He glanced at the box disdainfully, his eyes lingering on it as it sat in the corner of the room. The box was nothing new, it had sat in the position it was in for several weeks now. For those weeks it had brought a bevy of emotions from him, ranging from anguish to sympathy. He simultaneously hated the box and loved it at the same time. He hated it because of what it stood for, but loved it because of who it stood for. The box was a representation of the last few years of his life, and the symbolism was completely derailing to his life. The box itself was simple, plain cardboard. Its surface was plain, it held no markings or anything to identify what was inside. The tape that held the box closed was meticulously placed so that all the edges were even, perfect. That was what she had been, perfection to a fault. He could still see her as she packed her belongings. She would take every effort to make sure things were neat and organized. There had been many more boxes than this one, each containing some piece of her that had been packed and taken away.

He was unsure as to how this box had been left behind. When he first noticed it sitting in the bare room that had been her art studio, her private sanctuary, he thought she must not have had room for it. She would be coming back for it, for if it had been in this room the contents must have been precious to her. He smiled briefly, thinking of her in what he had called her closet, the one place in his own apartment he had never been allowed to venture. It was the place where she created the magnificent pieces that earned her living.

Even after she left he found it difficult to walk through that door, afraid she might spring upon him from some shadowy corner and berate him for violating her most private of spaces. It had taken him a week to discover that she had left the box, as he had avoided the room out of habit. One day, though, he had been feeling particularly lonely and decided to step into the space. Always before when he knocked on the door and she opened it he could smell a wonderful mix of her and the paint. It was no different the day he ventured into the room after she had left, it was as if she was standing next to him, the smell of jasmine mixed with oil paints and the slight kick of thinner.

It had taken him a moment to notice the box in the middle of the room. It sat on the wooden floor, a monument to the things that had gone wrong in their lives. He was surprised to find it, being as thorough as she was she would never forget something from this room. He left it there, expecting to hear from her any day about picking it up. The days turned to a week, and he realized maybe she had forgotten. He moved the box to a corner in the living room one day after he called her. She didn’t answer, but he left a message saying it was still there and that she might want it. When she didn’t call back he was confused as to what to do.

Now he found himself sitting on his couch, staring at the box trying to decide what he should do with it. Perhaps he should open it. The thought crossed his mind every time he looked at it, but always before he had respected her privacy. Now, however, he knew that she would not be returning. With a sigh he stood, walked to the corner, and began to drag the heavy box toward the couch. He realized he was nervous. His heart was pounding so hard he could hear it in his own ears, and his hands trembled when he sliced the tape.

Balled up newspaper was the first thing he saw when he opened the flaps. This added to the suspense, and for a brief moment he cursed her for being so on top of things. One by one he removed the bits of newspaper, revealing a painting. It was of him when he was much younger. He was wearing an old red t-shirt, the one she hated so much, and the reason they had met. She was walking down the street, and he was sitting outside a coffee shop. She stopped just to tell him that the shirt looked awful on him. He bought her a cup of coffee and they fell in love.

He realized as he sat there that he had never seen this painting, she must have done it right after they had met and kept it for the memory. He set it aside and pulled another from the box, he was wearing that same t-shirt but was in a different place, he remembered being there but not wearing that shirt. There were several paintings in the box, of all sizes, and each one depicting him wearing that old t-shirt, despite the fact that she had forbidden him to wear it after that first day they met.

Each painting he picked up told a different story about them, the day they went hiking and got caught in a sudden rainstorm. They ran all the way back to his car, nearly a mile, through the freezing rain. When they made it back they did everything they could to dry off, wringing out their clothes. He remembered how beautiful she had been with her hair sticking to her face. They made love there while the lighting danced among the trees. The next painting was more somber, the day she had gotten the phone call about her parents. As soon as the voice over the phone told her she had collapsed onto the floor. He knelt beside her and she wept for hours while he stroked her hair.

On and on the paintings came from the box, a chronicle of their life together. The last one was the most simple, but the most devastating. It must have been painted the night they decided that things were not going to work out. Life had been fragile between the two of them towards the end. They both realized they had fallen in love with someone that no longer existed in the other person. The painting depicted the two of them separated by a deep chasm, both looking lovingly at the other, but unable to reach across the gap. Again he wore the red t-shirt, and he realized it was a symbol of who he had been, the man she had fallen in love with.

For hours he sat and looked at the paintings, then began to box them back up, making sure to put the in the correct order. She had moved on, he was no longer a part of her life and that was why she had left this box behind. He pushed the box back to the corner and looked around the apartment. It was mostly empty, as she had owned the majority of the things that had made the apartment look lived in. He made the decision to move out right then, and within the next week had packed his belongings and found a new place to live.

The new couple that moved into the apartment found it in good order, and were pleased to find a box of art sitting in a very bright room in a secluded part of the apartment. On top of the box was an old red t-shirt.

More at Synaptic Thought.