I didn’t realize how long we’d been talking until the sunlight started creeping in through the kitchen window. One by one, everyone had left. The last to meander off were the animals. First her dog, then my dog. Our cat nestled under my armpit as I laid on the kitchen floor occasionally lifting my head to take sips from a bottle of Dunkel. After a while, even the cat walked off and up the stairs to bed, his collar jingling up the steps.
She sat on a black stool with her feet resting on a smaller wooden stool. Her wife told her she’d never find a use for it so she used it as a foot-stool to prove her wrong. It really was an awful piece of furniture. Although the design was clever, it was terribly uncomfortable and made an offensive noise if you dragged it across the floor.
The counter had a few empty bottles of red wine, a dwindling bowl of stale tortilla chips, and an empty hummus container. The sink was filled with half-soaked dishes and merlot-stained wine glasses. Every Wednesday we’d get together with our friends for a mid-week break. What was once a jubilant gathering place vibrant with conversation and dogs playing was now reduced to two kindred souls bathing in the sound of each other’s voices at half volume.
When you fall for someone, you don’t always fall in love. Sometimes, you fall down a cliff.
We hadn’t discussed anything groundbreaking that night. Nothing new was uncovered between us. We had a tendency to listen and respond with whatever would make the other feel good. The conversation had been enjoyable as it usually was. We talked about her job, I talked about my dream of being a musician, she talked about her sister, we talked about our friends and their significant others, we laughed at whatever silly things the dogs would do and took turns holding the cat.
Over the years our circle grew. Like oblong puzzle pieces finding each other and sharing wine on holidays. We were at the heart of all of the pieces, joined in the center and connecting others as they passed through our lives.
There was a perpetuity between her and I that I never thought I’d have to give up. She listened. She encouraged me. She celebrated my wins. We excited each other. Foolishly though, like a child who pretends to be fascinated by something mundane so they don’t have to pick up their toys, I avoided the inevitable.
“You wanna go out and watch the sun come up?” I asked.
“Na, I’m tired. Think I’m gonna go up,” she said.
“I probably should, too,” I added half-heartedly.
We embraced and kissed on the lips. I watched her walk to the stairs and made a kiss sound when she looked back.
The world seemed different with her. Like I had figured something out that others hadn’t. The newness didn’t seem to wear off. Each day, things just kept getting newer. It was like the expression “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” ceased to exist.
Only a few people knew about us. I only let people know when I had something on them. It caused me to develop deeply toxic relationships. I’d been so far from fulfillment with a partner my whole life that when I got my first taste I couldn’t imagine anything better. The grass is only greener if you know it exists.
Although it takes two to tango, she led the dance. It was her who gave us consent. It was her who dragged me into the rain and asked for a commitment. It was her who made the 4-letter gamble first. It was her who suggested I move in.
Although few knew about us, the ones that did said living together was a bad idea. I agreed and did it anyways.
Towards the end I felt like a puppy vying for her attention. I would leave abruptly without a word and check my phone for a text from her as I drove around aimlessly. Her bad days at work meant I could try to comfort her but she would disappear into her phone and get irritated anytime I engaged.
Someone who gave me such great confidence at one time had reduced me to a nuisance.
It was difficult to justify my anger and hurt since I knew the deal going in. I knew it wasn’t forever. I knew the ride would eventually end. The noncommittal nature of our relationship was the appeal in the first place. No strings, just fun. But we’d both sunk deeper into each other than we planned.
We’d been to a lake together 3 times; once in love, once in turmoil, and lastly as near-strangers. The lake in front of me now only reminds me of our last visit. By that time in the relationship, she hardly looked at me. I slept in my car and it rained all night long. I barely slept. Her laughter at my jokes even sounded different that weekend. Like an acquaintance trying to make a newcomer comfortable.
Now I sit drinking a beer that I don’t like and watch the ripples roll across the moonlit water. My new friends are sitting around the campfire hundreds of yards away, hardly aware of my absence. I can hear the faint laughter behind me as I curl my toes in the cold, wet sand.
I peer into the sky and try to look through the stars. Maybe, just maybe, far out into the universe, there’s a place where we still exist together. I’m buying wine on the way home from work, she’s pouring a bag of mostly broken chips into a ceramic bowl, the dogs are vying for her attention, and our cat is napping peacefully.
Then again, I think. Maybe this universe isn’t doomed at all. Maybe I’m here and she is there for a reason. Maybe one day I’ll understand. Maybe one day I’ll believe it. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.