It was a hot. She didn’t understand why he wanted to meet her in a parking lot. As always, she obliged and sighed as she walked over to him. He met her with a tight embrace and then invited her to share a cigarette. She agreed. He smiled and struck his match. She was mesmerized for a moment by the fire but quickly fixated her eyes on him. She was anxious waiting for it to be her turn. She watched has he exhaled the smoke pulled from their cigarette. As the smoke enveloped her face, she turned her head away and looked down at the pavement. He nudged her arm; it was her turn. She grabbed the cigarette and held it to her face, despising it, wondering when she would stop it for good. She felt an overwhelming sense of peace as the smoke entered her lungs.
They had been together for quite some time. On again, off again. Up and down. Back and forth. A constant state of second guessing herself and the relationship. Never feeling good enough; an endless chasing. Desperately seeking his approval and validation. Every cell in her body longed for the high of his love.
She exhaled. Her hand extended toward him. He gently pulled the cigarette from her fingers.
He was surprised she was standing there after all he had put her through. He always felt stuck in this place and while aware of it, couldn’t get out; or didn’t want to. It was comfortable. It felt rewarding always having the upper hand. This sense of pride knowing she would be there. He also thought she was ridiculously naive. How could she continue to endure his cruel treatment? What an idiot, he thought as he watched the ash fall to the ground. He looked at her. She was beautiful though. He could never love her the way she deserved. He saw her hand motioning for the shared cigarette.
God she loved him. Or rather the version she thought was him. So much time had passed, she knew the man she loved didn’t exist at all. He was a glimmer of her own dream; a fantasy, turning what was into something that wasn’t at all. She gazed out into the nights sky wondering if she would ever get where she was destined to go. She exhaled what she thought was her last drag, tightened up her stance and gave him the cigarette. She felt the courage rise and was going to tell him.
He saw her move before she even straightened. He smiled. Here it comes, he thought. He looked at her intently, listening to all the words she was speaking but not hearing any of them. He wasn’t sure why she thought he cared about any of it. He felt he had made it clear how much he did not value her through his countless acts of disrespect. He laughed inside watching the tears fall from her face. He saw her raw love and genuine emotion and honestly, just wanted it to die. He breathed in her intoxicating scent allowing it to nourish his soul as fleeting as he knew it would be. He noticed her looking at him with that miserable look. There was one drag left of the cigarette. After all her pleading, he concluded she was worthy of the last drag and gave her the cigarette.
She took it. She didn’t want it but she took it. Over and over, she took it. His silence filled her with rage. She was trembling with his inability to love her. But also furious with herself to allow it. So much time invested. So much energy expelled. She gave him her heart and he watched it fall to the ground. She picked it up and pieced into together and gave it to him again. He watched it fall repeatedly and with each fall he would step away. She pleaded with him to help her but the only thing he could offer her was a cold, empty stare. She prayed.
She looked at him thinking of how she wished it had been different but not regretting any of it. She remembered the moments of laughter and their times of oneness. She remembered the great conversations they had. She remembered the meals they shared and prayers they prayed. She remembered it all. She remembered the nights she cried herself to sleep. She remembered his condescending comments. She remembered his constant and systematic contradictions. She remembered her addiction. The high he gave her. Each time, getting more intoxicated and falling harder to the ground when he ripped it away. She remembered a woman who was joyful and optimistic. She remembered a little girl dreaming of love and safety. She remember the deep desire to be known. She remembered the promise she made to herself the last time. The promise to never be disrespected again.
There wasn’t much time left. The cigarette was burning to almost nothing as her mind rattled away. She looked at his cold eyes and then looked at the cigarette. This was it.
“I’m done,” she said with nothing left. She let go of the cigarette and watched it fall.
The fall ignited a fire. The fire spread, burning everything for miles behind and before her. It killed her dream of happily ever after. She sobbed as she slowly walked away.
Some would say it was her that destroyed it all. After all, she was the one who ended it with that final word, the final action that killed the dream. As the years pass, she would run it to him and remember those moments that made her feel falsely alive. She would entertain them briefly but then allow them to pass. She would always treat him with kindness. He would always know that she knew the real him.
At times she would mourn the loss of her dream. But mostly, she would allow peace to wash over her and gratitude to well up inside. Because, after all this time, her identity was solidified and it was no longer determined by a man.