We sit on my balcony sharing a cigarette "you'll never like them"when the moon catches his face as he tilts it up in an exhale.A pale glow illuminates his pale skin.He almost looks as tired as he’s tried to convince me he isn’t. In and out In and out It smells hot and forced and like the bridge burning between us.We both have known for a while that the smell of fire wasn’t from my temperor his incessant need to contradict everything I said.It was from the foundation we ignited in the midst of our anger that we didn’t know we hadmade. The smoke is more consistent in its presence than he is in my life. A factor so comparative and prevalent it makes me feel comfortable once again.Like this is something we’ve always had between us.It’s something I find both beautiful and saddening.The meaning of losing somethingand gaining something else.Something we’ve long ago lost in each other. But I’m starting to feel it more in myself.I feel myself being comfortable with myself.I no longer have to rely on the smoke break length peace between us.Instead, I can find the same safety in my own head between my own walls.This is the reason it’s so easy to do this. I ask him why he breathes the smoke up “You’re just getting it back in your face like that” and he says it's because sometimes you have to send smoke signals to God in order for him to hearyour prayers.I nod and turn back to own prayers slowly turning into ash below me.Funny. There's no more maydays or pleas for answers when your fire is out. Will God still find a way to find our prayers if we have no way of making then known? "What will you do without me?" The exchange of reverence and reception is startled.I glance at him again from the corner of my eye.He has left the revealing light and instead went back to being in the shadows of the night.He looks smaller like this.He reminds me of the child waiting to hear that daddy wouldn’t be coming home anymore. I almost pity him. Still, I wait for his answer. "Where are you going?" He’s not going anywhere. He never has. His life has remained in this one stagnant spot for years.He’s plunged his roots too far deep into this ground that if he tried to leave, he would tear partsof himself out with it.He asks me instead.Almost in a way that he wished the answer would be anything then it will be.We’ve known this day would come for months.For months I’ve been telling him I was leaving.I’ve left pieces of myself in him—with him—that I know it’ll be hard as hell to find them again.He too has left pieces of himself in me. I glance back down at the cigarette and put it to my lips briefly.Not really breathing it in or anything, just wanting something, anything, besides the stiff silence between us.It's funny how no matter how many times you plan an escape no one believes you until your boatleaves shore. "College" I mutter it like it was a curse.To him it could have very well have been.Something that would curse him to a life of change. A something he has always thought would never happen.He takes a long pull of his cigarette and holds it in so long I believe him for death. But death does not take those who bask at its alter, no it takes those who run from him. Once he releases it back out, he gives a brief depressive laugh.It shakes me to the core and I believe for years to come, I’ll still hear it. "I've always believed it'd be you" There's no words exchanged after that but it's clear enough what's to be said.I know.I whisper it in the actions of stomping out the bud of the burned through cigarette in my hands.He gives me his acceptance in the form of handing me a new cigarette. One that is clean andnew, like this.It's hard to feed the need to love someone who will never love you back. There are only so many ways you can break yourself into pieces for someone. There's only so many ways your soul can spill out to redeem those around you.It gets hard when the only relief is to leave and they never know you're gone. Yet there's something beautiful in that.Something so profound in knowing you can build yourself back together.Even if they cannot love you, you can. I smile at him as I take a drag from the cigarette.This time I do welcome the burning in my chest.It almost feels like all the old emotions within me have gone away.I now have the chance to be new. The bottom hue of the cigarette is a warm orange.The kind that makes you feel safe and happy.It’s welcoming as well as a form of finality.I exhale the smoke out in the space between us. There's no need for smoke signals when you've finally made it out the fire. "It still will be me. Just not for you" He huffs a bit and I chuckle softly. Just because my boat is no longer lead to his lighthouse, that doesn't mean I have no destinationMaybe this time, I'll find new land and this one will have dance instead of somber hearts,welcoming joy instead of blacked lungs. I place the cigarette back in his hands and stand up. It’s still burning but only for a while. The irony of it doesn’t miss me. I have always been one for dramatics.Whether appropriate or not. Towering over him like this brings him to a new light. The sun reflects of his alabaster skin in a way that makes him look sunken.A mournful smile graces my face now.He has always looked like life took too much out of him.Like I took too much out of him. I run my fingers through his hair and the waves of them cascade down my hands.He signs and closes his eyes."At one time, it was you too" He keeps his eyes closed even as I take my hands from his hair and walk away.I take a step even as my heart thanks him for it all.For the conversations, for the confirmation of my potential, for the life we almost had We were good together for the time A time spent in elegance and knowledge of a tomorrow we didn't think we possessedIt took time to remember I will be okay And he will too Sometimes I still think of him as if he were still there. Waiting. Now, I just hope it’s no longer for me.