. Because if it does, I might be tempted to use it again.

We settle back into our normal routine. Each day is like the one before and not much different from the next. Madam, I’m Adam. I’m working on a model of a library with an Escher-like interior of staircases that end midstep and go nowhere. From Outside, I hear a rumble and then a beeping. This time I immediately know what it is.

At first I don’t go to the window. But Carla does and narrates what she sees. It’s a moving van—Two Brothers Moving. The brothers get out of the van and unload dollies and empty boxes and packing tape. They talk to Olly’s mom. Kara and Olly are there. There’s no dad in sight, she says.

My curiosity gets the better of me, and I’m at the window peering out the other side of the curtain. Carla’s right. Olly’s dad is nowhere to be found. Olly and Kara and his mom seem frantic. They rush in and out of the house, leaving packed boxes or bulging plastic garbage bags on the porch for the movers to load onto the truck. No one’s talking. I can tell his mom is nervous even from here. Every few minutes Olly stops and pulls her into a hug. She clings to him and he pats her back. Kara doesn’t join them. She smokes openly now, ashing her cigarette directly onto the porch.

I’m trying not to focus on Olly, but it’s impossible. My heart doesn’t care at all what my brain thinks. I see the exact moment that he feels my eyes on him. He stops what he’s doing and turns. Our eyes meet. It’s different than that first time. The first time was all about possibility. Even then, some part of me knew that I would love him.

This time is about certainty. I already know that I love him, and I know now that I won’t stop.

He raises his hand to wave. I let go of the curtain, turn away, and press my back against the wall, breathing hard.

I wish I could undo the last few months of knowing him. I would stay in my room. I would hear the truck beeping next door and I would remain my on my white couch in my white room reading my brand-new books. I would remember my past and then I would remember not to repeat it.

Neighborhood Watch #3

HIS Dad’s schedule

9:00 AM - Leaves for work

8:30 PM - Sways unsteadily up the porch and into the house. Already drunk?


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