“I’m not gone yet,” the man said.

But the girl could not take a deep breath, without the tears coming, so she laid very still, and took only very small breaths, waiting to see what would happen next. She could not imagine being without him, though she was not very good at being with him.

He was the first man she had ever loved. He taught her how to pee in the woods. He fed her oysters for the first time. He told her that he was always right, and she believed him, even when he said she was sexy, and smart, and funny. He raised his eyebrows at her when she got too sassy.

He raised his eyebrows at her often.

When he touched the girl, her world became quiet. Nothing existed outside of his skin on hers. In those moments, she was safe, and she belonged to him.

Sometimes the girl was afraid he would realize that she was not sexy in the least, she was not smart at all, and that he only thought she was funny, because he really wasn’t. The girl knew that when that day came, he would find another girl, a better girl, who was everything she wasn’t, and she would be alone again.

Sometimes he was afraid that the girl would never understand how much he loved her, and wanted her to be happy. He wanted to be the one to make her happy, but there was only so much happiness he could give her, and he tried to teach her that she would have to find happiness in other places too: in other things, in other people, and in herself.

The girl tried to be happy, even as she could not breathe. “I’m not gone yet,” he had told her, but still, she felt him turning away.

She didn’t know what else to say.

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