She came into the kitchen to the sound of rain hitting the windows and the wind banging the window frames and made the outside world seemed blurred and running down the panes of the glass like paint. She saw him sitting at the kitchen table smoking a cigarette and reading something on his phone and didn’t even look up to acknowledge her arrival. She looked at his hair sticking up on the side where his head at laid on the pillow, away from her and towards his phone and lamp.
They both had today off and they had arranged it that way six months ago to spend more time together, but lately he would just spend all day reading and pacing around the house looking at corners and shadows and out the window towards the bar and the corner market across the street. She would just clean up and catch up on laundry and other errands and he wouldn’t help. He used to when they moved into the apartment, but lately he was distant and cold, and she felt no better herself.
She had talked to her friend a couple of nights ago about how she wanted to break up with him, but she was too scared. Scared of how he’ll react and especially scared of losing him and being alone. In some ways she was still very much in love with him and loved the way he was, but in others she felt lonelier with him then she ever felt single. His hair sticking up every which way made her heart drop in her chest because she loved his unkempt hair and his long eyelashes and she wanted to run her fingers through his hair one last time, but she new he would squirm and get annoyed with her.
When she first spent the night at his house, his friend had died that morning and they stayed up all night with his head on her lap and she just ran her fingers through his hair and he looked up at her with those brown sad eyes that never stopped being sad or brown. They didn’t even kiss until the sun came up and after he had complained about the birds chirping outside his window. He gave her a peck on her forehead and then on her lips and then pulled back and looked her in the eyes and his eyes jerked back and forth between her eyes. He had that smirk.
He didn’t have that smirk very often anymore except when he was saying something malicious or ferocious and then he had the smirk and his eyes burning hot. Most of the time he looked like he was sad or a walking talking vegetable. He was prone to bouts of anger, but most of the time he was in a dark, dark place where he wrestled his torment alone and she would just have to watch and she had to keep her distance because she didn’t know which him would react.
She started washing her dishes from last night and she looked out the window at the corner market across the street and saw the rain pelt the cars as they drove by. It was the middle of the day, but the cars had their headlights on because it was dark. The wind would pick up and blow the trees along the sidewalk in circles.
She wondered if she had the courage to end things with him, but she still wasn’t sure if she was set on breaking up. She thought that maybe he’d wake back up again and he’d be her love and friend again, but she’s been hoping for that for the last four months now and he hasn’t changed. She would try to talk to him about how she felt, but he’d snap at her and he would act like a cornered wounded animal. He was defensive and would turn the focus on her and the way she was. At night when he was laying on the couch reading a book she’d lock herself in the bathroom and cry. He would knock hours later and quietly say he was sorry, but that was it and she would feel like the problem was still unresolved and she would bottle the resentment deep inside.
She fell in love with him almost right away. They were walking towards the bus and she was talking about what she wanted to do after she graduated school and she noticed how his eyes darted around like he was looking out for danger. She grabbed his hand and he squeezed back and he didn’t stop his darting eye paranoia ballet. She kissed him on the cheek and she felt safe and loved.
She loved the way his eyes would light up when he was explaining history or politics to her. She tried to ask him questions about current events and he would try to tell her the whole story from the beginning to the day they sat. Her heart would speed up, as his hands would illustrate the absurdity of some dead king’s decision and the impact it had on modern global policies. Sometimes she would get bashful about not knowing what he knew and she wouldn’t ask him because she didn’t want him to think she was dumb. He always told her how smart he thought she was.
He was the first guy to court her in the way she imagined her parents courted. He would take her out to nice restaurants, foreign movies and art galleries. He would wear ties and shave and bring her flowers. He would open doors for her and pulls out her chair and compliment her on what she was wearing. One time she had too much wine and asked him to come into her house with her and he took her hand and smirked and said another time. She was mad at first and in the morning she woke up and knew he had acted like a chivalrous gentleman.
The first time they had made love was when they went camping on the coast. They had both alluded to it all week up to when they set up the tent and were sitting around the fire. He still smoked then and he would stare at the fire and smoke cigarette after cigarette asking her questions about her life.
