There’s lipstick on the edge of her water bottle.
It’s a red wound slashed on the white plane of the lip of the bottle. It’s raspberry juice spilled on cream colored marble, it’s fresh cherries on snow, it’s blood matted on ivory feathers, and it’s so so there, like an execution you can’t look away from.
It’s the only thing in the room that hits me. I’ve cleaned out her wardrobe, inhaled the week old perfume on her dirty clothes, packed up the books that she had destroyed with her infatuation. I scrubbed at the stubborn puddle of bluebird nail polish on her dining room table until my arm ached, and I extracted every lost coin from the depths of her stained charcoal couch.
But it’s this goddamn water bottle, this glass container with a white rim and and click top, this cherry red stain. It was her favorite, the one that makes a popping sound when opened and that could always put a smile on her face, the one they wouldn’t let her take into Disneyland and the one that you could always tell was hers by the vermilion colored lipstick splash on the stark white lip.
I stop in the middle of my dishwashing and hold it in my hand, thinking about the way her smile would curve around the glass, the same way it would curl around my own. Thinking about the way she could never drink from it without spilling a waterfall down the caverns of her neckline at least once a day. And that color, oh that dark, sexy red that never failed to grace the curves and the mountains of her full mouth, the color that found its way onto the edges of all of my white shirts. It was the color that she’d always paint her nails when she went home so that her mother didn’t notice she’d been biting her cuticles again, and the lipstick left behind kisses of pigment on her fingers.
She was wearing it the first time I saw her, stretched into a grin over the same red blotch on her coffee cup, her smile a blinding wide beam that dropped ten stories when she tripped over my long legs and her caffeine went flying. Later, she told me about her writing and her dog over a fresh new cup, and I told her jokes about my failed MFA and my empty bank account. She left a sheer tint of crimson on my cheek when she left, and I felt the color shoot fire through my skin and burn me alive.
She told me on our third date, in front her favorite painting at the MOMA, that it was called Rimmel Kate Moss 107, and she never left the house without it. We held hands on the walk back to my apartment and this time, she left the ruby shade smeared across my pillows. The next morning after she left, I went down to Walgreens and enlisted the help of a nineteen year old girl to find out what the hell a Rimmel Kate Moss 107 was, and I bought three tubes.
When I presented the lipstick to her, she laughed and kissed me, and mentioned that none of her boyfriends had ever bought her lipstick before, or even liked it on her lips in the first place. I asked if I was really her boyfriend and she kissed me again.
When I went over to her place, there was an imprint of her mouth on the white stripe that cascaded the bridge of her beagle’s nose. We could always tell whose wine glass was whose, and when I took her to Thanksgiving dinner and she left her trusty red tube in my parent’s bathroom, I had an extra one waiting in the glove compartment of my car.
On Christmas day, she gave me a box wrapped in plain white paper, and the only decoration marring the clean surface was one stamp of her lips, painted Rimmel Kate Moss 107. I told her I loved her for the first time that day, in the middle of an ice rink rimmed by fairy lights. When we went to her boss’s New Year’s party, she wore a deep forest green dress and at midnight, left scarlet on the side of my mouth. In March I held her hair back while she heaved over the toilet, and that week of stomach flu was probably the longest she’d ever gone without wearing lipstick.
For my birthday we drove to Monterey and she left kisses for the fishes on the glass of the aquarium. We walked down Cannery Row and biked to Pacific Grove and went tidepooling along the Northern California coast.
When fall came back around, her favorite season, I took her to that coffee shop and we sat at the same table, and I bought her a coffee and a tube of Rimmel Kate Moss 107.
On October first, a year and five days after we met, I heard a squeal of tires and a shrieking scream pierce through my bedroom window. I got downstairs just in time to hold her hand and make sure she didn’t die alone.
And now I’ve been tasked with cleaning out her apartment, while the memory of her bloodstained mouth whispering goodbye is still the first thing I wake up to in the morning and the last thing on my mind before I go to bed. This goddamn water bottle, this goddamn lipstick, this goddamn girl was all too much, all too loud for my quiet life, and I just had to go and fall in love with her and break my own heart.
Her beagle sniffs around my ankles and looks up at me, the first time I’ve ever seen him without a rich wine-colored stamp of love on his forehead. I scratch behind his ears before turning back to the sink, switching on the faucet, and washing the lipstick off of the water bottle.