We both found the ceiling interesting, because instead of talking, we were just staring at it. The mood was dark and somber, just like how it was after every other fight. I could literally feel the cloud of guilt, shame, and anger hang above us, and if I could, I would prick it with a needle, hoping it would burst.
Do clouds even burst when you prick them with a needle? I don’t even know what the hell I’m saying.
I wanted us to be okay, but…
We sighed heavily, at the same time. I didn’t turn to look at him, but I could feel that his eyes were on me. What was the fight again this time?
I was giddily excited that a friend of mine from my former job—yes, from my ‘old’ life—is heading over here to take a vacation. He was wondering if he could visit, and I, of course, said yes. I was happy, you know—after going back home last year (and not having plans to go home this year because H’s schedule is so swamped and he wants me to come along with him), I was finally getting some sort of a piece of home.
So when H came home from one of those four-city tours that I hated because he’s grumpy and tired and so Grinchy, I told him of the news. And all he said was, “Oh yeah, sure. When will he visit?”
I told him the dates—they were just two days—and I wondered if he was listening at all. His face was just down, eyes on his phone, his fingers scrolling. When he looked up, he said, his tone flat, “Great. He’s visiting on my two days off. We were supposed to be visiting my folks at that time. Guess I’d have to cancel on them.”
And I don’t know what peeved me—that I have to schedule my life around his (which I have been doing ever so faithfully in the past two years), that he wouldn’t even act half-excited as I was, or that he wasn’t even happy for me that I’m having a friend from my “old” life visit me.
“Gee, sorry, mister, for ruining your busy schedule,” I said, controlling my anger. I grabbed his phone and checked his calendar. “Right—since we’re a stickler for the schedule, where should I put here ‘make love to my girlfriend whom I haven’t been intimate with for three months’ or ‘ask my girlfriend how her day is going because we haven’t really talked to each other for days?’”
H sighed, taking his phone from me and pocketing it. He ruffled his hair in the most adorable way that every single one of his fangirls would swoon over. “I’m tired, K. Please, let’s not fight about this now.” He walked past me, but I was already way too riled up to give him a raincheck on this fight.
“No, we are going to fight about this now,” I said, grabbing his arm and making him face me. “We haven’t talked, H. In a long while. I probably find out more about you from the media and from Twitter than from you. And then I tell you about this thing I get excited about and you couldn’t even fake it that you’re excited about it for me!”
He just looked at me, at me but not really seeing me. I could see it in his eyes—he was hollow inside—and I just shook my head. He was drained—emotionally and physically—and I probably wasn’t helping his cause by picking this fight, but I am tired of being treated just like a pair of slippers that you come home to. Or a pet cat that you leave to fend for itself and then come home expecting it to snuggle you after a long day.
I accepted this life, and I changed my life around his, but it’s getting tiring.
“I’m tired, K,” he just said, and then he shrugged off my hand on his arm and just started to walk away. I blocked his way, placed both my hands on his chest, pushing him with all my might.
“AND I’M TIRED TOO!” I shouted, and he looked down at me with so much disdain. His eyes sparked with so much fury, finally getting some sort of emotion out of him.
“What do you want me to do, huh? Fuck you here right now? Sit here and listen to your stories—how boring your day was, how your coworker sucked at what he was doing, how you’re so busy? Act all so ‘yay, you’re friend’s flying in, I can hear more stories about you?’” he said, so much bitterness coming out of his voice. “I have so many issues already, K, and I can’t deal with yours too!”
I felt his jabs, one at a time, stab my chest. One knife after the other, burying deep. I exhaled loudly, shaking my head. I removed my hands on his chest and let them drop to my sides. I gazed at him, at the man I am with for two years. We’ve been through hell and back—probably far more times than couples are used to—and it has probably taken a strain on both of us.
“It used to be your issues are mine, and my issues were yours. Somewhere along the way, H, that stopped happening,” I said, calmly this time, and he didn’t speak. He moved back, leaning against the headrest of the couch. “Did I stop listening? Or did you stop caring about my life, because as you said, it was boring?”
“No,” he whispered. “No,” he repeated, with more conviction this time.
“But then what?”
He fixed his gaze on me, and I could see how much he was breaking. “I think we want different things at this point in our lives.”
My mouth dropped open, my mind not processing this information. “Excuse me?” was all I could say. I liked the status quo—well, not this fight and the weeks leading to it, but the better days.
He clasped his hands together, playing with his fingers as he started to explain. “I want to focus on my career, K. The band needs to come up with another album, and they’re adding more tour dates, and it’s actually getting kind of hard to manage everything else, with you on top of it.”
