Kal's hand is enwrapped around my upper arm, squeezing. It is not a gentle squeeze. It is violent and possessive, and the hand is shaking as it grips. I try to pull away, but the grip won't loosen. It tightens instead. I gasp, and I want to cry. I don't cry. I am so angry. I’d rather die than show him my weakness now, so I dare not cry. I laugh instead. I release a cackle from deep within my stomach, and hear it reverberate in my ears, defiant and provocative.
"Lara?" A deep voice interrupted my reverie. My head snapped towards the voice and my eyes refocused. It was Kal, my boyfriend. His gaze was resting on my face in concern, his hand resting gingerly on my upper arm.
"I'm sorry, Kal," I sighed, my gaze moving from his eyes to his big hand, regarding it tentatively.
I flicked my gaze back to him when he said, "You're thinking about it again, aren't you?" He began to remove his hand, a soft trail of warmth lingering where the hand had passed. I quickly grabbed his arm, golden and hairy, with my smaller hand. "No," I said quickly. "I need you to touch me." I confess in a whisper. "I've missed it."
It was the truth. Kal's expression softened but the crease of concern between his thick brows failed to disappear.
It's OK," I reassured him, leaning into him and wrapping my arms around his waist. I pressed my face against his chest, and I could smell the familiar tobacco scent masked by his favourite perfume, and with a grimace, I take note of the surprise that I felt by how much I had missed that scent.
I thought about the last time that I had been intimate with man, and how it had not been with my boyfriend, Kal. We were together during that time, but he had grown distant. First it was the distance, then it was the accusations. The last time it happened, it was in this very same room, his bedroom.
"I'm telling you," I shout. "I didn't do it! We're just friends. Why can't you just believe me? Give me the benefit of the doubt?" I admit, I spend a lot of time with Paulo, but that's only because Kal hardly has time for me anymore. Paulo is a good friend. He gives me attention. He listens to me. He plays his beautiful guitar music to me when I
feel lowly. But Kal is the one that I love. I try to convince him of that, try to win back his affections, lost way before this argument.
"Don't lie to me," he shouts back. There is so much venom in his voice. His hazel eyes burn hatefully into me, and I wince in shame. Why do I feel ashamed? I am innocent!
"Kal, listen to me," I advance towards him, lock
my arms around his waist and begin to sob. "I'm not lying, I swear!"
Why am I trying so hard to convince him when he's already made up his mind?
I feel his body tense in my desperate embrace, desperate
for the love and affection of the man I love, caught in a paranoid delusion of my forbidden affair. "No," he groans, his voice disgusted. He grips my shoulders and forcefully pushes me away. I stagger backwards, tears on my cheeks, and fall on my butt. Along one wall of his bedroom, a full-body mirror stands. I've fallen right in front of it, and I see myself in full view. For a few seconds, I stare, and what I see sends my heart pulsing fast, and my breath deepens into gasps.
Enough is enough, I decide bitterly. I stand up, force my gaze
to land on his face, so hard and unreadable. His thin lips are pressed tightly together, his nose is fuming. I use the back of my hand to wipe away the tears he caused, the tears he once would have kissed away, pick up my purse, and charge for the door, taking the last wisp of dignity I had with me.
Kal was not typically violent. I knew him for five years, three of which we'd been together, and it was only during two incidents that he showed physical aggression towards me. The first time was when he shoved me, and I had been innocent. The second time was when he grabbed my arm, unable to let me go. I was guilty, then. His accusations had come true.
After he had treated me like vomit and rejected me in my time of need, when I most needed him to accept me, I had gone to my friend Paulo, and he comforted me. It was not planned out. I had not foreseen it. I had been a mess, such an emotional
mess, that I had just fallen into his embrace, and before I had known it, we were kissing, sprawled along his fold over couch.
Little had I known that Kal had followed me, followed me to Paulo's studio...
Considering the number of violent punches to the face that Kal had delivered into Paulo's face, a mere tight grip on my arm outside of the studio did not compare much. If anything, Kal had shown an interesting amount of restraint towards me that day.
I had managed to break free of his grip by spitting in his face and telling him never to speak to me again. It would be the last time we would see each other for months. In those months, however, not a single day had gone by that I had not cried into my pillow.
