It's Day 139. I know that to anyone else in the world, today might just be the start to another day, another routine, another chance.
Well, it's not to me.
I will spend today the way I seem to spend most days now: running from his memory. Or my own memories. I don't even know anymore.
He lingers everywhere here. He is in the kitchen when I go to get a bowl of cereal in the morning and I find it's not been eaten behind my back.
He is on the balcony, hands clenched around the cold iron rail, his face tipped up to the sun and the wind in his hair. He is pointing excitedly at the sunrise, the one time we were up early enough to see it, his body leaning precariously over the rail, stretching his fingers out as if that beautiful swath of oranges and pinks and purples is all his very own. He is smiling, telling me how beautiful it is, but all I can think of is how beautiful he looks with all the colors of the morning streaked through his cerulean eyes, mixing with the laughter that already shimmers there, just beneath the surface.
He is there as I settle on my bed and flip open my Mac, preparing to edit a video I've been working on. I feel him crawl onto my bed after me and position himself to where he can see over my shoulder, settling as close as possible. He makes little suggestions here and there whenever I get stuck, but for the most part he's silent, just watching me work. Sometimes, if I close my eyes and concentrate hard enough, I can even feel his breath, a faint brush of cool air against my warm cheek. I don't turn around, even though I want to, so much.
I'm too afraid of what the empty bedspread behind me will do to my already shattered heart.
Just the thought of it is enough to reopen old wounds, and I turn my face away and hope that he doesn't see the tears in my eyes. I know it will just make him upset as well, and someone like him should never have to worry over someone like me.
Day 362, and I'm still the same. The apartment feels lonelier than ever as I circle about it aimlessly, searching for something that I can never seem to find.
Finally, I settle in front of my laptop in the living room and open a browser window. It is only as I nervously scroll through the comments of my new video, searching out criticism as is my nature, that I realize what I have been looking for.
I stumble to my feet and somehow manage to find my way down the hallway and into his abandoned bedroom through my blurred vision. As I collapse onto his bed, burying my face in his pillow, I try not to dwell on the fact that I have been waiting for his kind, gentle voice to inform me that haters are irrelevant and I and my video are flawless.
My soul aches, and the only thing I want in the world is to feel the comforting warmth of his arms wrapped around me, grounding me as the soft, lazy cadence of his voice soothes away my fears.
Instead, I can't even find a remnant of his scent left in the pillow and my body collapses inwards on itself, unable to bear the pain any longer.
It is days like this that I can't find his memory or hear his voice, and no matter how many times I pace the flat, lost, calling out to him, I don't hear a reply.
When the shockwaves of pain gradually fade to a distant throb and my breath doesn't tremble over my lips quite so terribly, I finally retrieve the letter he wrote for me the day before he left, locked away in the top drawer of my desk. I read it outside on the balcony, the dark stains of ink on the immaculate page illuminated solely by the flickering light of a cloud-dusted moon.
My eyes go straight to the words I need to hear the most, and my thumb ghosts over them, searching for something tangible, something of him left in the wavering letters. The words are slightly blurred from how many times I have run my fingers across them, but they still mean as much to me now as they did the first time I read them.
I know I am never going to be able to properly sum up my feelings for you in words, but I wanted you to have something of me to keep with you in the times ahead. When it gets hard, or you're uncertain about something, whether it be what humanity is supposedly doing in this world, or just what you should talk about on the radio next week, I want you to be able to find comfort and reassurance in me even when I'm not there to tell you personally how wonderful you are. I guess I just thought this would be the best way to do it.
I know you always say I could never love you as much as you love me, but I don't see how that's even possible. What I feel for you is wholly indescribable and how it came about is even more so. Although, because the denial was so strong, I think that made the eventual surrender even sweeter, so I'm definitely not going to complain. As for what I feel, all I can tell you is this:
When I look into your eyes, Dan, I see my whole world reflected back at me, and I see your own immeasurable love for me present there as well, and it feels like coming home.
When I see your smile, it brings back the countless hours we have spent together over the years, losing ourselves in losing track of time, and I feel myself reliving each and every one of those moments each time you meet my gaze with laughter in your eyes.
Late at night, when I can't sleep and my mind is a mess, all you need to do is reach over and intertwine your fingers with mine, and my mind clears. My whole body relaxes into that familiar unity, and once I press my nose into your shoulder and breathe you in, sleep is the easiest thing in the world.
When your lips touch mine, always slowly at first and then gradually deepening as we give way to some deeper passion, the very blood in my veins burns like a fire that can only be satisfied by your touch, and just like that, I am completely yours.
After we first met, I spent all of my nights wishing upon shooting stars that one day, somehow, just maybe, you might be mine and that we might spend our days unraveling the tangled mess of life together. When you catch me just staring at you sometimes, on days when we sit in comfortable silence, each lost to our own thoughts, it is because I have never stopped believing that this is all a dream, and that one day I will wake up still wishing upon shooting stars.