After walking to the beach and back in the middle of the night to see the moon create a line of silver in the surf, they undressed and tried to have sex. She was so nervous because he had been with so many women before and she felt like he would think her skills in the sleeping bag would be vanilla at best, but for some reason he was more nervous and couldn’t stay hard. He sighed after some time and he hugged her and said sorry and they fell asleep that way – hugging in the sleeping bag. She didn’t know if she wasn’t pretty enough or wasn’t pleasing him enough, but being held by those strong arms was so nice she fell asleep with his lips on her forehead.
When they woke up they made love without incident. When she stated to orgasm she started making little mewing sounds and he started laughing and then he came. He lied on top of her while still being inside of her for a long time while just staring in her eyes. She tried to look back but his eyes were too intense so she just looked at his lips as they curled up into a smirk.
He mostly spent the night at her house, but sometimes she would go to his house where he lived with a couple of other guys. It was a messy dude ranch with comic books and magazines strewn over every table, they were always out of toilet paper so she would use coffee filters and the refrigerator only had condiments in it. His bed was a double mattress on the floor and it smelled like him and she would always fall asleep before him and when she would wake up in the middle of the night he’d be sitting at the edge of the bed staring at the wall.
The spring became summer and they spent everyday together. Riding bikes, cooking meals together, taking each other on dates and telling each other they loved each other.
They decided to move in with each other after dating for a year. It seemed like the best thing to do. What do you do after dating a year but live with each other? They found an apartment near some stores and restaurants and where he could people watch from the second story window.
She decorated the apartment. She made all the design decisions and he was more than happy with that. She created a nest for them and they loved it. He even said he never felt more at home than that apartment.
He talked her into letting him smoke at the breakfast table in the kitchen by the large window that overlooked the back yard. She loved watching him smoke and stare out the window and think. He was a thinker. He could spend hours just thinking. So many other people she knew had to be on the move and couldn’t be in one place for too long, but he could sit still for a long, long time. He spent his days and nights smoking while writing or doodling. She loved his little doodles and how strange and bizarre they were.
She walked out of the kitchen and sat on the couch in the living room. She was already heart broken. She knew that he was just not to snap out of whatever sadness and depression he was in. She wanted passion and what they had and he was just happy with what was happening now. He never seemed concerned about the future and would tell her to not worry about it so much when she tried to share her concerns about what will happen next. Did he think about marrying her? Did he envision her in his life next year? Did he even notice her anymore?
Keith, at her work, was paying a lot of attention to her and she had to remind him that she had a boyfriend, but his attention was so nice after months of cold cohabitation. He wanted to tell him about Keith and see if his jealousy would awaken his passion and love for again, but she knew that would be a cheap game to play. She would never date Keith, for he was so passive and almost weak. Unlike Keith, he was strong and confident and put his shoulder against the walls of life to break them down and walk through.
She was mad at herself for complaining about him to Keith and Keith was playing that concerned card. She decided last week to stop blowing off steam with Keith and Keith would ask her every morning how everything was going and she would fake a smile and say things were better now.
She tucked her legs under her body and looked at the basket of yarn that she was going to use to make him a hat when she decided to teach herself knitting. It had stayed untouched for months now and she hated herself for not following through. She wasted her time reading those young adult vampire books and watching reality shows on TV. He would make fun of her all the time when she was watching Project Runway or reading the vampire romance trash. He would be reading some book on the Middle East or the JFK assassination and she would feel so dumb for reading the books she read. He had bought her some books and all of them had bookmarks in the first two chapters where she stopped reading and told herself she’d pick them up again.
Could she be single again? She was so old now. She had just gotten out of her first relationship when they met. She was young and optimistic. Her first boyfriend was a jerk and bossed her around and made her feel stupid and this guy comes along and made her feel so special. He told her all the things he loved about her those first few months. Now he would get annoyed when she asked to tell her what he loved about her.
She was finding grey hairs and she wasn’t as in shape as she was and the idea of going on a date with a stranger just frightened her. Not that the day after she broke up with the love of her life she would start asking men out, she knew she wanted to be single for awhile and see more of the world. She would be able to go to New York like they always talked about but never did, she would get more involved in the art community and she wouldn’t be scared to go to church if she wanted to.