“What if I told you I missed you, and that I regret it all? My words, my actions?” Kal held me back, pressing his face into my hair. I sighed, inhaling, drinking in his scent. My heart palpitated and my senses felt reenergized. I had not felt so at home for what seemed like an eternity. My first embrace with Kal, feeling his warm and broad body pressed against my slight form, was all I had imagined it would be. Somehow, I guess I had known all along that we would be reunited. Out of sight, out of mind… that concept had not applied to me during our time apart. My feelings for him had never lost their fervor, and that was how I had known that what we had would bring us together again, one way or another.
I am at a cinema at a local mall, watching a new chick flick that has just come out. I invited Paulo to come with me, but he declined. He has been distant from me since the incident with Kal. It isn’t fair, considering that I was not the instigator of Kal’s actions. I am upset by the unfolding, but I have left him alone.
My second option was Marla, another friend of mine, but she is unavailable. I am here solo.
The two main characters of this movie quarrel so much that it is difficult to foresee an eventual romantic relationship between the two of them. Regardless, it is funny in its own way, and that is what I came here for. The laughs.
There is this aching feeling in my chest that I can’t shake. The butter and cheese flavored popcorn does not coat it. The movie does not zap the sensation out of existence. People around me cannot distract me from it. Sleep does not release me from it.
I ruminate day in and day out about what transpired three months ago. There are no phone calls between us. No messages. No visits. No communication whatsoever. I guess I’m just waiting for him to make the first move. I guess I’m just too afraid to be the initiator for fear of being rejected again. I cannot go through that again, and the fear has paralyzed me into inaction. I wake up each morning and go to sleep each night regretting my cowardice. I go through each day acting like I’m fine, like I’m better off, but the truth is I miss Kal so much. If I could just gather enough bravery to make one phone call, just one…
A burst of collective laughter fills the theatre, and I realize that I’ve lost focus on the movie. I grab a handful of popcorn and stare blankly at the screen, completely enchanted by my line of thought.
Just do it, Lara, I tell myself. What is there to lose? I’m losing my mind here not knowing.
Without giving myself the chance to think twice about it, I throw my hand into my bag and wrench my phone out.
I get up, handbag slung over my shoulder, and head to the back entrance door. The phone begins to ring as I step outside into the bright lights beyond the heavy twin doors.
I vaguely take note of the people walking up and down, of the concession stands, of the security man in his uniform standing not too far from the door, checking tickets.
My world shrinks and everything beyond me and my phone vanishes into nonexistence.
The phone rings. And rings. And rings.
All the while I’m holding my breath. Wishing, hoping, begging, for his voice on the other end of the line.
My heart staggers, and it feels like it is sinking into my belly, causing uncomfortable flutters of dismay. I feel an aching void in my chest, and my throat feels congested by angry sobs that are threatening to uncontrollably spool out of it.
Three months. Three fucking months, and he does not bother to answer my call? Have I meant so little to him? Does he not miss me, not even a little? Did I even know, even in the slightest bit, the person that I called my boyfriend for the last few years? Was I really the fool that I told myself I was every day for falling for someone I likely never even knew?
I remove the phone from my ear and drop my arm limply to my side. I’m in a mental daze, but I keep myself composed physically. I will my feet to take me to the nearest bench and settle slowly onto it, feeling utterly defeated.
How do I go on? I ask myself miserably as a heavy cloud of despair befalls me. How?
You don’t, the same voice bites. You can’t.
I stare at my phone, a distant part of me hoping to see him calling back. A lost hope.
I should try again, I decide. And then again. And then fucking again. Until he answers. He owes me that much. He owes me more than that.
I dial his number again. It begins to ring, and my breath catches. The melody is not coming from my phone.
I look up quickly, surveying the area, seeing my surroundings for the first time.
And I see him. Standing there, outside of the theatre entrance. His face is unreadable, his tall form is facing me. He starts to walk towards me.
He has followed me out from the cinema room. What a coincidence that we would be here on the same day, at the same time, to watch the same movie.
I snap out of my surprised stare and stand up to meet him. He reaches me. I stare at him. He stares back, and I see sincerity there. “Hello, Lara.” His voice booms, deep and low.
I drop my phone into my handbag and place my palms to my face, sobbing silently. I hate crying in public but I can’t help it. Kal is here, and I had not the slightest clue how to react to that.
I feel a gentle brush on my shoulder and look up. His forehead is creased. He is hesitant. “Would you like to go to a private place?”
I release an audible sniffle, feeling like a total baby, and nod. “Let’s get out of here.”
