and letting go
You meet for drinks. Conversation. You both have the rare free night. You meet to catch up. You find that you don’t have as much time to spend together anymore. On one hand this is good because you’re supposed to be focused on yourself right now. On the other hand, you feel like you’re losing touch with this person that you know so incredibly well.
Neither of you are late. Not really. You’re a little late, but you always seem to be in this town. You never get where you want to go in the time you want to be there. You’re always catching up. You stand at the bar and realize that you might not ever be served. You stand there for ten minutes, watching the bartender hit on a woman at the other side of the bar. You think to yourself that time is ticking away. You think to yourself that time has been ticking away since the beginning. It’s time that has passed between the two of you. Time has brought you to where you are now. And you wonder how often you’ve just stood and waited to see when you’ll run out of time.
You sit down with your drink. The talk is easy at first. “How was your day” and all of that. You share stories of friends. You talk projects. You talk of easy things. He offers to change places with you when you can’t stop staring at Cool Hand Luke on the wide screen television. You’ve never seen the scene where Paul Newman eats all of those eggs. You feel sick. You can’t tell if it’s because of the film or where you are right now.
You’re sitting with a stranger. You’re sitting with a man you love. You’re sitting with someone who used to sleep next to you every single night. You’re sitting there with images of him with someone else. With you with someone else. You have imagined him bringing home faceless, nameless women. You imagine his hair stroked by someone else. You see someone else curled up next to him, listening to him snore. You feel territorial. You feel anger. You’re angry at a situation that hasn’t even happened, purely because it has the potential to happen. You’re angry at the potential for this situation because you’ve allowed it to have the potential. You’ve created this situation. You let go. You’re sitting with a stranger. You’re also sitting with someone who you know inside and out. He knows you inside and out.
But do you know each other at all? Isn’t that why you’re where you are right now? Because both of you are wondering who you are? What you want? Where you want to be? Isn’t that what started this whole mess in the first place? Neither of you know yourselves or each other. You only know that things are different.
You open your mouth. Nothing comes out. Suddenly you don’t know how to be with this person. You don’t want to appear too happy. You don’t want to appear too sad. You want to seem perfectly perfect with just a hint of misery. You don’t want him to worry. You don’t want him to forget you. You want to go back in time, just for a second, just for an hour, just for a day so you can talk like you used to. Look at each other like you used to. Go back to that time when things were simple and your heart was dumber and you felt all of the security in the world. Just to have that feeling again. Did the sun seem warmer back then?
You stop talking in second person because you know whom you’re talking about. Everyone does.
I had drinks. It was easy. Then it was hard. Conversations this early have their good points and their bad. You talk about things that are going on in your life and it hurts the other one no matter what you’ve done. Sucesses and good times make the other one jealous. Pain and suffering fills the other one with guilt. I wish I was someone else. He wishes he was someone else. But we don’t. And we do. And in the end we’re happy with who we are. We don’t want to change. We just want to understand ourselves.
I go back to second person because it’s easier to write this way. It doesn’t feel as painful, as personal, as sad.
You lose track of time. You’ve suddenly been talking for hours, and you’re laying everything out on the table. You never lied to each other anyway. You talk of what you want, what you’re getting, and what you never thought you had. You hear things you’ve always wanted to hear. You hear things you never wanted to hear. You realize just how much time has passed. You wonder what has changed for him. You’re afraid to ask.
You tell him things he already knows. He tells you things you’d already figured out. He has people in his life that are angry at you. They don’t understand. There are people in your life that are angry at him. They don’t understand. They are angry because they need a place to put their emotions. They need something to blame. You’re good at blaming yourself. Your friends won’t do that. They didn’t see this coming, or maybe they did, and they blame him, not you. And there are the friends that don’t blame either of us. They either keep their theories to themselves, or tell both of us what we want to hear. Either way, there’s a dignity to what they do that makes both of us feel better.
You. I mean you. Second person. Not first.
You both realize that you are two very good people. You would never intentionally harm anyone, much less each other. You realize that you’ve both been causing each other tremendous amounts of pain. You haven’t done anything to hurt the other one. You just did. Just by living your life without the other one. The day to day actions that you take. The decisions you make. They hurt because you’re not doing it together anymore. You see him survive. He sees you smile. And these things are done not as a team anymore.
