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“Who a person kisses, sleeps with, or even marriesis of no real consequence. It’s who a person misses in the middle of night who matters, who is of most importance.” — Beau Taplin.

Some days are difficult.

Most days are easy, and Dan rocks to the flow of simplicity and everyday life. Wake up, brew coffee, a cold shower, get ready for work, drink coffee, take Lily to school, work, pick Lily up at school, go home, change into at home clothes, have dinner, lounge, take his sleeping pills, go to sleep, repeat. Every goddamned given day.

It’s just how it is, and he’s thankful for how easy life ended up being; thankful that the waves of his life now make it seem like it’s just a pond with very few wind touches, and no longer the sea it used to be.

Dan tries not to think too much about most things, and he usually is very good at it. Lily is growing, almost six now, and her hair is exactly like his, and she loves it like she loves few things, asking him not to cut it and let it grow long past her waist, and he’s happy that she’s happy with herself from a young age. She’s going to be almost as tall as he is, he can tell, and smart like all hell, and if she got her mother’s blue eyes, he tries not to think about it too much.

Bonnie, the dog, was Lily’s pick, and she loves him to death. (“Lily, Bonnie is a girl’s name, and your dog is a boy, maybe we can-” “Mommy, I don’t care!” Dan laughs and laughs, “Bonnie is a nice name, Lily”.) Dan walks the dog on the weekends religiously, bringing Lily along, and it’s always a novelty – and Dan is glad it doesn’t wear off. 

Mary is nice. Mary is genuinely nice, and Dan wishes he could love her anywhere near where she loves him, but when all is said and done, he knows he doesn’t love her at all, and it stings just a bit when he thinks about it. Mary is nice, though, and it appears that, silently, she understands Dan on a level he almost doesn’t comprehends himself, and she doesn’t push. He’s thankful.

Most days are easy and simple, and Dan carries on ignoring most of life and loving Lily and being thankful for the small mercies. Most days are easy, but some are difficult, and on these days Dan wants to curl up in a little ball in order to breathe properly and cry until he’s drowning on his own tears.

On the difficult days, he drags himself around aimlessly, operating on autopilot. He’s a shell of a human being on most days, but on the difficult ones, it appears he has opened and everyone can see he’s empty inside.

He remembers being a teenager and thinking love didn’t exist. It was very much easier to believe as much. It was easier to think he’d never find anyone he’d love enough to want to build a family with, and to grow old with, and to share his life with.

Then, he found this someone.

He remembers it every day, the whole day, on repeat in his head like a scratched record. He remembers his voice, and his smell, and hard, broad shoulders, and how he was soft, but a soft Dan could sink his teeth and nails in, and how his hands worked on Dan, and he’d whisper I love you, I love you, I love you like it was both a curse and a prayer, and Dan never got tired of hearing it.

Dan remembers everything, and it burns like a motherfucker, because on the difficult days, Dan knows he’s open, and he’s not even bleeding from the inside out because he’s hollow, but everyone knows, everyone can see it in his empty eyes and slow movements, and Mary can see it, disguised behind an existential crisis, and she knows it, and everyone knows it and it haunts Dan.

He thinks it’s funny, from one side, that he takes sleeping pills on a daily basis, in order to sleep, but he doesn’t on bad days. If he were to think of it, he’d know he’s trying to hold on to his memories, even if they are painful, because it means they’re real. As it is, though, he doesn’t. He just wonders why he’s scared of falling asleep on bad days, if it’d make everything easier.

He retires to the guest’s bedroom, in the old hoodie from his young years, and cries freely, his mind a broken record of voices, and smells, and how to navigate a house he no longer lives in, and ideas for videos he no longer produces, and tastes, and Phil Phil Phil, and he just wants to die.

It’s late, or early, and he hears the door cracking open, and then there’s weight dipping the bed. Lily places herself in the space from where he has let go from his knees just a bit, and doesn’t ask any questions. She dries his tears with her fingers, and kisses his cheek, and places her little arm over his waist, and he passes his arm under her head, and inhales deeply for the first time since he laid down on the bed.

“I love you, daddy,” she says quietly, and he shakes a little.

“I love you, too, princess,” he whispers, shaken, and she smiles at him, and he smiles back.

He closes his eyes when she closes hers, and he thinks that when gets up it will be saturday, and he will walk Bonnie with Lily, and he will go on. He doesn’t have the love of his life, but there is a reason why he’s still alive. So he lives.