Darling, we’re standing at the edge of the precipice. I see it now. I get it. I understand. We step back, we succumb. We step forward, we survive.
What we were back then doesn’t have to be what we are now. We couldn’t escape those passing days. We went to battle, but our past doesn’t have to define our future.
I sit here at your bedside staring into your ocean blue eyes.
I remember it all…
Ten years ago, in Grainville Park, you made my twenty-nine-year-old mind toss and turn. The moment I first laid eyes on you I felt myself change. The very sight of you made me feel alive.
Eight years later it’s still so vivid and clear in my memory.
You were sitting alone at a park bench with a novel in hand. The way the sunlight touched your red hair brought it to life. I watched people pass by you. You didn’t even notice. So relaxed and at ease you sat.
I was as nervous as can be walking over to you. The kid sitting at the back of the classroom never making a sound—that was me. I never went after anything worthwhile in my life, especially not someone like you.
Twice I nearly turned around and went the other way as I approached. I had to muster every ounce of guts and courage to keep walking your way.
Standing by the bench, I remember looking down at you, the novel still gripping your attention.
“Would you mind?” I had asked.
And that’s when you finally looked up. Those blue eyes of yours made it impossible for me to look away. I couldn’t, even if it meant my life. Your face came alive with a gentle smile. I was hooked. I was like a druggie finding the ultimate fix.
I motioned to the open seat beside you. You nodded ‘yes’, and I didn’t hesitate. I sat myself down as fast as possible trying not to be obvious. But, damn, it was hard.
We clicked so easily. The world around me evaporated along with everyone in it. It was just you and me and no one else.
You put your book down, and I remember we talked about whatever. We could have been two friends who had known each other for years. It was that effortless.
Eventually, you stood up saying you had to get to work.
But it was plain you didn’t want to leave.
Exchanging numbers was inevitable.
Watching you leave, your hair still shimmering beneath the sunlight, I remember thinking I would have fought a thousand wars for you. I would taste death to feel your embrace.
Our ages didn’t come to light until almost a month later.
I remember we were sitting at the kitchen table in my one-bedroom apartment. When I dropped the number twenty-nine you clammed up. For a brief moment the silence between us felt heavy. I didn’t even know what I had said to make it so.
That was the number you told me.
Thirty-eight years old.
You waited for me to split and run. Get the hell away from you as fast I could, leaving you all alone.
But those ocean blue eyes of yours only captivated me. Held me glued to my seat.
Nine years older.
It wasn’t a big deal. Not for this young man.
We reached our arms across the table, entwined our fingers. The simple touch of your skin was more than I could ever hope for. It made me feel that together we were immortal, that no one and not a single thing could rip us in half.
I remember people telling me we would never last, that what we had was just some brief fling and that our ages doomed us from the start.
The ones that told us we wouldn’t last, I remember wanting them to burn in hell. I wanted their skin to melt away.
I believed in us.
I didn’t see it any other way.
We ignored the age difference. Forgot about it completely.
We had something. We had something that was as beautiful as could ever be.
You and me. We’d face the world together, hand-in-hand.
So we thought.
So many times I was an emotionless stone wall. You said I was hard to read. You said I had trouble letting you in.
I didn’t believe it at the time. I couldn’t see what you saw. I couldn’t feel what you felt.
It was the life I had always known. The life I was born into.
A life where my dad told me so many times that "it’s only sissy boys who cry, and sissy boys make weak men".
So that’s who I became. At times a stone cold son of a bitch. A blank canvas with nothing on it to give it life.
When you’d cry I’d hold you, but I wasn’t truly there. In body, but not in mind and not what you needed. I can’t count the number of times you just wanted me to open up.
But every time you started to get close to breaking me open, my dad’s words would come screaming into my head, only to shut me back down.
The conversation would die. You’d drift back to the bedroom in our small house or find comfort in becoming absorbed with whatever novel you were in the middle of. It was how you escaped our reality.
I remember even at my dad’s funeral, as I sat on the church’s front steps with a blank look on my face, you told me it was okay to cry. Even then I couldn’t. I just sat there like a zombie holding it all in.
