Class started at 5PM. I got there early, so I could sit outside and read. I have many half-read works on my shelves, because, I become distracted by the happenings around me, or another intriguing cover steals my attention.
That’s what I love about books: they don’t go anywhere, they don’t turn their page without your permission. They’ll wait patiently for your return and if you don’t come back, they’ll still sit there, and grin knowingly from their perch. Books don’t question their worth; they know their value. They trust they’ll be appreciated by someone eventually, whether that be you or someone else.
The book I’m reading, I’ve been reading for a year and a half now. It’s over a thousand pages, an anthology of essays and poems from the classical era to the present. I pick it up when I need a mental adjustment.
I love sitting outside this time of year, the weather is cool enough to wear a scarf, yet not quite cold enough to need a jacket. I put my headphones in; I like to listen to Chopin while I read; it helps me focus.
I was three pages in when I was startled; I felt someone brush my shoulder, a cream colored sweatshirt whisked by and settled into the seat next to me. I saw his eyes before I made eye contact. His eyes overpower every part of him.
“What are you doing here?” I looked stunned, I’m sure.
“I came for yoga. There’s a yoga class, right?” He quipped. He’s always quipping, seriousness doesn’t part from those lips often. I appreciated his dry humor, and disliked it, equally.
“I don’t understand. I haven’t seen you in weeks. Why are you here?” I dog eared page 248 and closed the book, again.
“You never answered me. I’ve messaged you.”
“I needed space. I can’t get over you and have you in my life. I explained that to you.” I averted my eyes as I fondled the cord of the headphones. I was nervous.
I missed his face. I do every day. I’m still in love with him; he knows it. We are two identical puzzle pieces: although a perfect match, we can’t fit together. It’s frustrating: bad timing. It’s this goddamn “second time around, let me try to hide the six overstuffed semi-trucks of traumas, triggers, shortcomings and non-negotiables behind my heart” type of timing.
That’s the tedious part about finding a partner after divorce: there are many single people out there, but few have done the work and are willing to continue to do the work with someone new.
We had an awkward walk into the studio. I lit candles, dimmed the lights, put on soft music as if I were preparing to seduce him. I treated him like any other student: I nurtured him, adjusted him and looked after him during class. I know his brokenness and pathologies intimately. I didn’t try to fix them this time. I pulled and pressed on his torso and his limbs: the limbs I spent many a night wrapped within. I miss them.
He waited for me as I tidied up after class and bundled up in my scarf; the sun had gone down, it was jacket weather now.
“It’s beautiful here at night.” He was leaning up against the corner window.
“I know. It’s really peaceful here, isn’t it?” He and I appreciate nature the same; another thing I love about him.
“How about I take you to a movie?”
“Don’t you think we should have a conversation first? This is a lot to take in right now. I haven’t seen you in so long.”
“Well, I don’t think the other people in the theatre would appreciate that very much.” There he went again, doing the thing I love/dislike. But now, I just disliked it.
He’s the silent type. I am, too. The silence was welcome when I needed to recharge. We were content side-by-side, floating in the quiet pond surrounding us, alone together. But tonight, silence was the last thing I wanted.
“We need to talk and I’m hungry.”
“We actually have a while before the movie, let’s go somewhere first. You pick.” We wasted many minutes of our relationships in the volley of indecisive dinner planning.
I picked and we agreed to meet there.
I felt like I was dream driving. Floating to the next location, consumed in a haze of rumination: maybe I shouldn’t be doing this. No, this is important. I need to sit with him. It took the ten-minute drive and a loop around the parking lot to make my final decision.
We met outside an overcrowded restaurant and walked over to a half-occupied bar across the way. I could feel the distance wafting between us. My arms were folded; his hands were crammed inside his pockets. We were both trying to restrain our impulse to come together, to grab on to one another. I love his hands. They’re strong and they look old like mine. He never grabbed me too tight. He always caressed me tenderly. He knew what I liked, and how to control the cadence of his strokes. When he touched me, he didn’t just touch my body or my hand, no, he touched all of me at once.
We sat at the bar, our knees caving in towards each other. I couldn’t look at him like I used to, I was terrified to fall back in. Our love weakened me. I was mush. I couldn’t go there, not now. I’ve come too far, getting strong again; I can’t be with someone who doesn’t want to be with me all the way.
