«We are not good for each other.»
We have been saying this same thing for years, since before our first break-up. We are just that, just not good. Not really friends, not lovers anymore. Whatever it is that bound us is long lost and forgotten, but the spell holds. I only wish I knew how to dare break it.
By the time we get to the beach, it’s already dark. November is setting in. This year, the coming of winter is getting to me as never before. I fear your leaving, though I have to think it a deliverance. I envy it too.
When we were walking here, I was hungry. Now, just looking at the earlier craved convenience store sandwich is making me sick. The mulled wine in my flask is lukewarm. I pass it over. You take a sip. I try not to look at your face. In a matter of weeks, you are going to be kilometres and kilometres gone, looking at a different sea and drinking different, I think, better wines. They must have good wines in Italy. And peaches, and pizza, and small cosy villas, and I would love for you to find peace.
I try to imagine us together again, as I always do. The picture in my head falls apart at the details. I will never afford to get out of this country. I do not know Italian, not even what it sounds like except in that one Bowie’s song. Even if I spoke Italian, I wouldn’t know what to talk about with your academia friends. Probably, you will only have academia friends and go to libraries and write your theses together all days long.
I focus harder and we end up here, in that tiny studio we didn't rent the last time. It hurts so much to realise this would be where our dreams realistically end. But, with some IKEA, it could be nice.
I don't tell you that I still think of you every time I go to IKEA and dream of that family life we profoundly failed at. I thought of you today as I was choosing candles and fake pumpkins and whatnot they want me to put up for Halloween at work.
So it is you who breaks the silence and starts talking, deliberately avoiding the elephant in the room. The vampire show is fun. You like the bald one. I don't. You remark on the dynamics the married couple has. I cringe. However hard we tried, we could never achieve that.
«I changed the tickets,» you suddenly say.
My silent «When?» is followed by «Tomorrow.»
Twelve feet away from the sea, I feel like I’m drowning and gasping for air.
You lean closer and show me a picture on your phone. Your room, empty-white. No curtains. Three suitcases on the floor.
To my surprise, you start crying first. I battle the urge to hold your face in my hands and kiss the sadness away, inch by inch. We do not do it anymore, not that it worked. If only there were something I could say.
Don't leave me, don't leave me, don't leave me — I will not say it. We both know you should. That’s why you did it. You want to be done with it sooner, no second thoughts, no dragged-out goodbyes.
As I look up, I meet your gaze without really intending to. We stare at each other for a while. Out of the blue, there is a plea in your eyes. Then you say the last thing I expected you to say.
«Can I stay with you?»
I study your face. You can’t be serious but it seems you are, serious and scared, and that very moment, I sober up.
The hardest truth of my life is that.
«We are not good for each other.»
We still have to spell it out every time, after the years of fighting, and drama, and codependency, as the wicked circle of the sick push-and-pull traps us tighter. If it takes physical separation to keep us from ruining each other further, this is the best chance we got. I hope I mean it. I will not stand in your way. You say you love me now. Later, you will blame me and I will snap. We will hate each other and ourselves but then make up and go through it again, both discontented and bitter for having failed at our dreams, ambitions, at everything, all in favour of feeding the dysfunctionality between us.
«I am not ready to lose you forever.»
«But the olives,» I say. I know nothing of Italy.
What else is there to add? We'll have to get used to silence between us the sooner we can. You kind of smile.
«We will get over it. People do.»
Or maybe it will never happen. The odds are, we are indeed the love of each other’s lives and we ruined it. So maybe we are better off alone. Or maybe, one day, we will be ready to let go for good. You will be a professor somewhere in Italy. I will go on rebuilding my life here. Peace is all we can hope for now, and there is none while we are together.
«We should— We will not talk, will we?» I ask the obvious thing, though it hurts like hell to imagine.
«It would not be wise.»
See, we both understand it. You hold your breath, then take a long sip of the wine and finally say:
«I wish you a good life.»
At these stupid words, I choke. This is it then, the farewell. Our last night.
For the first time in months, I want to light up so badly, but neither of us has cigarettes. I dig out a tall IKEA candle out of my bag and light it instead, drip some wax on the bench to put it standing between us.
We stay in silence, while the Baltic roars, waiting until it burns down.