There’s ice cream on my shirt. I’m standing in the middle of an intersection, and there are cars going by at 45 miles per hour. There is a small dent in my front bumper and a scratch on the car in front of me, and this day is definitely not getting any better any time soon. Still, all I can think about is the sickeningly sweet melted confection making its way down my front.
The woman in front of me is twenty years my senior, and so she has taken it upon herself to be the acting adult in the situation. I oblige her, because I really don’t feel like an adult right now. It’s hard to feel grown up while you’re splattered in butterscotch ripple. She must notice my preoccupation with the ice cream, because she reaches in her purse and hands me several neatly folded napkins.
She asks me about you, gesturing down the street in the direction you ran. You are long gone now. She feigns motherly concern for my choice in men. She shakes her head at me in a way that suggests I know nothing. Her forty years against my twenty make her the expert in these things. She tells me I am a fool if I go after you.
This is a kind woman, high and mighty, but kind. You can see it in her face. Her wrinkles tell stories of people she once cared for and loves she has lost. She means well. I got lucky. I could have been stuck with a career obsessed businessman who wanted to impale me for marring his brand new Lexus, but I got her. I got a lady that calls you “hun” even though she’s never met you before and hands you paper towels to clean up your mess, even though you hit her car.
The damage is minimal. We both part ways, confident that tiny scratches are not worth the hassle of insurance. I’m thankful that I will not have to explain to my local Geico agent how this accident happened. There’s enough shame in having ice cream thrown at you while you’re stopped at an intersection. You need not say it out loud.
I don’t follow you. I don’t have the time. I go to work instead, in all my butterscotch-covered glory. The sugary milk is drying now, and the cloth of the shirt sticks to my middle. I grab a spare polo from the supply lockers. It’s not new and someone has worn it without washing it, but it’s better than wearing the reminder of morning for all to see.
I get two lectures from my boss. The first is on the importance of punctuality, and the second is about you. Like so many people in my life, he feels the need to remind me that sleeping with someone who verbally and physically lashes out at you on a daily basis is a bad thing. I acknowledge that my tardiness is unacceptable and acknowledge that he is “probably right about that”. He means well, but I know the truth of it, that it’s just as much me as you. I lash out too.
A text buzzes in my pocket.
You aren’t. I know you aren’t. We always say we are done, but we’re not. We are like children on a carousel, you and I. We spin around and around until we get sick and get off. We swear we are never getting back on, only to change our mind seconds later. Like that carousel, we are stuck in the joy of the spin, forever going nowhere, it’s only when the carousel stops that we feel dizzy.
I try my best to go about my day, stocking and restocking DVDs on shelves, checking out rentals to people with no taste in film whatsoever. It’s good to be in my video store bubble. It is home in so many ways. My day moves quickly as I work. I’d like to say that I didn’t think about you, that I didn’t constantly check my texts. I’d like to say that I didn’t call you on my break. That’s all a lie, though. I did. I called and left a message. I apologized. I begged. Because we are never the version of ourselves that we need to be in the moment when we need to be it.
A sane person would delete your texts and not respond. A self respecting person would go home, watch Gilmore Girls, cry into a bucket of Ben and Jerry, and get over it. But I really have no appetite for ice cream right now, and I am not a sane or self respecting person. I am me, and you are you. I’m as much to blame as you are for our regular bouts. I instigate just as much as you do. You are the bad guy today, but it will likely be me tomorrow. We do a dance that has a clear pattern and consistency, but no grace.
I think about the morning, about the trip to the ice cream parlor. I think of sweet and salty kisses shared between bites, hands groping at each other, wanting to do more than just taste the sugar on each other’s tongues. Then I remember the car, the argument about which way to turn; the argument that escalated into voices raised loud enough for passers-by to hear through rolled-up windows. I remember the cold of the ice cream, the force of the cars bumping when my foot slipped off the brake. You ran. You didn’t even stay to see if I was okay. This should be enough for me to be done, but it isn’t.
But then I think of picnics on the living room floor, of sharing Harribo Peaches and laughing at old sitcoms on DVD. I think of hands laced together and heads rested on shoulders. I think of Hungry Man dinners at 2 am, and old movies we barely watch because we are way to focussed on each other.
And I can’t be done.
You text back. You invite me over, and I get on the carousel again.