Spring broke open to a wet, Midwestern summer. Practically overnight, my apartment turned heady and perspiring as a whore in church. And I’m the dirty whore. The drowsy humidity stirring me at odd hours to tug uselessly at churned, sweat-reeking sheets wrapped tight as fists around my ankles.
Heat rises. Rain falls. Thoughts grow ripe and difficult to ignore.
The climax of my dreams hits me like a slap. I gasp for air, my chest inflating like a cadaver. My eyes snap open. My nerves are sharp with nameless panic. His face, the impression of it, gives way to invading daylight. Slowly. Too slowly to comfort myself into fully believing it was just a dream. In this moment I exist in two worlds.
Get out, get out, get out
My body is a traitor. My heart is a liar. My mind is happy to tag along. My skin feels gritty with sweat. One pass of my hand through my hair tells me it can’t be salvaged. I need a shower.
I press my palms flat against the white subway tiled bathroom wall – blank and clinical as a hospital cell – and breathe out into the water sheeting over and around me. Cold. To remind myself I’m alive. I am here, in the present. My music plays distant and loud through the rushing around my ears.
ALL THAT I WANTED
I breathe deep, filling first my diaphragm then my chest, the rhythm off kilter with my rapidly beating heart. I swear, I can feel his hands range over my body. Sturdy. Familiar. Water falls.
I’m getting too old for this shit I think, wrapping an arm under my ribs, as if to hold my insides together. Get out get out
ALL THAT I WANTED / WAS AN UNWANTED / WAS NOT THERE / BUT I DARED
Get out get out
I stay like this for a long time. A kind of indulgent, self-sustaining heartbreak. Letting my emotions play themselves out. Willing myself to feel sane and whole again.
I shut the water off. I watch it pool at my feet and disappear. I let my thoughts go with it. Let the current of warring emotions spill over and out of me, like a dam to the sea. Sometimes you have to open the locks to level the tide.
Here are three things I know.
I am somebody else’s girlfriend now.
I was never his anything. Not ever.
I should move on.
We never went on a date. While my friends knew all about him, his never knew I existed and the ones who did tried to sleep with me too. Toxic, possessive, masculine reasoning. I lived in the shadows of his world and waited to be legitimized by his attentions. I skirted him at bars, flirting too visibly, laughing too loudly. I paraded anything I could leverage for even an ounce of demonstrative caring, if only until morning. Counting the minutes until he would remember himself and slip away from me again. Savoring every encounter like it would be our last.
A normal relationship has boundaries. An almost relationship doesn’t. No one wants to suffer rejection so insincere, so infirm, it feels like he could come walking back into your life at any moment. That’s the selfishness of it. You keep your doors open, he keeps his doors locked. And in the absence of anything firm, we build our own foundation. We start to idealize. An apex of emotion, of silent connection, that no one could possibly replicate. Because we made it ourselves. We took what little he gave us and we built an entire inner life around him. One he never entered. One he may never have known existed.
That’s what an almost relationship does to you. Saddles you with one-sided love and longing that can sustain long after they’re gone from your life. It starts when you lay next to them at night, counting the minutes until morning. Nourishing your heart on scraps. And when you’re finally alone…well, you were alone all along. That’s the thing about closure. Sometimes we have to create our own. Sometimes that’s all there is.