Sunday, August 25, 2013
Each time the breeze hit me, my body shivered. It was not a good idea to sit by the river when the temperatures were in a crisp 50's. The nostalgia made me feel even colder, causing tears to form despite the chill factor. Efforts to keep him off of my mind were in vain. Exhaling sharply, I muttered under my breath about how cold it truly felt. With my hands shoved into my coat pockets, I used my shoulders to push the heavy wool infinity scarf over the lower half of my face. It would have been wiser to get away from the water, find a place to warm myself with a hot cup of coffee. There were plenty of cozy cafes in the vicinity. Or maybe I could have just gone back home since it was already past sunset and nothing was keeping me there. Nothing but the memories and the need to be alone.
The phone vibrated, and I took it out of my pocket to check it. It was a text message from him: "Hi, can we talk?" It had been months since I last heard from him, and it was strange that when I sat thinking about him, he reached out. What timing! Did he suddenly have time? Did he finally acknowledge my existence? But my heart was not happy hearing from him, and as if I could not hold it in anymore, the tears flowed effortlessly and I broke into quiet sobs. God forbid anyone see me in such a state of weakness. Part of me wanted to throw my phone into the river so I wouldn’t be left with the choice of responding to him. The other part, of course, wanted to respond. I felt I was betraying myself, a wave of shame gripped me.
What did I even want to say to him? His message was simple yet caused deep agony. I felt pitiful. Where had he been all this time anyway? Why didn't he talk before? My choices were yes, no, or maybe, and all of these choices weighed heavily on me. Each one led to a different path, but which path to take?
At that point, a walk was needed to clear my fuzzy thoughts. I got up and headed towards the train station, desperate to get home. The darkness of my mind seemed blacker than the sky, and I found myself suddenly angry at this mindless disruption. Of course, it would never be considered such a thing by him for he was oblivious to anything I couldn’t or wouldn't spell out. His unpredictability and the ease at which he found his way back into my life were disruptions to me. Maybe I was even angry at myself for allowing this to happen.
Still peeved, I grabbed my phone to respond in haste: "Why?" Almost immediately, I regretted it. Damn. Why couldn't they just read between the lines? It's not that difficult. You read the first line and the second and the third and you figure that a woman would want more understood than she actually says. And you ask if you can't figure it out. Why be so stubborn, fool? I was aware I sounded ridiculous and cruel. When it came to the matters of the heart, whoever had complete control? Falling in love caused people to behave unreasonably and irresponsibly, yet we continue to "fall" ill-advisedly.
As I reached the station, I sighed heavily, dreading the response I'd get for my impulsiveness. Before I knew it, I was secure in a corner seat on the train, paying little attention to much else but my thoughts. The phone was buried in my bag so I wouldn't hear it vibrate until I wanted to know his response. I thought back to his warm eyes and his powerful embrace, cursing myself at hurting over the absence of it all. He had been like an addiction that I couldn't get my fill of, for every time he was near, I was in a state of intoxication. Responding hadn't been the best of ideas. Every time he reappeared, I promised myself I'd keep an unbreakable fortress around my heart, suppressing whatever I truly felt for him. And every time I would hear his voice or lay my eyes upon him, the walls would fall, piece by piece. I would forget how to breathe properly. The world around us would blur, and I'd just lose myself in his essence.
I broke out of my reverie long enough for me to get myself home. In the warmth and dimness of my room, I finally faced my fear and checked my messages. There were three from him: "Sorry I was so busy." "Can we talk?" "Can we meet tomorrow?" Sure. Yes. And why not? Surely, what would be wrong with that?
Caught up in the whirlwind of emotions, I could not process the information. I needed time. I needed air. I wanted him. I raced back to the last time I saw him, and the grief hit like a ton of bricks. What do you call the feeling of loss over something that wasn’t really yours? Perhaps love really does make you completely stupid, neurons that went into a state of dementia! Normal people don’t melt at smiles.
It was a game. It had to be. He knew the effect he had on me. But I felt wrong to think so wrongly of him, for what was his crime anyway? That my love was unrequited? The nerve I have! I thought of our symphony whenever we were together, the harmony deviously deceiving. Every note of his, and every note of mine, we created tunes melodiously and passionately.
I shifted my attention back to the phone, now anxious to respond to him, to engage in actual conversation, and hell, to just see him again. Against better judgment, I said, “Okay.” The okay that felt like a broken rule to the commitment of honoring and loving myself, my state of being, my aliveness. I was happy and unhappy, tormented over the possibilities and the impossibilities. A few more messages were exchanged in regards to the logistics of this fateful meeting. And for the rest of the night, sleep evaded me. Maybe it was disappointed that I couldn’t keep guard. It would return, I’m sure, once it realized we were on the same team.
The following evening, I found myself in a nearly empty cafe waiting for him to arrive. Being early was my thing--it gave me time to prepare for the exhaustion that would result from the socializing. He would come, and I’d smile, and we’d exchange trivial pleasantries as if it were simply not possible to proceed without! I’d listen closely to him, threading from one word to the next, securing knots to keep it all together so later I can sew it painfully into my soul. I’d bleed, oh yes I would, like I always do, but I hardly let it show.
Then I saw him, and I swear, my heart almost stopped beating. Was he aware of his wonderful qualities that made him who he was, that made him so lovable? His hair was shorter, and his face was covered with a stubble of several days. He looked weary, like he could use a hug, or maybe I’m the one who needed it more and I was simply manifesting. Paralysis kept me in place, though my heart was leaping with fervor. If I had the ability, I’d have thrown myself into his arms and kissed him with every fiber of my being. Control yourself. Don’t make a fool of yourself. Stay composed. Smile! I had practiced it enough to keep the pain hidden from others. Good heavens, where’s my acting award?