You feel worthless. You feel used. You feel loved. You feel special. You feel jaded. You feel hopeful. You feel scared. You feel sad. You feel that nothing is worth anything. You feel that someone out there has to know how to love you. You feel that maybe he was the only one that ever will. You feel stupid for thinking that. You feel stupid for feeling stupid. You’ve been feeling lots of things lately.
You’re sitting next to a stranger. You’re sitting next to a man that has seen you naked thousands of times.
You finish the first round of conversation along with the drinks. You both sit, stare, breathe and decide to do another round.
It’s the second round that’s harder. The layer of nice has been ripped off and you say some things you’ve been wanting to say. He says some things he’s been wanting to say. Both of you wish you hadn’t heard any of it. Both of you are sore from the words. Both of you are angry. Both of you are sad. Both of you are clutching at reasons and justifications and anything that makes you feel just a bit righter in this situation. Both of you are wondering how you ever got to be this way.
You’re sitting next to a stranger that you thought you were going to marry.
You realize that you can be in love with someone no matter what they do to you. Someone can love you no matter what you do. Love is stronger that he said/ she said. Love is stronger than rumor. Love is stronger than the stupid things we do out of fear. But love might not be stronger than trust. Love might not be stronger than security. Love might not be stronger than Los Angeles.
Then there’s a calm. You talk about families, friends, and share some stories. You laugh. Your hand goes near his, like it used to, like it easily did before. But this time he pulls his hand away and reaches for another cigarette.
There’s a difference in the two of you. It will never be the same again. You must decide if you like it still. You must decide what you want from it now.
You both blame each other in the same breath you blame yourselves. You say hateful words that end in love. You’re confused. You probably shouldn’t have had that second drink, because that gave you the time to say the things you weren’t going to say. He said things you didn’t want to hear.
You’re sitting next to a man that you know more than anyone else in your life. He’s the complete opposite of a stranger. And you have no idea what he’s going to do next. You worry that you’re coming off the wrong way. You worry that he doesn’t think of you enough. He tells you that he does. You look in his eyes. You believe him.
He believes you. The words you tell each other aren’t empty. They aren’t words you just say to someone you run into. They aren’t words you say to someone you want out of your life. And when you say these words to each other, you believe them.
You’re sitting next to someone that might know you for the rest of your life. And you learn something new about him every single day. And you learn something about yourself every single day. The difference is now he’s not always there when you make your discovery. He has to find out later. If you remember to tell him at all.
Both of you want to pay for the evening. Both of you want to take the blame for the bill. Both of you want to erase the hurt. Both of you want to go back in time and fix things. Both of you think that what’s happening right now is the best thing. Both of you are scared and sad.
Both of you are going to be okay.
You drive back and it’s later than it should be and you’ve spent more time and money than you wanted. You pull the car over. You keep talking. You turn the car off. You keep talking. You can’t get back the time you lost. You don’t have the luxury of time anymore. That used to be all you had together. Now it’s a precious commodity. There is no time together. There are thousands of hours apart. And you wonder if he thinks of you when you’re apart. You wonder if he knows you think of him.
He reaches for your hand. There’s a calm in the familiarity. There’s a pain in the fingers intertwined. Time is running out. He’s leaving. He’s going home.
You watch him walk away in the darkness. To his new home. The one you have nothing to do with. The one he’s trying to make his home. The one he sleeps in. Where his things are. Where the clothes you used to borrow now hang. Where his toothbrush rests on the sink. Where he lies at night in the dark. Does he think of you before he closes his eyes? Are you still in his dreams? Does he still reach for you in his sleep? Does he keep your side of the bed free? Does he miss you?
You drive home to your place. Your place. Not an “our” anymore. No longer a “we.” You think about the time that has passed. Next month week would have been four years. It seems longer. It seems incredibly short. It seems impossible. It seems terribly depressing. You vow to never again have an anniversary on a birthday. You swear off the number four. You think irrational things that help in only that they make you laugh at yourself. And you turn to tell him the funny thing you just thought about your missing anniversary and he’s not there. He’s at home. His home. Not yours. He lives somewhere else now. A place where you just dropped him off.
You are the stranger. Who are you going to be now?
You’ve got all the time in the world.