The rain fell, & the car cocooned us in its gentle chatter. The beads of water slid from above us & meandered down the windshield, trailing like tiny illuminated rivers with the yellow porch light caught in their bellies.
We listened & watched, our skulls hanging off our necks onto our separate headrests, our bodies limp yet fully awake; we just didn’t know what else to do in those moments, & the drum of the rain was hypnotizing.
Without turning his head, barely moving his lips, he spoke his words slowly & deliberately. “Have you noticed that every time we fight it rains?”
I sighed, admittedly annoyed at the perfect poetry of it. It was too tragic & beautiful to let myself consider, too star-crossed, too exclusive to “us.” I was trying to end things; I didn’t want to start thinking about all the ways the universe conspired to keep us together, as if we were actually special somehow, just like he wanted me to believe—enduring.
So I said, “No, I haven’t,” although looking back on all the nights we found ourselves similarly in the midst of breaking, the sky really did seem to supernaturally reflect the sorrow stirring in our chests. Pathetic fallacy written into our story, which was ironic to me remembering how he told me once that he greatly disliked that particular literary device.
Irony is… a sign. I’m doing the right thing, I assured myself, taking a deep breath through my nose.
The longer we let things go on the more counterarguments I found I had for his defenses for “us.” Regardless of whether or not they were logical arguments, it was easier to do than to accept some of his rationalities & deny others; denying them all was the only way to truly let him go, with no strings left to pull, no trail left to follow—or maybe that justification was just another counterargument I created to console myself.
I shook the confusion from my brain to refocus on the moment. He was looking at me now with two spheres convecting shades of stormy blue in the sockets beneath his furrowed brow. I could always count on seeing a separate, stronger, stranger conversation turning in his eyes, begging for me to hear, through his urgent stare, the less reserved, more desperate version of what he was vocalizing.
I don’t like what you’re saying, though, I tried to say back, but it just felt like a staring contest, praying that the other would just give in; he didn’t want to hear what I was trying to communicate either.
If I remember correctly, I was the one to look away first, as one would expect from the guilty party.
I felt terribly guilty, but I just wasn’t in love with him anymore—maybe because I was never truly in love with him at all. Because, when you truly love someone, can you ever really stop? If you truly want to touch & know every part of that person’s soul in order to somehow join it with yours, & if you truly come to the point of wanting to do or give anything for that person to love you the way you love them, can you ever stop feeling that way? Knowing what I know now, I don’t think you can stop anymore than you can stop yourself from the sensation of feeling altogether. That person becomes part of you; every word, every contortion of their face becomes vital to your daily function, your life, & your story.
“I have to go,” I said softly, my hand on the door handle, my eyes lowered to the dashboard.
The panicked vibrations of his quickening heartbeat sent a quiver through the warm air trapped inside the car, & the hairs on my arms rose as a barrier against feeling it. His right hand that clutched the bottom of the steering wheel released & hovered over to me, but just before it touched my bare knee, he forced it closed & rested it on the seat divider. He looked so miserable & helpless, his sad stare burrowing into my flesh, trying to absorb every particle of this memory, our last moments together alone.
“Say something,” I finally pleaded. “I can’t leave until you say something.”
He smiled in an endearingly pathetic way & then proceeded to pinch his full lips so tightly together that their soft, pink color drained white. I returned a small smile & gently bid him to release them with just a light touch of my index finger. Before I had time to react, he grabbed my lifted hand & pressed it to his face, placing a kiss on my fingers—one, gently, & then another, & another, cautiously, then desperately, palm to wrist to arm to shoulder. My body tensed against receiving them at first, but my muscles began to relax under the pleasant warmth of his lips tenderly kissing up my neck & passed my jaw.
He stopped just inches from meeting my mouth. The storm turned madly in his eyes that spoke without speaking, pouring his desire onto me; he wanted my permission.
At that point, I admit to surrendering to this unspoken request almost immediately.
“This is the last time,” I whispered—or did I just think it? My hands revealed having a slight nervous tremor on their way up to his face, which I simply let sit in my hands as he brought together our lips.
I closed my eyes to the lights & the rain & let myself feel him one last time. His love for me was so intense I could literally feel it pulsing into me.
“I’m so selfish with you,” I breathed into his kiss, our lips rolling together in my barely audible words.
He either didn’t hear me or didn’t care; he wanted me. Nothing else seemed to matter to him but me.
A thought, a spark of fear, suddenly infected the intoxicating pulse of his affection & began circulating in my head: What if I never find someone else who loves me this much? What if he is enough, & I’m just selfish & greedy to think a truer love exists? I don’t want to be alone…
This fear continued to spread over me, &, as a response to it, I pressed into him harder, feeling needy & dissatisfied. In turn, he interpreted this increase in my innate desire for human connection as a desire for him specifically, but his hands tracing the contours of my body soothed me, made me present, made me remember I was alive, & so, despite the guilt I felt, I did not tell him otherwise. And he continued to kiss me.
“I love you,” he abruptly mumbled against my skin. He had been fighting the urge to say it all night, but we both knew, eventually, he had to say it.
The increased surge of pain & guilt constricted my insides, & I winced against those three words repeating in my head; those three words were powerful enough to instantly push me back into the reality that I was avoiding.
“I know. I’m sorry.” That’s all I could bring myself to say.
His face crumbled with the weight of my reply.
Pulling from the experience of all our previous goodbyes, I would have guessed that he would have tried to keep me there all night, feeding me line after line of pleas & defenses, but I caught sight of some dark cloud in his wounded eyes that told me I had finally stripped him of the last bit of strength he had to hold on.
“I have to go.”
He nodded. “Yeah.”
I watched him straighten himself back up against his seat & place his hands back on the steering wheel. Every movement he made seemed like a great struggle against himself.
In the end, our goodbye felt a lot like slipping on wet floor; the cold, quick pop of the car door opening, the harsh interior lights incinerating the intimate shadows between us, the sound of the car door slamming shut again knocking the wind out of me. It was a stagger, a fall, a painful end—that’s what leaving him felt like.
Truthfully, I don’t remember much about it after that. I do remember the contrast of my hot ears to the cool, uncomfortable wetness of puddle-water seeping into my shoes on the way up to the house, & the delayed moments staring out from the garage covering into the beam of his headlights before he drove off, & the terrible loneliness of afterward, numbly sitting on the couch by the window, listening to the drone of pattering rain.
All that while, my thoughts were consumed by my mourning heart, for somehow I could not stop myself from carrying his hurt inside as I walked away. Even after all this time, I swear I still feel it when his heart trembles out there in the world, like a pluck on a taut string tied from his chest to mine; I couldn’t stop myself from hiding away a piece of him, of that moment, in a corner of my heart, as a part of me, just enough to remember…
Yes, I suppose I did love him—or, I guess, I do love him, as there is always an exception for everything, isn’t there? I love him, but… I didn’t stay—I couldn’t stay. I’m not sure I could ever explain it, but, knowing what I know now, I think there must be an exception.
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