They say time is the only healer
God, I hope that isn't right
Cause right now I'd die to not remember
Every little thing
The amber color of whiskey was becoming all too familiar a reflection in his eyes. He swirled the dark, murky liquid in the bottom of the glass before finishing what was left, the astringent taste no longer causing him to wince as it had in the beginning.
He wasn’t much of a drinker. Sure, he’d often find himself at Poor Richard’s on a Friday night with some of the guys from the warehouse. While he had certainly cabbed home a time or two, it was typically in the spirit of fun; Darryl would insist on playing a game that no one had touched since college, and many of the guys would stumble out the door in laughter.
But now, the alcohol served an entirely different purpose. It was medicinal. It served to quell the pit of pain that filled him to the core. The habitual reach for the glass bottle that sat on his kitchen counter as soon as he got home from work was becoming all too familiar. It eventually became his nightstand, forced by the need to numb the pain in the middle of the night as he awoke in a cold sweat, haunted by the memories.
Apprehension filled his gut as he prepared to lay his entire soul on the line.
The moments between his confession and her response were seconds that seemed like eternities.
The burning acidity of the bile ran up the back of his throat as she retorted, almost angrily, questioning his timing and his intentions. He didn’t know what he had expected when he summoned the courage to bare himself to her, but this wasn’t it.
With his glass empty, and tears brimming in his already red-rimmed and dry eyes, he reached to the textured bottle, the cap already removed, to refill the one thing that could dull the ache, could bury the very thoughts that longed to destroy him.
His body went rigid at the recognition that his bottle was as empty as his glass.
In a race to stop the reminiscence that was threatening to break him, swelling in his body like a pressure waiting to burst him at the seams, he tore off through the small apartment in search of relief.
“Well… I, um… I… I can’t?”
It wasn’t a statement of fact. It was a question that poured past her lips. Much like the one that had been killing him inside for the past two and a half years.
His eyes dropped to his shoes to keep her from seeing the pain, the questioning, and the need for closure all amalgamating on his face.
With a haphazard rush, he shoveled through the contents of his counter, brushing aside take-out bags and stacks of mail that had sat unopened since he had moved in. He came across empty beer bottles, and some wine coolers that he had purchased in desperation. But as he upended his the contents of his pantry and refrigerator, he came up empty handed.
“You have no idea--”
“Don’t do that.”
He knew her better than anyone else in this world. It was only fitting that he try to stop the words that he knew, without a doubt, were about to escape from her lips. If he could have trapped them there forever, maybe they would stay buried with the waterfall of pain that was about to overflow through him.
He stumbled down the halls blindly, reaching for his bedroom door. He clawed at the glass bottle that sat uncapped on his nightstand. Rage seethed through his veins as he realized that its contents were barren, just like the others. Fueled less by his anger, and more for his need to bury his memories away, he shoved his nightstand over with both hands, sending it barreling into the wall.
“--what your friendship means to me.”
And there it was. The shattering of his entire world. Crumbling right then and there in the parking lot where their love had begun.
“Come on. I don’t wanna do that. I wanna be more than that.” He knew he was grovelling. Knew that he had to try anything to salvage the only thing in his life that had ever been real.
He upturned sheets, pillows, the piles of unwashed clothes that lay strewn on his floor, searching for anything that could stop the pain from overflowing. Sweat and tears intermingled across his face. His hands shook, the unsteadiness stemming from rage, misery, and intoxication crashing into one another.
And this time, there was no hint of questioning in her tone. In her eyes, the questions remained certainly so. But he refused to peer into them, because he knew that meeting her gaze would be his undoing, would bring him to his knees. And he refused to be that poor sap with gravel-stained pants to match his already tear-streaked cheeks.
But in this state, he found himself paralyzed from fear, from misery, from the sheer torture that those memories could inflect upon his mind.
It was now that he found himself at a loss for so much more than he could ever explain. With nowhere else to turn, he allowed himself to drop to his knees, the sobs uncontrollable, as he let the memories wash over him wholly for the first time since that dreaded night.
“I’m really sorry, if you misinterpreted things.”
His throat closed off, blocked by his heart that had jumped too high, he fought himself not to look at her.
He cradled his temples between his hands, covering his ears. Whether he was trying to drown out the resonance of his memories, or the howling of his own sobs, he couldn’t tell.
“It’s probably my fault.”
He allowed himself to meet her stare for no longer than a second. Whether or not she truly meant it was irrelevant. This was his undoing.
He rocked back and forth against the mattress of his bed, willing the cradling motions to carry him away from this despair he had gotten himself into.
“Not your fault.”
He couldn’t tell if he actually believed himself, or if the words tumbling through his shaking lips were only to please her. His entire life had been to please her. To bring a smile to her face. To dry her tears. To love her until his dying breath.
“I’m sorry I misinterpreted uh… our friendship.”
He hesitated, choked back the word “friendship.” The word tasted like poison in his mouth. It wasn’t what he wanted. But it was what she needed. And it took every power within him to spit it out, to make her feel safe and secure.
