January 20, 2010

[Photo courtesy of Lauren]

It had been built in the 1850’s to contain those infected by smallpox – keeping them from infecting the rest of the city. It was meant to be a hospital, but it closed around people like a Gothic granite quarantine. It closed after 100 years and was left vacant and unprotected to time and the elements, becoming a shell of its former self, earning the distinction of “New York’s ‘only landmarked ruin.’”

I felt a special kinship with the hospital.

Except the city took pains to illuminate the structure at night in effort to raise funds to stabilize the building.

I lacked stabilization; felt as though I was going to break apart at any minute.

Like if I didn’t spend every moment of the day concentrating on keeping it together, my heart was going to explode out of my chest and flop around on the floor like a fish until it finally stopped from sheer exhaustion and pain.

Because that’s what happens when you’re ruined.

You’d told me that we were too different.
That my job was taking me nowhere.
That your job was making you travel too much.
That you were scared to move forward with me.
That I was too good for you.
That you’d loved me too much.
That you loved me but weren’t “in love” with me.

There were whole host of contrasting messages – none of them answered my question: “Why wasn’t I enough for you?”

When I closed my eyes I could almost feel your hands on me.
When I went to sleep, I slept “just so” and could feel your arms cradling me if I really tried.
When I was silent I could hear your breath in my ear.
I listened to old saved voicemails to hear your voice.
If left alone in the apartment I would have shared with you, I could hear your laugh echo down the hall.

You visited me once after you left.

It was three in the morning and we’d engaged in a lame text message back-and-forth about who should go to whose house. We both knew what we were getting into. We both knew it was just sex. And we both knew damn well that it was the worst thing we could do and it didn’t even make us pause.

We made awkward conversation – your voice heavier and more tired than I remembered. I offered to heat you a cup of day-old coffee, which you accepted – a fact I was glad for because it gave me something to do with my hands.

And while I was rummaging in the cabinets for a mug, I felt your hands on my hips. Your breath on the back of my neck. And your lips gently closing around my earlobe.

The coffee stayed cold.

And I spent the night focusing on the sound of your breathing and watching the rise and fall of your chest until I fell asleep.

You weren’t there when I woke up. The apartment was oddly silent, given how intently I’d been focusing on every sound you made.

There’d been another sound that night –
a softer one, that wasn’t yours –
that was like eggshells being crushed under a heavy cloth.

That was my heart breaking. I wondered if you’d heard it.


Words by Joy @ Big Time Fancy


11 Responses to “Ruins”

  1. “If left alone in the apartment I would have shared with you, I could hear your laugh echo down the hall.”

    Nice work.

    I love that, to me, the bolded part seems like it would have been spoken a little bit softer than the rest of it.

  2. lady, this is amazing. serious. love it (and you.)

  3. Jenn said

    This is amazing Joy. Seriously. Amazing.

  4. Hope said

    ‘Eggshells being crushed under a heavy cloth That was my heart breaking.’


  5. […] And I wrote today. […]

  6. Ben said

    Oh the pressure…the PRESSURE.

    Next time we pick one person who sucks in order to make the late-week folks look better.





  7. rondamarie said

    Beautifully written.

  8. the ‘contrasting messages’ said it all for me.

  9. Ashley said

    Wow. Just….wow. This was simply gorgeous. I think my heart broke just a little bit.

  10. […] Because that’s what happens when you’re ruined. More… […]

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