Wednesday, September 2, 2015
The Surface of Things
You notice that she turns away when you kiss her. Things are OK you say to yourself. She is stressed out by classes, trying to get that internship. It's understandable and it will pass. That's what you say again and again when she doesn't return your calls, begs off from meeting or taking a walk. Then she goes cold when you find a night to spend together. You ask what's wrong and she says I just need some space. That makes sense and you keep on wondering, maybe denying. Then she says it: I want out. And you get mad, maybe mean. You say things like I always thought you were a bitch. But it doesn't work to bring her close. Just the opposite. You don't know what else to do. You cry on the phone. She says you are not grown up or successful or confident enough. That goes straight to that terrible secret place in yourself that is sure you are a shit. It sticks there, like an arrow on fire. But you can't look at it because it’s too hot, too close. You just know it and know that you are less without her. Then she leaves for her semester abroad to France. A year later you see her mother at the grocery co-op where you stock shelves and run the register. Her mom says she is getting married. She says she hopes you are getting on with your life. You smile and lie that you are. You bag her broccoli, kale, and hard cheddar cheese. Then you wave to her as she passes through the sliding door out into the hot summer sun. You begin ringing up the next customer. That customer says something you can't hear, but you nod and say something like I hear you. Inside you're burning. It feels like your guts are tied up in a skein of snakes. When you get off work you want to call her and congratulate her on destroying your life. The urge is so strong you want to do it right now, two seconds ago. But you wait. After a few days and a talk with your counselor, you get it: The surface of things never tells the whole story. There are forces at work beneath a comforting veneer that will break your heart, steal your innocence, leave you stripped and defenseless. It is then that you know that nothing will turn out the way you want it to and that the way out is closed so you just have live with it, your territory in flames. You rub your eyes and take one breath at a time, put one foot in front of the other. Years later she finds you on Facebook and says she is sorry it turned out the way it did. You say that's OK. There was no way to know, nothing to do, nobody at fault. It is then that the words you didn't say take wing and you feel light, peaceful, broken though you are.