It wasn’t until he passed her by--the tension between them resonating with a hotness that burned him as their bodies became parallel--that he allowed the tears to freely flow down his cheeks.
Finally, his body heavy with exhaustion both physical and emotional, he unwillingly crumpled to the floor. Gravity dragged him upon a pile of unwashed laundry, the cotton seeming to catch him as he fell. His tears stained the sweatpants that his face had fallen upon, cradling him against the softness of the cotton.
But the comfort couldn’t compare to the softness of her face, the cradle of her body pressed up against his.
It was as close to the surface as he had ever allowed his memories to escape. As breath escaped his lungs in strangled sobs, the laundry pile suddenly morphed into her, soft and warm and as close to home as he would ever be. Though he knew he would wake up and the feeling of her would be gone, he allowed his memories to deceive him, as his body finally drifted off into a heavy, somber sleep.
It didn’t matter that he was one hundred and forty-nine miles away, two-hours and thirty-seven minutes away. The burn of every little moment, every little detail, every little thing haunted his every waking moment.
Guess you forgot what you told me
Because you left my heart on the floor
She had always prided herself on being able to fall asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
But it peeved Roy to no end.
The times that he would hook his arm around her waist seconds before she crawled into bed to stop her from slumbering before he could ravage her one more time were countless in her mind.
But lately, there was a different tale to tell.
The kitchen clock read 1:43 AM. The nearly empty wine glass sat pooled in condensation on the coffee table. Her feet were tucked up under her as she molded into the old, worn couch. Moonlight was the only brightness in a room otherwise blanketed by the dark. And her mind was full to bursting with thoughts only of him.
He had left.
He had just picked up and left.
As if he thought that his words hadn’t resonated with her in some way.
Shook her to the core.
Made her second guess years of her life.
Her thoughts, her actions, her feelings all a tornado ripping through her body cavity with no sign of every slowing down.
The memory of him walking away after bearing his soul to her, tears streaming down his face, caused her physical pain that no drug could quell.
If he only knew what his words had done to her.
Upended the root of her very existence.
Shook to her core everything that she had once held dear.
He couldn’t have expected her to just pick up and run away into the sunset with him, could he?
Surely, he knew that his words had literally flipped her world on its head, and made her rethink every thought she’d every had. Didn’t he?
“I’m in love with you.”
Those five words had awakened in her a fire she hadn’t known existed until that moment. It was as if a lightswitch in her very soul had been off, but she hadn’t known it was even there until he had turned it on with that one breath.
But none of that mattered now.
Because he was gone.
He was farther away from her than he had ever been. And not only in a geographical sense. It was as if their souls were connected, and as soon as he had walked out the door after shattering the very earth she stood on, the line had been snipped, leaving her with an emptiness she had never felt before.
It was times like these that she longed for: her mind numbed by a drink or two, Roy in a deep slumber with no chance of waking, the darkness enveloping her to be alone only with the memory of his lips on hers.
If she focused her mind hard enough, she could feel him right there with her. She closed her eyes, bringing her fingertips to her lips, as she let the memory overtake her.
The sound of your heart beating with mine
The look in your eyes like a window
The taste of your kiss soaked in wine
He hadn’t spoken a word, just placed his hands on the small of her back and pulled her in close. It was a closeness she had gone without up until that point. But in that moment, she knew that the word “home” was less of a place and more of a feeling.
She let his hands sprawl out, covering her back, as she decided to kiss him back. The feeling that overcame her as she finally gave in to everything she never knew she wanted was one of relief. It was as if she was finally able to let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding since the day they walked into each other’s lives.
His lips were soft, warm, inviting. He tasted like home.
She let her hands tangle into the softness of his hair, a wave of comfort washing over her at the warmth of his skin under her fingertips.
The ease at which this felt so natural to her both terrified and brought her excitement.
As he pulled her in closer, she came to the realization that if they were going to give in to all that was overcoming them, they had to do it right.
It took everything in her to push him away. To admit that she wasn’t drunk. That she finally realized how much she wanted this.
It took everything in her power to utter his name as his lips were mere centimeters from closing upon hers again.
To tell him that she was still going to marry Roy.
To let him walk away when she knew that this wasn’t true.
She longed to yell out after him that she still had to process all of this.
Didn’t he see that?
But he was out the door before she could catch her breath.
And out of the office before she could put the puzzles pieces of her mind back together.
Baby, your ghost still haunts me
But I don't want to sleep with him no more
Wiping a tear from her cheek, she gulped back the spit of liquid left in her glass, chuckling at the irony that it had been a gift for her wedding.
A gift that would serve no purpose.
For as soon as the dawn broke through the windows, she knew that this facade of a life once lived had to end.
The man in her bed no longer held her heart.
The man who did was now a state line away, her heart held captive by the same hands that she called her home.
She had been so blind.
All those years, she had refused to see it.
But she couldn’t stand to kid herself any longer.
To reclaim her heart, she first had to reclaim herself.
With the morning light, she would start anew.
She would piece together every little thing in her life that she knew to be true.
And after she could stand on her own again, she would fight like hell to get back the one thing that would make her whole again.