The Ex

“Is that what he told you?” she asked, her beautiful dark eyes flashing between incredulity and amusement. She smiled. “That may be what he thinks, but it isn’t the truth. You’ll find, as you go along in this life, that this is often the case with certain people: they believe that their will supersedes the truth, that if they just imagine events a certain way in their heads then insist that those are the facts, that somehow what they say becomes reality.”

“You’re telling me he’s deluded then?” I asked. The urge to put my hand somewhere on her body was overwhelming. Even a light touch on the back of her bony hand would’ve sufficed. I held myself back and bit the inside of my mouth in frustration.

“The thing about him was that he hated being wrong. He hated it more than anything. And he’d go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it, sometimes bending his perception to fit conditions that favored his way of thinking. Some would call it stubbornness, but his brand of obstinance was superhuman. For him, navigating the waters of life was deadly dangerous, as everywhere the mines of truth floated just below the surface, waiting to hole his little ship. What I’m telling you, dear Marcus, is that he was very leaky.”

“Why did you stay with him for as long as you did, then?” I asked, searching for an opening. She didn’t sound vulnerable. If anything, she seemed somehow toughened by recent events. I wanted to tread lightly, though, lest my desire cause a rupture in our friendship. What an unenviable position to be in, to find myself so close to the one I loved yet unable to express that feeling for fear of demolishing her trust.

“He was fun, and that’s a rare thing these days. Sure, people can muster it from time to time, when it matters. When making impressions, or during the ‘appropriate’ times. But to be fun consistently? That’s something special. It was more than him just making me laugh. He actually lit up my life, as corny as that sounds.” A look had come into her eye, a distant stare in which she seemed to be seeing something out of the past, and a small smile crept over her lips. Then she blinked and it was gone, and she took a hard pull on her cigarette and blew the smoke out with contempt, almost spitting the cloud into the air. “The crazy are often like that, you know. Fun all the time, but a mess up here.” She tapped her temple.

“What will you do now, then?” I asked, stifling any voice of hope or encouragement from my question. I should have just put myself out there, right then, but fear held me back and I got what cowardice always earns: nothing.

She stubbed the cigarette out and stared at the thin curls of smoke it made. “Take some time off, I guess. As exciting as those kinds of relationships are, they’re exhausting. Love in any form is a hell of a lot of work, and when it ends like that you really have to wonder what it was all for. I see people who’ve given up on love and really can’t blame them.”

I thought that I could be different, that if I could just take her hand and her heart that I’d be able to show her something new and lasting, and that all would be well, happily ever after. I tried to convince myself of that, but the more I considered it, the more I realized that I had nothing of value to offer her, and that I was better off keeping my distance.

I paid for the drinks and went home, alone.

2015.02.01 – 2023.08.29

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