'I love you' seem like such simple words after all of these more complicated aspects of that thought, but it is what I have been trying to tell you this whole letter. I love you more than all the drops of water in the sea, all the grains of sand on all of the beaches, and all the stars in the sky, Dan Howell, and I always will. For better or for worse, I am yours.
I close my eyes and turn my face up to the stars he once placed all of his hopes in, and for a fleeting moment, I am whole again.
Somewhere around 900, I think. My mind has slowly lost count of the days I once tracked so carefully as the numbers begin to lose meaning. What does it matter? It is another day without him, another day where I will isolate myself from the outside world and speak to the ghost of himself that he has left here to haunt me where I once used to speak my thoughts to him.
The sun rises and the sun sets, and the moon continually follows in its wake, bringing with it the tiny pinpricks of light that represent a thousand unknown worlds.
I don't look at them anymore. I don't think I could bear it. They speak of a love that even now still burns through my soul, unravelling it thread by thread until I fear that the very thing that once built me up will now destroy me.
I've stopped with the videos. I don't know if I'll ever pick it up again- everything about it reminds me of him and where I once used to seek him out, I now try to avoid the things that bring him back most vividly. If I could bear to give up the flat, I would.
Still, I find myself in his room in the early hours of the morning, curled into a bed that has long ago lost his scent, giving into the part of me that will never stop searching for him, the part that still, after all these years, is waiting for him to come back to me.
I whisper the words I wish I could have told him like a mantra every night, hoping that somewhere in the world, wherever he is now, he might somehow be able to hear them and know all of the thoughts I was never able to completely articulate out loud.
Phil Lester, I have never forgotten you for a heartbeat and I still love you more than you will ever know.
The only reason I even open the door is because there is no food in the house, and I have finally persuaded myself that he would not want me to starve to death; he would want me to brave the outside world long enough to at least make it to the small shop at the corner of the street.
I don't believe in anything anymore, and I haven't seen anything I would call beautiful in even longer. I think I am beginning to fade enough that these things no longer matter.
So why then, when I finally open the door and find myself staring into twin pools of depthless turquoise, do these feelings come back so effortlessly, as if they had never gone? Why do those 600, 800, thousands of days I have spent waiting for him seem like nothing more than a heartbeat? Why is it as if he had never even been gone when he practically falls into my arms, repeating my own name brokenly into my shoulder?
We stumble back into the flat and I am holding him as if I am never going to let him go, my hands touching everywhere they can reach, caressing his back, threading through hair even softer than I remember, never able to get enough of him.
He pulls back from my shoulder and meets my eyes, and there are tears streaming down his cheeks. He is staring at me, waiting for me to speak, but my throat is so choked with emotion that the only thing I can do is swipe my thumbs across his cheek bones, wiping away the tears as they fall.
I'm not even aware that I'm crying myself until he leans up and brushes away the tears with his lips, and just like that, all of the remaining walls come down and his mouth is pressing desperately against my own, a sensation I haven't felt outside of my memories in so, so long. He tastes of everything I have longed for and more- long nights spent with our bodies hopelessly intertwined, of nights spent stepping along the rims of glowing fountains, his hand in mine, his smile, his laugh, and as he tilts his head and deepens the kiss, I melt completely into him, giving myself over to him in an instant.
When we finally draw apart, I'm breathless, my whole body trembling faintly as our foreheads come together and I am inches away from his crystalline eyes.
"Dan," he breathes, a tortured expression stealing across his face, "I'm so sorry. I tried for so long. I-"
I cut him off by leaning forward to press another kiss to his lips, this one gentle and lingering. I draw back slowly, and his eyes are half-closed, gazing at me with so much love and adoration that I think I feel my heart stop.
"It's okay," I tell him, my arms settling around his waist, still holding him close to me. "I knew you would come back. I always knew. Oh, Phil."
And as we lie together on my bed in the depths of the night, in the aftermath of so much raw emotion, the very same that had festered in my soul for all those years, I look out the window that Phil had opened and I see the stars, and I remember the words I had saved for him through all the nights when I had lain here alone.
I find his blue eyes, two pieces of quicksilver in the darkness, and I whisper urgently, "Phil, I don't know if you know, but I have always loved you so much, beyond measure. I can't believe I never said it before."
His eyes have a mischievous glint in them as he asks, "More than all those stars outside that window?"
And in reply, I capture his lips again, murmuring into them, "Yes, more than the stars, Phil. Of course."
With a contented hum, he pulls me against him, and all of the tension in my body melts away, completely at ease as I nestle against him, burying my face in the crook of his neck.
I am almost completely asleep when I feel the words breathed against my skin, and I imagine them seeping through and warming my entire body.
"I'm glad, because there was never a single night when I looked at them and didn't think of you, and how much you meant to me, and how much I love you still."
Day one thousand, eight hundred and- Fuck numbers. I was never any good with them anyway.