Erin and I stand on the bustling street, bursting with the New Year crowd. I look at their bright faces, cheering and hopeful of the upcoming year. Their joy makes me wonder if their year had been fulfilling and glorious, unlike mine. I wish I had not followed Erin. To be honest, I wish she had not spotted me. It brought a downer on my night of cold beer and greasy burger while keeping an eye on my wife. But if you have been together from school, first as friends and then as lovers, you can spot the other from a mile away. Now we stand there yelling and involved in a light scuffle. Her buddies stay clear of us as per Erin's instructions. They are glad to do so and are sending daggers through their eyes at me for spoiling their celebrations. It has not been in my personality to back down so, I fought the accusations with equal force.
"You couldn't give me one night of peace…Could you? This is a new low even for you, Ali."
"New low…" I mutter through my teeth, "That is big coming from you. Who goes through my phone? Who burnt the other's clothes?"
"And that is all that I did. Please, let me apologize again. Sorry Ali, that I went through your phone. Sorry that I burnt your clothes. I wish I had walked out the first time."
"What first time? The first time we had a tiny fight?" She nods vigorously but makes eye contact with me. I continue," You have no idea how marriage works. You don't give up over slight disagreements. We should get through this together like last time."
"Just like last time and the time before that and the million times before that. We need to stop going in circles. Look at us, we are miserable. The saddest part is that we have made each other that way. Could you have imagined that? You were the best thing that happened to me and that seems so long ago…"
"I am not on your leash to do as you command. Still, if you say the word, I will let you go. But you insist on a smooth termination and you want to meet and talk. Stop giving me hope if you don't intend to work things out."
"Is this how we end? Is this what you want? I have known you all my life and you were my happy moments. Now when I reminisce, I can't relish them because I know that this is how we end up. All the past joys became meaningless." Around us, the crowd is at the last seconds to welcoming a new year.
10.. 9.. 8..
Erin looks beseechingly at me. I push away her hands which had rested on my chest, "You can't have it both ways." I walk into the street.
I did not have the opportunity to yell 'Happy New Year', for a car and its drunk driver mowed me down.
I stand on the pavement with a parched throat and strained eyes. Erin is apologizing over something and before I had my hopes high, I realized she sounded more sarcastic than sorry.
I rub my eyes. I feel strange but I ignore it as I can't let Erin have the last word, "For someone who claims to be understanding and empathetic, you are blind to your faults…"
She interrupts me, "I know we did not reach this point because you are a stubborn pig. I played a role too."
"How big of you to admit that. St. Erin... Look at Sherin's face." I point at her best friend, "That look says 'It is all Ali's fault. Poor Erin'. I know that because that is the same way my mom looked at me. You had to involve my mom and play martyr in front of them too."
"That is unfair. I love your mom. And I wanted to straighten things out like you want to do now, when it is too late. So, I asked for her help and I am not sorry for that."
"You left me alone with no one on my side. Now you get to prance around with your new boyfriend."
I see rage ascend on her teary face and she grabs my hand and pushes us away from her friends, "Shh…Jakob is a friend of a friend. I wanted to start making new memories. That is all that tonight is about. Do you understand?"
I do not move a face muscle- it held the victorious smirk that I donned when I knew my accusation had hit a nerve.
Erin's face is close to me, and I know that she can read my mind and the unspoken words. "If winning is all that you want…. It is over. You win." Erin said, walking away, still facing me. She is about to add another insult when a hapless car hit her.
"Erin…No…. Erin. Please."
"You were the one following me. I have every right to be angry. So, don't plead to me."
I look confusedly at Erin. I will never appeal to her. Not anymore. Tonight felt like the last time we would talk to each other, and we have exchanged more hurtful words than we had ever in our time together. I wanted to yell at her some more but my legs are weak, and I could not breathe. I look around wondering if I was hit in the head. The world is spinning, and I could not think straight.
"Are you OK? You look sick." Erin sounds concerned but I do not see her. The lights are too bright. But I remember enough to spit a bitter 'yes'.
"Then, listen to me. We will talk tomorrow: A new day. Let us forget tonight and…" When she sees that I have not listened to a word, she yells, "Listen to me, Ali."
"Leave me alone…" I scream, holding my hands over my ears.
"You, bastard. I did not ask..." 10... 9... "...you to stalk me." 8... "...after all that and I am still ready to move forward yet, you treat me like dirt." She has pushed me a step away with every word and I am standing on the road. "You don't deserve me." She pushes me hard into the oncoming traffic.
"…This is a new low even for you, Ali."
"Something is wrong, Erin. Very wrong." I look around, terrified.
"Not with us! With everything around us."
"So, now it is not my fault. It is the fault of the rest of the world. Where does this end with you?"
"Don't you feel it?" I stare helplessly at Erin. She looks at me like I am losing my mind.
"Don't you feel like…we have had this conversation before?"
"Now you make sense. We have talked about this over and over again, although, stalking is new."
"No. No…I meant this conversation. Tonight. Now. Like we are in a time loop."
"Time loop, seriously. Let me correct myself: This is your new low. For heaven's sake don't go lower than this."
"I will prove to you" I take her to the edge, "You will see a car coming in…"
"I see many cars. There is a truck too. A van."
"A car which is out of control"
"I don't have time for this." I tighten my hold.
"Hey, Ali. Why don't you let her go?"
"Stay out of this, Sherin. Don't step any closer." I warn Erin's new best friend. Erin and Sherin met in college; the first time we had to separate due to the different colleges we were enrolled to. Sherin was Erin's support then and she occupies that position even today while I withered away.
Sherin does not pay heed to me and tries to free Erin. I slap her on the face hence, loosening my grip on Erin. I push her and she falls on the pavement, hitting her head on cold stone. There is blood spilling copiously from where she hit the ground. Erin crawls to her motionless friend.
I hear nothing. I see nothing. I do not move. Fireworks burst around me and the crowd cheers. I shut my eyes.
I open my eyes to Erin's enraged face. To my surprise, I am thrilled to see her. Lately, Erin did not invoke any positive emotion in me and I am sure that she feels the same about me. Her face twists and turns and spews harsh words. Beneath the harshness, I see the melancholy and ill-placed faith. I have never noticed these except the rage and disbelief. I wonder what she sees on my face- Probably, obstinance and the same ill-placed faith that she clenches tight. It is funny that we hold on to some unwarranted faith regarding the other, though this faith walks in different directions. Her faith sees us having an amicable relationship after our break-up: being present and sharing at least a few new moments. My faith tells me that if we try really hard, we could tread the current misery to the bliss of a delightful past. It breaks my heart to think that this is what came of us. We were forever. Not yelling on the street because one of us was stalking the other.
"I am sorry. Call me when you want to talk." With a lot of effort, I look her in the eye, "Please forgive me for today. I wasn't thinking."
I walk away. Erin does not utter another word. But, we feel a long-absent peace, restored. Maybe we will be able to walk away with a little dignity and affection for one another.