I wake up warm, and surrounded by him. His scent is all over my sheets, on my skin, in my hair. I breathe him in whenever I can; having him here like this is still rare, though it shouldn’t be. We spend the early hours in bed, and then he leaves. It’s not enough time, and I protest, but he tells me he’s coming back this afternoon. Twice in one day, for us, is either exciting or ominous.
I am suddenly and inexplicably terrified that he drove home to get a ring.
I spend the day quietly panicking. “Afternoon” is much too vague a time slot for those of us who worry. Every time I check the parking lot, I hate myself a little more. His comings and goings should not impact my day; he has no idea how much they really do. I will never tell him.
When he returns, I hear him drop his wallet, keys, and phone on the counter; distinct sounds that I know by heart. I hate when he makes himself at home in my apartment. He’s already inhabiting so much room in my life that having him here sometimes feels like one too many concessions.
He spins my life into chaos whenever he’s in it, like a tornado I’m deeply in love with but ultimately will cause my destruction. The fact that I keep asking the tornado to come back is definitely a deep-seated psychological something, which I’m not keen to explore.
He comes into the room and sits next to me, and I feel my heartbeat pick up. I can’t tell if it’s hope, or fear, or both. I hope that he is, and isn’t, about to propose. I am ready and not ready. I am terrified and brave. I want him and I don’t deserve him. I deserve him and I don’t want him. I am panicking and endlessly calm. All of my emotions are on a collision course, and I no longer know what my face is doing.
What he says, though, makes all of those emotions hit an invisible wall.
“I’m not happy.”
Like a record scratch, my world stops. An eraser scrubs the chalkboard of my mind, and I become aware that my face is too open, so I close it. I experience a profound silence, in which I grasp for words and find none.
I have no thoughts. I have no emotions.
I am empty. I am quiet. I am still.
He hardly bothers to explain. A few sentences, evidently, is all I’m worth. He ends things faster than I knew anyone could. I went from being loved to being left, and I’m not processing things fast enough to understand why.
The longest silence I’ve ever experienced follows. I have nothing to say. My stupid mind is still thinking about him down on one knee, and it makes this awful moment exponentially worse. I eventually realize that I’ve been silent much too long, but it’s very clear that this is less a discussion and more an announcement; I understand that whatever I add, it will change nothing. Speaking now would make me appear weak, and I resist it as long as possible.
It’s the right moment for self-preservation, only I never learned that lesson, remember?
All I want is for him to be somewhere, anywhere else. I cannot be near him if I’m going to fall apart, and I recognize as though watching myself from a distance that collapse is probably imminent. It must be, though I feel nothing of it yet.
I go hunting for my voice, because it has run off somewhere, away from this place where everything hurts. It takes longer than it ever has for me to find it.
“You don’t have to stay here,” I say, hoping he doesn’t know what it costs me to say so.
He stands immediately, a tempest on a hair trigger, relieved to be released from my custody. I try not to think about how often he may have felt that before. He always said he felt like he was trapping me, but maybe I was the one putting him in a cage.
It’s not like I have any kind of gauge for normalcy.
He stands in the doorway for a moment. He apologizes, as if that will make a difference, but I don’t look at him. I want to remember those eyes loving me, not leaving me.
I hear the front door slam behind him. I momentarily consider getting up to lock it behind him, but I don’t. Maybe some part of me hopes he’ll come back. I desperately hope no one ever knows I’m so pathetic in this moment.
I realize, after hours of silence, that I’m still sitting where he left me. If I stay in this position, what happened won’t be real. If I move, the spell will break and reality will hit. I haven’t cried yet. I keep waiting for the tears but they aren’t there. I wonder if I care less than I thought, but my heart objects to this assessment as it shatters inside me.
I still love you, he writes later. I consider writing back, something in all capital letters, but decide against it. How do you love someone and also break them?
There are easier ways to say you don’t love someone than the way he chose.
Eventually, I fall asleep remembering how I woke up this morning.