She thought about having to unravel their lives from each other. They had bought all the furniture together and their stuff was piled on top of each other. He had bought the TV and it was his cable package that let her watch her shows. He had the cable for baseball and the Trailblazers. She would have to pack all the gifts he had bought her, the scarves, the hat, the sweater and the bathrobe. She had to swallow to keep from crying.
He walked by and went into the bathroom. He heard him piss and cough. He spit and then walked out after flushing. He had a three-day scruff from not shaving. He would try to see how long a beard he could grow before she would say something and after she would say something he would shave that night. He stopped wearing that brown shirt after she told him how ugly brown looked on him, but when she went out of town for a weekend she noticed it in the hamper when she got back.
She got up and walked back into the kitchen where he sat reading a book. He didn’t look up even after she stood right above him. She sighed.
“We need to talk.” She said, “Put the book down.”
He put the book down and looked at her with concern. It was as if she knew he knew and saw the dark brown eyes get darker and the shadows that seemed to cross him even in the brightest room get darker and his shoulders dropped. She sat down across from him and fished a cigarette from his pack and lit up. She hardly ever smoked.
“I’m not happy.”
He just stared at her waiting for more.
“I haven’t been happy for a long time. You’ve been cold, dead and distant for the last few months and every time I bring it up you snap at me, so this is hard for me. I need to tell you how I feel or I’ll scream.
“I used to be so in love with you. I used to think that every day for the rest of my life I would find you laying next to me and I would get all giddy with that thought.
“Now when I wake up I see the back of your head and I wonder where you went. Where did you go? Where are you these last few months? I wonder if you even see me anymore or if I’m just as important as the lamp or the TV. I can’t live like this anymore.”
He gulped and lit up a cigarette. He never looked away. He bore into her soul with those brown sad eyes. He didn’t react this time. He didn’t get defensive or try to interrupt her with how she’s wrong. He seemed resigned and had been waiting for her to say something.
“I want to break up.” She finally said.
He nodded and took a drag of his cigarette. A long full drag and blew out and the smoke curled around the window and tried to find some way to escape the heavy kitchen where the connection between two people were breaking and the world could hear the timbers crack and whine under the pressure of two souls tearing away from each other.
“I’m not sure what to say.” He finally said, “I still love you and I wish I could wake myself up, but I can’t. I can’t even see the beauty in anything anymore.”
“I know. I’ve been living alone for four months while you stare out that window and living along side me but not with me. I can’t live like this anymore.”
The rain got heavy at that moment and the windows all rattled and the neighbors upstairs were walking around and the ceiling creaked under his or her pressure and some kids were laughing outside running through the rain looking for shelter. The world became huge outside the apartment and tiny inside.
“Welp.” He said while standing up and stubbing his cigarette out.
He walked out the kitchen and grabbed his rain jacket and walked out.
She sat at the kitchen staring at the door that he had walked out of. She felt so heavy and alone. She wanted to scream her entire existence into space. She felt the emotions struggle to climb up her throat. She was alone and she just told her best friend that she didn’t want him anymore.
She tried to picture his face and couldn’t recall it. Some vague idea of him floated in the recesses of her mind, but after five minutes he was already fading away into a distant memory. She though she would feel better ending things, but she felt worst and she already was second guessing her decision, but he wasn’t there anymore. He just walked out without a fight and if she wasn’t worth a fight then she was done, but he looked so sad – the saddest she ever saw him be.
She tried to stand up, but she felt like gravity was crushing her. Her chest was squeezing her heart hard. She even felt like she wasn’t breathing deep enough.
A dog barked and a door slammed somewhere else in the building and the rain had stopped and the sun came out turning the streets into boiling mist and people started walking up and down the sidewalks again. The sun blinded her as it reflected off a white van across the street.
A piece of paper next to his book was on the table across from her and she turned it so she could see it. On it was a drawing of her smiling and on the front of her shirt was a heart. He had gone over the heart several times where it almost tore the paper. Next to the picture was her name written in his cursive. She couldn’t remember him drawing it, but it had to have been today. She put the piece of paper in her pocket and started crying.