I clasped my hands too, in front of me, my fingers almost immediately finding the promise ring on my left ring finger. “I never demanded too much, H. If anything, I never demanded at all. I understood everything—or at least I try.” My voice broke at the last word.
He pointed at me. “And you—I know you’re happy with your job, and you’re happy with everything. Except us. I’m holding you back.”
I took a step towards him, and then I shook my head. “You’re not, H. Oh dear god, you’re not.” I made him look at me, my finger on his chin to lift his eyes up. “If you want to focus on your career, then I’m fine with that. I’ve always been fine with that. But are you about to say what I think you’re leading to?”
You see, H’s eyes don’t lie. His eyes are his tell—they’re restless when he’s lying, and you’d definitely know you catch him in a lie when his eyes look down. His eyes are his truth.
So when he said no, I knew he was lying.
“Wow.” I knew celebs would often say that the breakup was due to busy schedules and all that shit, but I never thought it was actually quite real. That “crazy schedules” were just a PR term to cover up a bigger reason for a breakup. “And if I won’t let you?” I asked him, and he smiled sadly.
“Between the two of us, I know you’re the one to fight. Even if you run away, you come back because you fight. Because you believe, and you love with everything that you are. And I’m asking you, with all that’s left of me, to please just drop this time. I love you so much—”
“Then why, H? WHY?”
“Will this be any easier if I just tell you that I met someone?” he said, and I smirked.
“No. Did you?”
“No. Jesus, K, no. You know me. I’m loyal, and I’m faithful.”
I placed both my hands on his arms. “Yes, so why are you doing this? You don’t need to break up with me.”
And then there were his eyes again, and then they tell me that this time he’s going to tell the truth. “I’m all out, K. My emotions are everywhere, and I feel so tired,” he explained, his voice cracking at the last word. “And each time I look at you, I want to love you in the way that you deserve, but I’m all out, K. I’m so, so drained—”
“So drained that you can’t love me?”
He stayed silent, and I just nodded. I showed him the ring on my left hand. “I made this promise, a year ago, to you. It was a promise that meant a lot of things, and it included loving you unconditionally, and knowing when to step back.”
I reached for his shirt’s collar, searching for that thin cord, and I found it, the silver chain where his promise ring hang around his neck. I drew it out, and then I showed it to him. “You have it too, because you made me a promise too. And I’m not going to want you feel that you broke it, okay?” I brushed the tears that fell from my eyes, and then took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tugged at the chain hard, so that it broke. H gasped, and my eyes flew open.
His ring fell in my palm and I gave him a sad smile. I pocketed his ring. “I’ll be packing my stuff in your room.”
I was three steps away from the bedroom when H stopped me, grabbing me by the arm. Then he just wrapped his arms around me, the hug so tight I couldn’t breathe. I could feel his shoulders shake as he cried, but I stopped myself from doing the same thing. I stared at the ceiling, willing my tears to not fall.
“Crush me. Break me. Shout at me. Break down in front of me if you have to. Tell me you hate me. Just don’t tell me you can’t love me, because that’s where I end, H. That’s where we end.”
I felt him nodding, and then he drew back. He cupped my face in his hands and then kissed me, that painful, heartbreaking kiss that you give someone you love but maybe don’t intend to see again.
When he released me from the kiss, he took my hand and we walked towards the bedroom. He flopped into it, taking me along with him, and then we just lay there, stewing in our silence. He was crying still, and I wasn’t crying because I wouldn’t let myself.
That’s when he looked at me. And I couldn’t look at him because I knew if I do, I would fall apart.
This wasn’t how H and I were supposed to end. Check that—we weren’t at all supposed to end. He was my love story. He is my love story. Yes, he and I weren’t at all perfect—thus, the fights—but we weren’t supposed to end.
This wasn’t our last page in the book.
I felt him move, his fingers digging into my jeans pocket. He retrieved the ring, and then he said, “Look at me.”
I let out a shaky breath, and then I did look at him, the first of my held-back tears falling. He slid the ring on his finger. “This is just a break, not a breakup. I need to fix myself, K.” I didn’t speak, just gazing into his emerald green eyes that once bore so much promise but now just bore emptiness. “We just need to clear this stuff around us—stuff around me. It’s me who has baggage now, K, and I need—”
“It’s your turn to run away,” I cut in, my voice in a whisper. H nodded, and then he sought for my hand on the bed, lacing his fingers with mine. His thumb grazed on my promise ring, and he leaned closer.
“I love you,” he whispered. “More than this. I know I do, and I just have to get myself around it.”
I closed the distance between us, placing my lips on his forehead. “I know. And I’m gonna wait, okay? Just like you did when I ran away.”
His hands snaked around my waist, pulling me closer to him, until our bodies blurred together. I let out my breath, as shaky as was, scared at this new chapter in our relationship.