“I didn’t know what to think, honestly,” I responded to Kal. I’d had no idea that he’d missed me and harbored feelings of regret. I’d gone through moments where I’d felt like he had ceased to care and moved on to someone else. Those had been the worst thoughts.
“Me, neither,” he held me tighter, making me feel safe. So safe that I felt it was OK to let go now. To let go of all the tumultuous emotions that cascaded within me, safe enough to unravel.
I cried. Boy, I cried. My chest heaved and my head began to throb as I allowed myself to feel the sadness in its entirety, as I allowed myself to let it go.
It was scary to think about how one’s happiness and sense of security could be entirely dependent on a single human being. If I had known prior to meeting Kal what being in love felt like, the dark side of it, I most likely would have run away from it before we even began getting serious.
Kal’s face was still in my hair as we embraced each other, and I began to feel moisture on my scalp. He was crying, too.
Oh, Kal. My sweet, beautiful Kal.
Many moments passed with us standing like that, glued to one another, allowing all that was within to lay itself bare for the other to see. I had never in my life felt so connected to someone.
Slowly, hesitantly, we released each other. Our eyes met, fingers entwined in front of us. We smiled at each other, staring, reading, assessing. And just as suddenly as the sob marathon began, we began to laugh.
It was crazy. I felt so much lighter, like two heavy mountains had just been lifted off my shoulders. All the upset and sadness and resentment… it was like it all melted away under the glaring heat of the mutual deep love we felt for each other. It was raw and we could both feel it emanating from each other. Many words could not describe it. All those months apart and the anguish that came with it… it all seemed so irrelevant now.
Our silly laughing rant came to a gradual stop, and he gave me that look that I missed so much. That look that said, “You’re the only one for me.” It made me blush and I looked down, focusing my gaze on our entwined fingers instead. Cream and golden, merged together. A beautiful combination.
“You beautiful, Lara,” he said silently.
I smiled. “I think I know why we had to go our separate ways.”
I flicked my gaze back to meet his. His look was quizzical. “Always so analytical,” he joked.
“I think we both needed time to face our own fears. We expected each other to fix each other’s problems. Your beliefs about me cheating… Those were issues about yourself which manifested into paranoia about the one you were closest to and feared to lose. And me, well, I think I needed to understand that being in a committed relationship meant committing to the good, as well as to the bad. That it’s not just rainbows and candy floss,” I paused, shaking my head. “It was a rude awakening.”
I watched Kal as he contemplated my words. “I don’t disagree,” he said.
“Think you’ve sorted through your issues?” I asked.
He sighed. “Lara, I have had nothing but time to think and reason and make sense of both of my actions and yours. I realized that you were actually telling me the truth, but I had talked myself into such an insane story that… it just made sense to me back then.”
“I understand,” I grabbed his hands and squeezed. “You had a long history of unfaithful lovers.”
“I’m so sorry,” he expressed. “I drove you into doing the very thing that I falsely accused you of.”
I internally winced in shame. I had kissed Paulo, but it had not gone further than that. I didn’t think it would have even if Kal had not budged in and caught us. “I am sorry for falling into the arms of another man, and that you had to see that.” I imagined Kal locked in an impassioned embrace, lip-locked with another woman, and felt my stomach lurch. “I can’t imagine how you must have felt.”
“It felt like a betrayal,” he said matter-of-factly.
I looked down in shame, but he nudged my face up with a tender finger. “It’s all in the past now. You’re right, Lara. There was a bigger picture to all of this. All I care about right now is that we’re together again.”
My heart melted. “I feel the same way.”
We were both imperfect, with our own separate issues. We were our own people, united in love, and only through that would we be able to see each other through the worst of times.
Many words were not necessary. We were one even in distance. We were close in mind and spirit even during the worst of feuds. This reunion was proof. It was natural and effortless, and I could tell that even if the future would inevitably be riddled with challenges and troubles, we would be able to see each other through anything.
Kal pulled me in, one hand at the small of my back, another trailing softly along the length of my arm, and pressed his lips to mine.
We kissed a long, gentle kiss. It was deep with feeling, with love, with truce and reconciliation, with permission to enter a deeper, more unified partnership. But more than that, it ignited a passion deep within me that was dormant for way too long, and the gentle kiss deepened into an impassioned one.
I pulled away and whispered, “I love you, Kal."
He smiled, bent down to lift me up into his arms, and carried me to bed.