How many times did I do that to you? I don’t even know.
I shouldn’t have been so surprised when we came crashing down.
Six years into our relationship, I’ll never forget coming home from work that day.
When I pulled into the driveway seeing my buddy’s car out front, I should have known right away something was off.
It was a Friday afternoon. You thought I was working until 5:00 p.m. that day, but I’d decided to call it an early afternoon.
The moment I walked through the backdoor I heard you two. The groans of pleasure. The sounds of two people in the throes of ecstasy.
Walking towards the bedroom I didn’t want it to be true. I prayed it wasn’t. But deep down I knew. You can only avoid truth for so long.
Standing at the bedroom door I saw you two as naked as the day you were born. He was on top, his body pressing down on yours, skin-against-skin. You weren’t even under the covers.
You were enjoying it. It was written all over your face.
When you saw me your eyes went wide. I thought they were going to fall right out of your skull.
Then my buddy turned to face me. His eyes did the same.
He jumped right off you, grabbed his clothes from the floor and ran. Didn’t even bother to try and get dressed.
He moved so fast it was as if I was about to light him on fire.
Believe me, I wanted to.
I could have run after him. Could have chased him down and beat the piss out of him. But I didn’t have it in me. Not right then. My brain was spinning.
You slipped under the covers, your naked flesh slipping out of view.
I stepped into the room and the shouting began. We were two fighters going at each other as hard as we could, our words becoming our fists, punching one another over and over again.
You tried to explain. You tried to defend yourself. You tried to make me understand.
But I didn’t want to hear it. In my mind, at that very moment, you were just a cheating slut, and nothing more.
I hated you. I fucking hated you.
I wanted to spit a thousand vulgar words in your face. I wanted my words to slice you so deep they destroyed you with emotional wounds. I wanted to make you feel rotten to the very depths of your soul.
At that very moment we weren’t talking. We weren’t having a conversation. Not a real one. We were just trying to knock each other out.
And so you ran. You got dressed, pushed me out of the way and ran out.
You jumped in your car and sped out of the driveway.
All I could think was that you were running off to him. Straight to the same person who had run naked out my front door.
I told myself I didn’t care. Go to him. Go and screw his brains out again. That’s what I thought.
But, I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t truly care. I cared more than you could ever know.
Less than two hours later you turned my world upside down for the second time.
I’ll never forget that phone call. Not until the day I die.
The hospital told me you had the right of way at the intersection and that you were following the rules. But someone texting while he’s driving doesn’t follow the rules. That guy goes right through the red light into your driver’s side door.
I remember rushing to the hospital and not being really sure what to think. I remember your parents standing at your bedside. I remember not telling them why you had really raced out of the house an emotional wreck. Instead, I told them you were going out to buy milk. They didn’t ask anything else. It was irrelevant at that moment in time.
The three of us watched over your battered body under the hospital bed covers.
A week later you were still the same. Your eyes shut. Unresponsive. Your body still held prisoner by a coma.
Three weeks later I had dinner with my mom.
I told her about what had happened between us. Told her everything. I had to. I had to get it off my chest.
She wasn’t angry. She wasn’t even completely surprised.
When I asked why, she told me there’s a part of me that’s my father. I knew what she was talking about. It was the part that shuts down. The part that just stares at you when you tell me it’s alright to cry at my dad’s funeral. It’s the piece of me that wasn’t therefor you when you needed me to be. And for that I hated myself.
On my way home the hospital called saying you had woken up. I didn’t waste any time rushing to your side.
And so, now…
I watch your parents leave your hospital room wanting to give the two of us time alone. That’s good. We need it.
I grab a chair from the corner of the room and pull it up beside your hospital bed.
We stare into each other’s eyes. I take your hand in mine.
We don’t talk.
Instead I press your fingers against my lips. I keep them there. You don’t even try to pull away.
We’ve been through our personal hell. We’ve been to war and back.
But we have the here and the now.
We don’t have to be what we once were.
Can we be a broken past, but with a brighter future?