She was staring at her red, swollen finger, hot water running down the plate in her hands. She couldn’t move. Tears wanted to form but she wouldn’t let them. Crying was accepting; and she still hoped.
He saw the steam rising and run to the sink, pulled her burning hands away, bewildered.
‘What the fuck is wrong with you, J?’
She shook her head, evasive, and walked away. Stalled at the door, not knowing where to go, what to do with herself; the words in her head like a broken disk ‘I can’t bear it! I can’t bear it! I can’t bear it!
She squeezed her hands, welcoming the distraction of the throbbing pain. Why was the flesh so easy to endure?
The nights wonder how his breath feels on the back of her head; ache for a touch, a gaze. The mornings cling desperately to a fading dream..
Perhaps amnesia is all you’ve left to wish for; forgetting his name, your own.. his maddening words. ‘One day’ he says, but you can’t bear it. Your whole body turns into a wound and you keep waiting for the skin to fall off so you could breathe again; but you know his absence shrinks around your neck every time your heart beats amiss.
We talked everyday; conventionally. Frozen looks hiding insurmountable chemistry. I could never convince my body to get up from the chair and go home. The clock stopped when our eyes met; and if we were close, it never mattered what we said, if we said anything…
But then we met, like I’d never dared to dream; him and I, alone and unashamed. He smiled, the look in his eyes turning page after page of me, re-writing history. And I knew then I’d always carry his smile, curious and sweet, sealed in my heart.
I couldn’t breathe when I got home. I couldn’t breathe for days after; I would still feel his fingers on my back and my skin ached. My ears ringed, exhaustingly replaying the whispers.
My hands still shake when I type in my email, terrified of his silence. The clock doesn’t stop anymore and I wonder how long I have left until doom.
How I wish I could be yours. The way I was no one’s before…
B: ‘You haven’t aged at all. Why did you shave your head?’
J: ‘No reason. Do you like it?’
B: ‘It’s you.’
J: ‘You shouldn’t have come. You know I would have driven to London if I wanted to see you.’
B: ‘You’re here, aren’t you? Sit down, what are you drinking?’
J: ‘I can’t stay..’
B: ‘Why did you come, then?’
J: ‘I couldn’t help myself.’
B: ‘Sit down, J.’
I did. Ha! Of course I did. We got our coffees and sat in silence for a long time, staring. The tension was strange, tangible; neither of us knew what to say.
B: ‘God, you are beautiful.’
I smiled, a sorrowful smile. He saw it and his eyes did that thing. That puppy thing they used to do whenever I was upset.
J: ‘Why did you come here, B?’
B: ‘I don’t even know.. A few weeks ago I found that clip you made for my birthday just before we.. just before I left. It felt strange, I kept playing it over and over. God, J, the way you used to look at me, I never noticed. You loved me..’
B: ‘Why did you really stop seeing me?’
B: ‘I keep thinking about our first night together… your first time. I can picture it perfectly; your dress, the way your arms moved, the certainty in your eyes. You were incredible; you’ve always been.. and I’m an idiot..’
J: ‘I have to go, B.’
B: ‘Can I see you again? Will you come to London, just for a couple of days?’
Once upon a time there was an appartment on the 4th floor of an ancient building. There was a dark hallway and two bare feet on a freezing doormat. There were quiet knocks and squeaky doors, laughter and adoring eyes.
Another time there were planes and long trains rides. There was a hotel, we called it ‘ours’ because it felt like the only home. There were drawn curtains and never-ending nights, covered clocks, switched off phones, cigarettes and empty bottles of wine.
At the end there was a silent drive, a crowded airport and no ‘Goodbye’. There were tears and brave faces, begging eyes and turned backs. That was the last time.
There, B, you won. Now I’m thinking of you. Now I want to come, if only so we could say that ‘Goodbye’. But I won’t. It’s too much, it’s been too long. And even if I’d lie there in your arms one last time, I’d be thinking of him. There’s only nostalgia left between me and you, and no point pretending. We weren’t good for each other then, and we wouldn’t be now.