The days were getting longer, the early morning sky streaked with dull sunlight when he rose now, the clouds like a pane of frosted glass through which the light struggled to shine. Henry folded the last of Stephanie’s clothes into a black trash bag, depositing the pink summer dress into the recesses of the dark plastic with some tenderness.
He had heard once that the whole point of living was to gain practice at letting go, since, after all, life moved inevitably towards death, the ultimate release of control. If that was true, and he wasn’t certain it was, Henry now considered himself quite well-practiced.
Stephanie’s side of the closet was finally empty, save for the white hangers dangling like tree branches picked clean of fruit. She hadn’t left much behind, but what had remained in the wake of her departure had taken Henry the better part of six months to dispose of. He rose in the small hours of the morning to unhook and fold shirts, dresses, trousers, and skirts. It was the only time he could bear to do it; when the sun had barely risen, or not bothered rising at all, and the room they had once shared lay enfolded in shadows.
Letting go felt easier in the dark, when he couldn’t make out his hands moving over worn fabric, stretched into the shape of her hips or her breasts or her shoulders. When the day did begin, Henry would peer into the closet and pretend the clothes had never been there – that it had all been a dream, in the small hours of the morning, a dream of a soft, smiling woman, with small hands and a shivery smile, who had chosen her freedom over his love, and it didn’t have to hurt because it hadn’t really happened. He could let go.
The trash bag of clothes bumped against the back of his leg as he carried it down to the apartment complex’s donation dumpster. The day’s first feeble rays of sunlight refracted in the fog. A crow called as it passed overhead. The dumpster’s door creaked open and clanged shut, sounding like the opening bell of a market place. Time to let go.
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