Inspired by Taylor Swift’s ‘Clean’ (1985)


The moment my eyes popped open I knew what had to be done.

It had to change. I had to change.

No, not a change that causes you to not recognize your own reflection in the mirror; not a change that makes you forget who you are. But it’s a change alright.

Two weeks—that’s how long I’d spent mourning the loss of our relationship. The morning after you left, I called at work and told them I’m taking leave for a couple of days. I didn’t give any explanation. Was ‘I have a severe case of heart-break’ a good enough reason? Probably not.

I spent the rest of the day staring at the pastel colored wall in front of me, remembering how we’d spent a lazy Sunday afternoon splashing it with paint, and countless other memories—letting them fuel the pain in my chest. My mascara-tinted tears produced dark, black stains on my pillow.

I didn’t like this—feeling so weak, so vulnerable, so shattered. I didn’t like it one bit. How could one man inflict damages beyond repair? How could one man have the power to both make you and break you?

Two weeks—that’s how long I mourned.

All phone calls were left unattended. My strawberry-scented hair turned greasy and dirt-matted; my eyes swollen and puffy. The same tee shirt and shorts adorned my unwashed body. It felt like I’d fallen in a hole, and I didn’t want to climb out. I wanted to rot there; I wanted to drown in my own tears.

Then exactly two weeks later—everything changed. For the first time in days I felt like getting out of the bed. Enough of wallowing in my pain, I wanted to start living again. You didn’t care enough to stay. You’d torn my heart from my chest and left it on the floor to bleed. I’d devoted you two full weeks of my life, reliving every memory that I possessed of you. Remembering what it felt like to touch the nape of your neck and intertwine the tips of my fingers in your curly hair; remembering the taste of your lips and the explosion of feelings in my chest.

All of that was gone. All that remained now was a dark emptiness that threatened to envelope me whole.

But not anymore, no. Two weeks is all you get. You don’t get six months or two years or even seven more days. You just get two weeks.

I was tired of feeling this way—like I didn’t matter. Like I was worthless; like my existence was a mistake. I didn’t like counting up all the reasons why you would leave me for her, and then consequently running out of fingers as I did. I didn’t like looking in the mirror and not liking what I saw.

So I decided that it was time to bring some change. And so, I brought it.

I pushed away the dirty blankets and changed the ultramarine blue bed sheets adorning my four poster bed. I finally disposed the trash full of take-away containers and the empty ice-cream tubs. I scrubbed the house clean, from top to bottom—not forgetting a single nook or cranny. I wiped the dust-coated glass windows until the sunlight reflecting off of them hurt my eyes. I threw away the potted petunias we had nurtured together.

I took out the largest cardboard box I could find. Then I pulled open all the drawers and cupboards at my home—if it could still be called a home after you’d left—and scrounged them for anything, absolutely anything that was yours, or connected to you in some way.

I started throwing away all the things that reminded me of you and our disastrous relationship. But in the end I gave up. I’d have to throw away everything I owned if I had to accomplish that; and even then I wouldn’t succeed. So I settled into grabbing all the things that you’d accidently left here, or given to me once upon a time. I dumped a few chosen articles that were too hard to keep around—for they told a story I didn’t want to listen anymore.

Off went all your shirts and jackets—most of which you hadn’t accidently left but given to me. I resisted the urge to hug the blue cashmere sweater you’d left a fortnight ago—the sweater you’d been wearing before you stripped it off so we could make love. Of course we’d fought a few hours later, ended our relationship for good this time, and you stomped out of my apartment with only your plaid shirt on. Instead of nursing my broken heart, I’d worried about you walking off into the cold with nothing to keep you warm.

I glared at the sweater clutched in my hands. Now, now, I need to be strong. This small piece of wool cannot become the reason of my undoing. I resisted the urge to take in your scent which probably still lingered on this sweater and stashed it away for good.

I sighed.

That wasn’t too hard, was it?

I grabbed all the silly cards and sovereigns you’d bought for me. It wasn’t easy, no. Each and every one of them was attached to a single strand of memory. It was like plucking those strands one by one as I dumped all of this in the partly filled cardboard box. I recovered the numerous roses I’d stashed away in between the pages of the several novels I possessed, for safe-keeping. They got damaged as I threw them inside the box, not giving them any regard.

I climbed the three-footed stool and produced the old bottle of the expensive red wine you’d bought on one of your trips to France. I’d wanted to drink it the day you’d returned, but you told me to be patient.

“Honey, we’ll drink it when we have something to celebrate.”

“But we can celebrate now, can’t we?” I’d argued.

“What is there to celebrate?”

Us, we have us darling. Let’s celebrate us, our love.”

You’d given me one of your ‘you’re crazy’ looks, your eyes sparkling with amusement. But I’d been serious.

I wasn’t as reckless with the bottle as I had been with the roses. I carefully stocked the fragile container. I sealed the heavy box with a wad of tape, sealing away all our memories and all our good times. Tomorrow, I’ll drop them off in front of your apartment. But that’s a task for tomorrow.

For now, I’ve accomplished what I’d aimed to.

I turned around.

For some strange reason, the apartment looked cleaner…emptier. Not necessarily because I’d spent the morning on a cleaning rampage. The place was still the same, yet different; a nice different.

Is that the change I’d been waiting for?

No, not quite.

Suddenly it struck me. I realized the last and final thing that was needed to be done.

I rushed to where I kept my type-writer—standing lost and forgotten under the heavy coats hanging in my closet. It was like greeting an old friend. Even if the ink spewing machine had the ability to speak, it wouldn’t have spoken at this particular moment. We would have looked into each other’s eyes, and we’d have an unspoken understanding. It would have forgiven me for forgetting it. I extracted a bunch of crisp, clean white sheets and put them in the slot.

I cracked my knuckles, stretched my hands, exercised my fingers and then began typing—


The moment my eyes popped open I knew what had to be done.

It had to change. I had to change.

No, not a change that causes you to not recognize your own reflection…

Copyright © Shreya Pandey 


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