“Hey,” he said, with that half-smiling, lazy expression of his, as he came within two feet of me. There was a pause, and I took it as a cue to get up and hug him. In closing the distance between us, I was taken back to a place of reminiscent bliss, of his warmth and masculine scent. We let ourselves linger since clearly neither of us really wanted to let go. We didn’t want to, I knew that with my heart, but barriers formed themselves selfishly between us anyway. Those are hard to ignore. Knowing that my heart can be stupid sometimes, I pulled away first, almost awkwardly, aware of the gaping distance between us. It wasn’t just physical but emotional and mental, too. I would see him, and I would believe everything he and his eyes would say, trusting his affection for me, trusting him to be sincere, without doubt, without inconsistency. It’s like all that pain would fly out the window. What tears? He didn’t have the heart to hurt me--he just couldn’t!
As we sat across from each other, I gave myself time to form coherent responses to his natural inquisition. It was difficult to follow him the more I became fully aware of his presence. To have him so close but not have him as I need. He’s fine with my silence though I don’t like letting him think I’m unhappy. I don’t like anyone thinking that. I am happy though. Happy as best as I can be without him.
“Why are you sighing?” he asked, tearing me away from my abstractive musings. I swallowed back any tears that wanted to form as the realization dawned upon me, the tragedy of our story, of he and I to never be mentioned in poems or songs unless it was about heartbreak. My superfluous excuses were endless as I responded with words that ostensibly appeased him. But who was I kidding? He’d see right through me if he wanted to. Right?
What did I even want from him? What was I looking for in him? What was the purpose of this relationship that was neither friendship nor a romantic affinity? Without warning, he grasped my hand in his, and I softly gasped. His touch was so electric and familiar. And I unabashedly wanted to feel it all over me. He continued talking, speaking for the both of us, but I was focused on his fingers playfully caressing the palm of my hand and alongside my wrist.
With great effort, I shifted my attention back to the conversation so I didn’t lose myself completely in that moment, that ever-so-familiar moment. Why did I agree to see him? He made me so weak. Adorable, comfortable, attentive, happy, like he belonged to me, like something just kept pulling him back to me. We caught up with family, work, with what we have been up to, ignoring for some time the biggest question hanging between us. Seeing him there, everything rushed back from its stored place. I thought I had moved on for the most part. I found myself constantly forgiving him for his grievances, without even trying to. His fingers traced delicate patterns on my skin. There was less distance between us, but without a doubt some walls arrogantly stood tall. “I don’t like you,” I blurted without thought.
“What?!” I wasn’t surprised with his reaction. His fingers stopped painting. He questioned me with his eyes. I felt weak, unable to process or proceed coherently. And I did what I do best: I turned away. Maybe the words would be on the walls, the ceiling, the floor. Maybe he’d disappear into thin air or maybe I would. Maybe the ground would swallow me. Maybe he’d pretend ignorance for my sake. In my head, I counted to ten and wanted to cry at the awful predicament I placed myself in. Stupid heart, stupid feelings, and a clueless man.
I turned back to face him, to audaciously stare into his eyes and I wondered at the expression that mirrored mine. Why did I think I could feign an act of indifference? The silence answered most of what we couldn’t iterate. I felt like he was asking, “What did I do?” Nothing. Of course, what could he possibly have done? He never does anything, and that’s the problem. Again, I found myself choking back tears. I wouldn’t cry around him. Never that. I found myself slowly losing energy. I had prepared for the moment that I’d be drained of anything left in me. How fruitless that was.
My eyes scanned his face in an attempt to read his emotions, but his expression was difficult to read. Would he ever feel the same for me? Would I ever get over him? Will I ever take my power back? It was hard to tell where he stood or even where I stood. “What’s there to talk about? We only roam in vicious circles.” If there were nothing but circles for us, did that mean I was a fool for getting caught up in them, time and time again? My words should sting, and I knew I tended to speak my mind just to see what kind of reaction I could get. Seeing him brought back everything I had worked diligently at subduing. .
“I make you sad, don’t I?” He gave himself too much credit. Maybe I didn’t give him enough. His hands resumed caressing my skin, stimulating inner world destruction. I shook my head, “No. It’s not that. It’s just this...it is what it is.” My heart’s demise. Of course he made me sad, the foolish man. I mean, really, what else was there to say? Two people who are drawn to one another on more levels than one and couldn’t be together. If that’s the case, could you blame him or me? Didn’t we try hard enough?
I changed topics quickly. More like avoiding the melodrama of my life. I appreciated that he didn’t persist or push but equally loathed the lack of perseverance or interest. Did he struggle with his emotions the way I did? Did he wear masks of normalcy, of self-possessed maturity? I couldn’t hate him, blame or disregard him either. It was what it was, and that was the stark reality of our story. I didn’t know, and he didn’t either, of whatever had happened, whatever that laid between us. It was neither his fault nor mine, yet there were unspoken complaints and regrets, empty hopes and wants. I knew that whatever I was seeking was already within me, but to forget him was like trying to forget a part of myself. Surely it would leave a scar that may never heal. Alas, wherever our paths would take us after that point, I naively believed that I’d be saturated in the color of his essence, immersed in a seemingly weakening love that had long left its mark.
June 7, 2013