We talked about our girls and our holidays, about work and family, but our conversation remained in the froth, we never submerged. I surveyed the bar; we were surrounded by other couples with a bottle of wine worth of conversation and charcuterie boards barely touched, already full on the anecdotes of their day. That’s what I want, but that’s not what we had, or have.
I decided to go to the movie with him. I craved being beside him, just for a couple of hours, where no comparison threatened our essence. The movie was about a boy who was lost early in childhood, sent to live with another family oceans away. 25 years later, he finds his mother and they are reunited. She’d been searching for him, too. His book had been halted just chapters in, but reopened, rewritten and completed when it was time.
I didn’t plan to be out late and certainly didn’t dress appropriately to stand under the ¾ lit winter sky. He walked me to my car and opened his arms. We held each other. There is nothing more soothing than a familiar embrace, especially when it’s cold out. It reminded me of our camping trip. We were each other’s shelter. We didn’t really need the tent or the fire. He’d turned his cap around, anticipating a kiss, possibly. Our lips inches from each other, I could feel his breath, but our eyes were miles apart.
“Do you want to get in?” I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
“Do you want me to get in?” He loved to mock me when I questioned of the obvious.
“Stop. Come on, get in.”
I drove across the lot and parked next to his car. I didn’t turn the engine off. For the past five hours, the emotions had been simmering, however, somewhere between the ending of the movie and that moment, they started to boil.
“It’s just so hurtful that I’m not enough for you.” I swallowed my wavering self-worth.
“It’s not that. You know it’s not that.”
I did, actually. It’s the other way around: he can’t be enough for me. That’s what it is. I may have officially broken off our relationship, but he broke it off with his actions months before.
We discussed our girls: he tried to encourage me to allow them to still be friends and get together. That was one of my favorite parts of our relationship: our families, together.
“It’s too complicated now. I just don’t think that’s possible. It’s too painful for me to think about all of us together, without our relationship. We were building something and now we’re not.”
“I don’t see the harm in them being friends, in us staying in each other’s lives.”
“I don’t need more friends,” I said tersely. “I have enough of those. I want a partner. You and I were in a relationship, we were lovers, we can’t go back and we can’t change what we are to each other. I can’t just hang out with you. I love you.”
That was the truth. I declared it: I love him and because of that, I can’t go back. I can’t be with him, claim to love him and then harbor the unrelenting desire to change what he needs right now, in order to fulfill my needs. I have to say goodbye.
I didn’t want him to get out of the car; I don’t think he wanted to either.
“I want you in my life. I miss you. I care about you. I want to know you are ok and I want you to know you’re not alone.” Hearing those words hurt me more, because, it still wasn’t enough.
In that moment, I recognized the difference between the desires of the mind and the rationality of the heart: my mind wanted to reach across and grab him, press my lips to his, kiss with our eyes open, which was one of our things (that’s how we talked). I wanted him to take me home, make love and hold me until morning. I’d make him breakfast and then we’d end up shutting out the world for the rest of our childfree weekend, but that’s not what I needed.
My heart took over, and she said, no.
“I want to hug you right now,” he turned towards me.
“I can’t,” I couldn’t even look up. I was fixated on the engraved charm my daughter gave me for Hanukkah: let your heart be your compass.
“I can’t. You need to let me heal. We can’t talk. I need space, months and months of it. I don’t know what will happen after that, but I can’t hug you right now.”
He opened the door and the light came on, he had one foot in and one foot out, just like our relationship. The darkness was better served for this moment. Now, he could see my tears; they were all lit up. I could feel the cracking in my chest. I thought I’d worked through it, but I hadn’t.
Love lost is a death that never fully dies and neither does the haunting grief. I felt like the mother in the film we just saw: knowing her boy was out there, never giving up hope he was still alive, but not knowing where to begin the search.
“So, this is it? I’ll see you when I see you?” I felt his eyes, the disappointed acceptance.
I nodded. He paused. I kept looking down. If I looked up, I would have been begging him to stay, and I refuse to be dragged.
“Ok then. Thank you for seeing the movie with me.” That was the last thing he said.
He closed the door; it was dark again. I drove away. Halfway home, my sobs were interrupted: “I did the right thing,” I said aloud.
“I did the right thing.” ~Rebecca