Marija left 10 days ago.
Marija packed her bags, her books and her life and went back to her Estonia.
I remember the night before she left like a distant memory. I remember the touch of her lips upon mine, as we sat on the couch sitting in silence. An hour later, we were both exhausted, but happy. I watched her walk to her cupboard and there was nothing there except a book. It was “This side of Paradise” by F Scott Fitzgerald, and she handed it to me. I opened the book and on the inside cover, she had scribbled her name and a few words. There was a letter folded in there and she told me to read it when I went home. I walked back home, through the winding streets and apartment buildings that stood like giant sentries of the night. If I felt anything then, 9 days ago, I felt elation. Weeks of listless nothingness and a calm that felt more fragile by the day, and 9 days ago the colours and the sounds returned to the fore.
What I could not have predicted were the words on the letter. I knew somewhere, in the vast tangle of neurons of my brain, that she would leave. But those words on the paper were a bur of incomprehensible grief, something that I could never, for the life of me understand. She left no reason as to why she left. She wrote:
I am leaving as you read this. I will miss you.
Admittedly, this was no letter but a note. 10 days have gone by and every moment of my life is spent wondering where in Estonia she is now. Does she see the ghosts of her lost country? Does she smell the corpses wrapped up in white sheets as they are buried in long due graves? I keep asking myself the reason behind her departure. I can’t find any. I knew that she wasn’t happy here, perched atop an old communist-era apartment building, drowned in alcohol and substance abuse. The light was gone from her eyes and then from her life and now, she was home.
If there was any grieving on my part, it is now over. I spent the days sitting at my desk, unable to think, unable to walk or speak because everything, from the sun and the breeze reminded me of her. I see her in my dreams. I wish she was here but there is nothing I could do but dream. I dream about her and I wake, looking for her for a few seconds, until I realize that she is gone. I often ask myself if she will return, I hope she does but she probably won’t. This city was her defeat, I was a reminder that she needed help. Little does she know that every moment spent with her was a lifetime of peace, as if I had walked back home over and over again.
Her note lies on my desk now, amid a packet of Old Holborn and cigarette tubes. I roll my own cigarettes, that way I choose the amount of tobacco I wish to smoke and I also control the number of cigarettes I smoke. There is a soothing rhythm to filling the tobacco in the cigarette tube, a certain skill and art to it, a meditative calm in the mechanical skill in the motion of my fingers. Old Holborn’s blonde blend reminds me of Marija because it tastes like her, Scotch and honey and a tang of spice somewhere. Every time I smoke a cigarette, I can feel her lips, her soft skin on my fingers. I miss her.