We can stand on the edge of forgiveness, look out into the swirling snows of a Northern winter while still locked safely within our haven. But to utter the words, to ask, over curling cider steam, and to look into one another’s eyes and see something besides ordinary; well, that is asking too much.
I asked him to touch me, a long time ago. When I was still young and beautiful. Before fear and uncertainty left its scratches in my face and dulled my eyes. He said no through a smile that didn’t take me seriously. He never took me seriously.
So I asked if I could touch him. And when he didn’t answer, I hid my tears and found ordinary things to fill my time.
Too many years now, as we stand on this cusp. Too much ignoring washing down this river, washing out to sea, washing out the bloodstains. There’s no going back. And the words fall from my lips and they taste bitter and used up. I love you, I say. But not in that way. Not in the way I did a decade ago. But I do still love you. I don’t want to lose you. Not as a friend.
He tells me I’m his wife. We made promises. And I realize with clarity what I knew all along; he assumed. He assumed I’d always be here to keep him comfortable. What he failed to take into consideration were the needs that would grow and grow until they ate me alive, and until I had no choice but pull him in with me.
I know that, I whisper. I know I spoke vows and signed a contract. But I’m asking now, will you let me go? Please? I can’t live like this anymore, within a prison of expectations so low I have to crawl on my belly to find them. But I don’t want you to be alone.
He swears at me, not loudly or angrily. But with a soft indignation that only strengthens my resolve. I want to lay the knife down. The blood is staining the carpet, my hands, my lips. I can taste it. The life draining out of you. You ask if I’m leaving you.
No. I will never leave you. But I have to follow my heart, there are things I need to see, to taste, to experience-
There’s someone else, he accuses.
I can’t deny it. He knows me well enough to know that I wouldn’t take such a drastic step unless I had a place to go. He knows I can’t be alone.
He turns his back. I’ve dealt the fatal blow, and I watch the years fall and pile in dusty rubble on our feet. The cider’s cold. The wind’s cold. The river rushes and I would like to fall into it and let it carry me wherever it is going. Away. I don’t care, as long as it is away.
So now I rock on this train. This train that is carrying me to you, who I’ve never seen in person. Our love affair began on a screen. Yet I trust it implicitly. It isn’t logical, I’ve heard the horror stories. I don’t know what I’ll get off this train and find. The man who lives in my head is a super hero, and I wonder how you can live up to that. I have no doubt that you can. And this train rushes me ever closer to being in your arms. It’s the only place I’ve ever wanted to be.
We can stand here, on the cusp, and watch the world rage, feel our hearts age, and want each other. But the wrongs done to get here are immortal. The best we can do is hide them in one another, drown them out with our sighs and our screams at the ceiling; numb them with our tongues, push them down with our hands, bury them in the desire that burns white hot and I hope never cools but that probably will.
The depot looms, the platform slips down our side. And I see you standing, looking. And you look just like the super hero I imagined.
I know; I’ve come home.