To say that I never loved her is a lie. Because I did, maybe I still do. I had once pictured a life together, silver in our hair, hands still clasped.
But now, there are only fragments in my head, floating like entities in space. I want to make sense of them but whenever I try to grasp those little shards of images and sound, they just float away, farther away from me. The most I can do is observe them carefully, quietly and with the eye of a jeweler stringing beads of olive, copper and cerulean together.
“It’s not easy for me either,” she said to me. We were in the kitchen fighting. There was a piece of burnt toast on the table, the butter slowly melting onto the wooden placemat. The purple plate it once rested on lay in pieces on the floor. “You think it’s easy to be 25 and feel like your life is over?”It’s a slow death, I realized. When love dies, perhaps a part of you dies with it. When we met in high school, I thought she was the gentlest person I had ever met. I didn’t know anything about life or love but I felt like I didn’t need to know any more. Just being around her, I had all the lessons I would ever need.
“I was young too.” I barked. “I used to be funny. I used to know how to laugh. I used to write you letters. Now what am I? I’m old. I might as well be dead.”
“Who are we,” she asked. “and what have we done? Where are the people we used to be?” There was a sadness in her voice, something only years of regret can give.
“How many times can I lose you before I finally do?” I asked. She turns around, tears in her eyes as she comes at me with fists in the air.
I’d tell her I missed her when what I wanted to say was how I loved her. I’d write poetry about the delicateness of her fingertips or the curves on her body. But now, that all feels like a lifetime away. Now, there is only hollow and anger and lots and lots of regrets.Question: How do you ruin your entire life with one decision? Answer: You don’t. Truth is, it’s an orgy of a million wrong decisions. You hardly notice them but they pile up. Before you know it, you’ve got your clothes stuffed in the car trunk speeding into the city in the dead of night.
He’s been good to me. He listens to me and he laughs at my stories and I know he means it. We were complete strangers when this all began. He found me one night nursing a beer. With a lit cigarette in one hand, he asked if I had a light. It was bullshit but he had a kind face and I needed a friend so I let him sit with me.I just wanted to feel like a man again. I wanted to feel like for once, I could do something right. One night, I dreamed I was back in school waiting in line at the drinking fountain. One by one, the kids stepped on the lever and drank. They walked away with smiles on their faces, feeling blessed with their good fortune. When my turn came, I stepped on the lever and the dirtiest water I had ever seen came out. The spigot reeked of decay and I walked away with thirst unquenched.
Night after night, I’d see him at the bar. We’d talk and get drunk and everybody just blurred away. It felt good. I felt alive again. He'd listen to me gripe about my marriage, my work, the things I never got to do and I never felt judged. Not one bit. In return, I listened to his problems with men and offered a different perspective.
“Why are you straight and married?” he asked one night. “Sometimes I feel like maybe you were the last good one out there.”
“Where were you when I was 17?” I asked.
Two men sitting at a bar. Both of them filled to the brim with regrets.
All the fights, all the arguments, I was slowly dying. It seemed she had something new every day. She rambled about how the kids were fucked up and how they needed a father with a backbone. She complained about how little I made and how much work she had to do. She accused me of being a sloppy fuck and how I didn’t hold her like I used to after we came. I sat there listening to her wondering how many deaths I had to suffer through before I could put all this behind me.
I just wanted to feel like a man again. So it’s ironic how someone queer made me feel that way. We were drinking. They had one last call for alcohol. When we finished that, he offered to continue at his apartment. “It’s just a block away,” he said. I didn’t argue.I knew what my marriage was doing to me and I could take all of it just as long as he was by my side. I was being selfish but for once, I was happy. One night, I woke up to an empty bed. He was perched on a chair smoking, the window open just a crack.
Waking up the next day, both of us naked, I could smell his sex on my skin. At that moment, I knew I was right where I was supposed to be.
“Is anything wrong?” I asked, sleep in my voice.
“I’m fine,” he answered although I could tell he was crying.
“I can leave.” I said.
“No, don’t. You don’t have to. You can stay the night.”
“I meant her. I can leave her. If you want me to.” His face lit up from across the room.
Question: How do you ruin your entire life with one decision? Answer: You just do. But sometimes, it’s not really important how we do things. It’s why we do them that makes the difference.
Part 1 | 2 | 3
♫: Leona Lewis | Happy (2009)
Photo: American Gothic / Masterpiece Me!