It was surrender.
It was like giving way to possession. Giving way to a higher power. Allowing a spiritual force far greater than myself take control and command me.
He shrugged it off like a high school fantasy. But what did he know?
I was sunk.
Burned with holy fire.
And he could only dream it was just about him.
If it brings you peace, habibi, dream on.
It was as if I were staring at shattered glass. Every piece reflected a different angle of the same reality, but no matter how many I examined nothing could help me put them back together into something whole or conclusive.
But sometimes the truth is like that. Shattered, varied and impossible to grasp, at least not without cutting yourself.
Sometimes I believe that love is the most bitter poison of all. Something you cannot run from, cannot kill, cannot drown out. It promises all the power to heal. Yes, it has that. But will it make good on its word?
Hope. The bitter thorn in the flesh.
Love is unforgiving. No amount of reason can dismiss it. No logic can sway it. No record of the pain it has caused can dissuade it. No. It stands. Brutal. Cold. Absolute.
In rejection it will not let go. And in death it is only hardened, more resolute than ever it was in life.
And there you were, at the corner table of the bar, watching. Maybe that was the writer in you, clinging to the outskirts, lurking in the shadows. And you watched me.
“If it is possible, let this cup be taken from me.”
You watched and you danced and you asked me to dance, but you never asked me into your life.
“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
And yet how could you know that even your gaze was more than I could bear? Even just your presence enough to shatter me.
“Let this cup pass from me.”
And there I was undone by only the look in your eyes. And nothing in me is the same. Nothing in me can ever be the same. I am undone.
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
And there you are still, in the shadows, at that corner table, watching.
“Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.”
1 Samuel 3
It was like a recurring dream. I walked in, confident, a noir picture in my classic attire. I had to look self-assured and what says that better than a trench coat and red lipstick. But then he was always there, in the corner, already drunk. And no matter how precisely I order that drink, no matter how calmly I walk across that room, my heart is pounding in my ears. So many words caught in my throat.
It’s over. He’s scum. He left. He pushed you away, told you he was tired of hearing your sorrows, treated you like trash. Why care?
But then, why did I ever care? Even before it happened, it’s not like he was one to accept help. I liked to tell myself he’d pushed me away in grief, but was that the truth? Or was it that he’d never let anyone in? Ever.
People say having a compassionate heart is a gift. But why did my heart have compassion for someone so cruel, for someone determined never to accept my help? Why the hell did I care? It had all started from a dream anyway.
No, not the hopeful kind you have when your mind wanders. No, the kind you wake up from in a cold sweat with your heart racing. The kind where something terrible has happened and he’s there at your door and can’t even speak.
When it actually did happen I wondered if he’d show up, staggering, drunk on the door step.
And now here I am, stuck in this endless repeat of a scene. He’s in the corner drinking. He doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need my help. And I’ve moved on. Hope for better things. Go after better things. But my heart is still in my throat and pounding in my ears.
It was just a night out. It was just another formal event. Hundreds of others would be laughing, talking, dancing. Did any of them feel that trepidation in their blood?
That clenching of muscles and nerves.
I hung back against the low brick wall in the garden. Already, clusters of people had gathered about the hotel entrance. Smoke and laughter filled the air, accompanied by bits of song. My dress caught against the coarse texture of the wall, as if expressing my reluctance to go forward.
Hide. Stay where it is safe. Stay in the quiet. He will not find you here.
But even if I hid, life would happen without me. Life would even find me in the darkness of that courtyard garden. Even if I hid, he would still exist. He would still be dancing, drinking, laughing.
My anonymity in the darkness would not save me.
I pulled my skirt off of its cold rough fortress. Forward. It was just another night out. No need to over dramatize. No need to contemplate that destiny would make or break me the minute we came face to face. Destiny doesn’t stop when you’d rather not participate. Even your choice to be passive is an action, because you chose.
Go on. Join the fray. You’ll kill them all in that dress.
It’s just another night out.
And this is what is killing me: that I cannot share love with the one I love. That the love I have can only cause hurt. That grief can kill affection. That grief can kill you while you are still alive.
Maybe she should just let it all go.
If he always found a way to condescend to her, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
The smoke from her cigarette seemed to give life to her thoughts, asking questions from her to the cosmos. Perhaps that was the charm of smoking. A conversation with the air.
She wasn’t much for being treated like a child. But if she asked for respect she might lose him all together.
The stand still. The risk.
Love was never easy.
She shifted her stance, leaning against the stone wall of the hotel entrance. Her figure shrouded in a long dark raincoat, promising of a noir dream.
The only tangible, committed relationships she’d ever been in were a compromise. A survival tactic. Never built on real love, the kind that stops your heart.
She hugged the wall under the awning, watching the rain muddle the reflection of the street lamp on the drowning pavement. She drew out another cigarette. Just buy enough time to finish her thoughts.
He stopped everything. Heartbeat or the world turning.
Why did the times she shared a real love wreck everything? No matter how mutual the affection something always stood in the way. Or maybe she’d just never been loved.
But now? Him?
Even these thoughts he’d deride. Tell her, her writing missed the mark. Tell her how wrong she was. Tell her what she meant or felt. He could always find a way to condescend.
Her cigarette threatened extinction, inching ever closer toward the filter. So often her smoking would pass faster than her thoughts resolve themselves.
Was he trying to lessen the sting? Was he trying to deflect the love that slipped past his defenses?
He could cheapen it all with his, “knowing better,” with the superiority of his age, that stab of calling her a romantic. He could treat her like she was a handful and use that to cheapen everything about her.
The cherry glowed and sputtered out as it hit the watery pavement.
Is it better to burn than to fade away? Is it better to leave than to be replaced?