At first, the blur was like the first rays of spring sunshine leaking through their curtains and unto their bed. His face, until then rugged and scarred, was much softer that morning.
“You look younger!” She smiled when he came out of the bathroom. It was the first time she had seen him clean shaven. When they met five years ago, a thick, dark beard concealed acne scars and an old, jagged cut still visible on his cheekbone.
He had never told her he got that scar in a schoolyard fight nor that it went down to his jaw, but she could see traces of the story in the way his hands waved nervously as he spoke. Maybe this new man would be different, she hoped. Maybe the blur will erase his fear. Maybe his words will no longer dance around the truth.
Her hope kept her from wondering why or when the blur had started. What did his skin feel like? Did he feel as light as he seemed? She tried to pierce his armour as he sipped his coffee in a hurry, already late for work, but the boat was too fragile to be rocked.
Still, their days changed very little. They read together in the evenings, and spent too much time deciding which movie to watch on a Saturday night, and went for walks in the park on Sundays, holding hands, dreaming of getaways that’d save what they had built. He still sang to her to make her smile. She still cut his hair every three weeks.
“Does it hurt?,” she frowned as he examined his face in the bathroom mirror one cool October morning.
His face looked flatter, less defined. The aquiline nose and the lines of eyebrows and lips looked smudged, freezing the expression on his face.
“You should get this checked,” she dared, at last.
“I’ll manage,” he tried to reassure her, but his words came our slurred. He could’ve told her how much easier it was to breath as his memories faded with his features, but she didn’t understand anymore. Perhaps time had stolen her patience, or maybe her arms were too tired from pulling the cart on her own for so long, with him watching from the sidewalk, no longer cheering her on.
Words took such a long time and effort that their conversations grew shorter, reduced to the most essential. Traces of words and images from the past remained like footprints on the sand, but the pain of remembering that plagued his nightmares was barely a dull ache. He slept so deeply now.
By the middle of winter, the mirror no longer had a face to show him in the mornings, and he stopped going to work. He could feel the stares sharp as knives as he walked by and her uneasiness at the attention he brought upon them.
Little by little, he noticed her flinching when he touched her. “You’re cold,” she’d whisper before walking away, and he wondered if he got colder the less she recognised him. Sometimes he didn’t recognised himself, either. His voice was merely a grunt, his mouth sealed shut, his skin stone cold. He didn’t mean to scare her, but sometimes the only way to reach her was to break a glass or two.
He tried not to blame her for leaving, but sometimes he was still angry at the silence that filled her absence. Day by day, her laughter faded from his memory. He could no longer remember how they met or when he realised he loved her. Curled up in bed, holding on to the last traces of perfume in her pillow, he wondered if he’d ever get himself back from the grave of oblivion.
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