Sunday, September 14, 2008

Goodbye. Goodnight. Good morning. Goodbye.

She watched him, stuck between wanting to scream and cry; and wanting to just walk away. It had happened before, but she could feel the difference this time. For a moment, she was angry, pissed off that she was expected to hold things together when he wasn't sure of his own heart. She let it go with a sigh and sat--not next to him, but two chairs down.

He stared at the cigarette he had taken from her pack, pushing it around in a jar lid. "You okay?"

She started crying again, but nodded. "Yeah."

This was the "real" breakup, the one they had dodged half a dozen times before, through bad fights and jealousy. This was the one they wouldn't come back from. She took a cigarette and lit it. He pushed the jar lid across the table, halfway between them.

It was a meaningless gesture, but it made her cry harder. She looked up at him, feeling herself getting sick. "Why is it so hard to stay together?"

He was quiet. Then he whispered out, looking down at the table. "I don't know." He couldn't cry. He was always closed off. She never knew how to get next to him, to touch him closer than skin. She never knew how to hold the part of him that was fighting to breathe inside.

She wondered what went through his mind, what he felt when they kissed and made love. She could feel it all the way through her. It was like a million tiny drops of cold water came alive on her skin and moved through her like lightning. Then she would look in his eyes and everything would go calm and warm again.

She took a drag off the cigarette and looked across the table. His face was tired. His eyes were a million miles away. She wanted to kiss him. More tears streaked down her face. She stubbed out the cigarette, not half-finished with it.

He finished his and pushed it into the jar lid. "I'm going to go, okay?" His face filled with worry and something else, something she couldn't read, fighting against himself. "Are you going to be alright?"

"Can you stay tonight?" He frowned. She shook her head, trying to hold back more tears. "No, don't."

He looked at her, wanting to hold her, wanting to make it easier. "I don't think I should."

"Just for a little while?"

He looked at her, feeling sick and ashamed. He knew he should have gone somewhere else, slept in his car or something. "Okay."

They went to the bedroom and undressed by the glow of the desk lamp. They climbed in bed carefully, afraid to touch each other. He turned off the lamp and rolled back over on his side. She curled up with her back to him, still crying into her pillow.

He watched her in silence until she rolled back toward him. "Can you hold me?"

He put his arms around her and they lie still in the dark. She cried into his shirt, soaking it. He picked up some tissues from the desk and handed them to her. She laughed as she wiped her face. She dropped the tissues by the bed and nestled against him again. Her body was warm and it made him uncomfortable, but he kept his arms around her.

"I love you." He looked down at her. "I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't say that."

He squeezed her harder. They lay awake until the sun came up, not saying another word for the rest of the night.

She got dressed for work and he walked her out to the parking lot. She wanted to call in sick, but knew she couldn't miss a day. They said "goodbye" and got in their cars. He drove across town, to the park where they used to take long walks. He parked near the rec center and leaned his seat back. The morning was hot and he needed a shower. He closed his eyes and fell into restless sleep, too disconnected to cry.

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