It was spring on the balcony in the night when you told me what he did. Your words came slowly, but I could feel their frantic strain, the careful extraction from your mouth to my ears. They crashed into a heavy silence, and then you were still, silent and defeated. My blood boiled as I pictured the things my fist would do to his face, imagined how my foot would feel crashing into his gut. Actions foreign to me seemed a matter of course, and I turned towards the door to set them in motion.
You reached out and touched my hand, whispered my name. I turned back to see your face, its features highlighted by the backdrop of the night. It told of fear, both at what had been done and what my rage promised to do. There was weariness brought on by carrying the weight of your secret trauma, somehow intensified, not lessened, in the act of disclosure. But mostly there was a quiet, piercing wish for serenity; that your act of trust not be rewarded by an ignition of more violence. More than my reckless anger, it told, you needed my careful understanding, my steadfast company.
I allowed myself a deep breath of the night air, and let my head stop pounding long enough to appreciate your courage. Yours was a courage I would never know, a courage that gave you strength enough to keep up appearances of normalcy in the aftermath of its shattering. It was a courage that allowed you to share its shattering with me without anticipation or expectation. It was simply a statement of recognition of the weight of it, and an implicit invitation to help bear the weight, if I chose. You needed a companion to stand next to you and view the thing playing over and over again in your head, and so I let my self-serving anger subside, and instead let my heart break.
There were people drinking and laughing and living on the other side of the glass door of the balcony, people who would begin to wonder if we were long removed from the drinking and laughing and living, so we removed the traces of conversation from our visages and stepped back through the glass. The rest of the night passed in a haze, people and voices allowed reluctantly through the filter of the thing now shared in our minds. Eventually the last friend departed, leaving us alone again. Before the night began there was no reason that I should have stayed, but now I knew there was no possibility that I would leave. This act of sharing was still too new, there was some requisite break-in period we had not yet met. So I stayed.
You slept that night with your head on my chest, body tucked in the nook of my arm, like you had so many times before. Except that this was nothing like those times before, young lovers exhausted by the exploration of one another’s bodies. This was something else entirely, though at the time I wasn’t quite sure what. I like to think, now, that it was when you loved me best. That in that platonic moment was when I fulfilled you most, when I provided what you needed most, when you needed it most. I’m still not sure, because I never asked.
Years have passed, and our lives have grown apart, as tends to happen. But I still think of that night, and still feel my blood begin to boil. In those moments I let myself remember the touch of your hand on mine, the longing in your face that I stay calm. And always I feel shame, knowing that this sometime memory for me is an everytime nightmare for you. That what he did can never be erased by time, or prose, or new love. And despite myself I feel the hate begin to rise for a man I never met, murderous in its intensity. But I remember your touch, your courage, and I force myself to know that my hate is his hate, and I must not let it breathe.