In its stead, I've turned to trying to finish some of my own musing and short fictions . . . trying this one on for size.
* * * * *
Don’t let go.
It was one of his favorite lines lately. She’d turned off the ringer on her phone just to help ignore the messages as they came in. But they came in a steady stream. Daily. Hourly sometimes. What had it been? A week? Two weeks? A month? She knew what would follow. It was almost a routine. Buzz. Buzz. The vibration soft against the table next to the bed. Buzz. Buzz. Fill in the blank.
You gave up on me.
Maybe, I still love you.
Or even, I will never give up.
She wasn’t even sure what to feel now. Pity? Sympathy? Annoyance?
You are my breath.
Funny. There was a time where he left her breathless. Noticeably so. Before he kissed her, he’d say “Breathe.” And she’d force herself to inhale, feeling her insides melt. And now, reading those words, she felt like she was suffocating. Still breathless in an ironic way, she mused. But not what he wanted.
We were perfect together.
In their time, and in their space, she remembered feeling that they were absolutely perfect together. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized that time - that space - was in a bubble. No job pressures. No economic pressures. No family matters. No twins.
It's not that he didn’t know about them. In fact, he relished stories about them. Couldn’t wait to meet the girls. Talked of teaching them how to play ball. Fish. Go hiking. Kayaking. Introducing them to his mother. Never once flinched when she talked of the responsibility.
What about us?
What about us? She worked hard to remember. The four day retreat for school principals had been held at an ocean-side resort in Oregon an eternity ago, it seemed. The best a Northwest summer had to offer. Mornings filled with curriculum ideas, involving parents, and administrative tips; afternoons riding horse, hiking, walking along the cold, rocky shore with driftwood piled randomly where the high tide had left it on the beach; nights sharing dinners and a drink at the bar, or heading into one of the nearby establishments 10 miles away.
He was a surprise. He was the activities director; at night, he helped out around the bar. He had been gracious enough to help her and a couple of her friends plan out a few special activities, including booking an extended night in Portland before they all headed back to their realities.
I’ll never forget.
The first night they had clicked; sat chatting in the bar away from the crowd, long after her friends had drunk themselves into oblivion and thrown themselves shamelessly at the dark haired guy behind the bar. She sat listening quietly to his story. He’d tried to do it all by the book. Engineering degree. Married his college sweetheart. Started a business. Bought a house in the Midwest. Bought a dog.
Business folded. Lost interest in his engineering degree. Wife lost interest in him. Sold his house. Gave her the dog. Chose a lifestyle over material comforts and moved west where he could earn a basic living and have time to do the things he loved.
I’m lost without you.
His hands were calloused and his skin crinkled by the sun. He had permanent marks from his sunglasses and a hat ring in his sun-bleached hair. Wore permanent layers of hiking gear at all times. But his eyes always smiled and he carried himself like a man with no cares; you’d never know he lived paycheck to paycheck. He was interesting and polite and gracious, and most of all, didn’t make any moves. At night, before she returned to her suite, he simply kissed the back of her hand. The next night, he kissed her softly on the lips. The third night, she pulled him inside and made love to him until the sun came up. She went to her morning session with her lips raw and her body aching.
Life. Love. Dress. Ring. Us.
He was reaching. Desperation giving him a flair for the dramatic. Trying to draw her back into that moment when she got swept up, months ago, in a moment of passion. When he’d begged her to be his permanently. She had reminded him that she wasn’t ready for that commitment again. There was the distance. There were the twins. There was his ex. Her ex. But he wouldn’t take no. What could it hurt, she'd thought then, as she whispered “yes.”
How could you walk away?
She never really meant “yes” - she meant “maybe” or “we’ll see”. And he never heard “no” after that. So while he dreamed of chapels and white dresses and “I do”, she stopped dreaming. She was complex. And after this past year, she realized he was simple. He was good. But he was simple. She didn’t want simple. Truth is, she loved him, but she didn’t need him. To be in love with someone, she needed to need him.
Don’t look back and regret this.
He was perfect in his moment. In his Walden. But she didn’t live in Walden. She lived here. In this moment. She tried to ground him in reality. Her reality. No fairy tales. No castles. No ever after. School fundraisers and teacher inservices. Brownies and ballet classes. Sleepovers and coordinating visitation. Budgets and car payments and insurance.
There will never be anyone else.
She sighed, and closed her eyes. She started to type. That’s your choice to make. But then backspaced, looking at the blank display on her phone, the cursor blinking. Nothing. She had nothing more she could say. The phone buzzed again. She laid it on the nightstand. Turned out the light.
Buzz. Buzz. She thought about turning it off, but the twins were with their dad. If they needed her . . .
Buzz. Buzz. She pulled the pillow over her face, counting backwards from 200 like she did on nights when she couldn’t sleep.