Doubt creeps in with the cool of winter.
As you begin spending more time indoors, nestled together like frightened children in a thunderstorm, you feel the distance between you grow. You miss the way they once missed you. The way their eyes would come alive as they dropped their keys on the kitchen bench at the end of a long day. The way they’d turn to you as if only you could quench their thirst.
The familiarity of routine has inevitably rendered your presence ordinary, unremarkable. Much like an old mattress you’d gladly collapse on one night, and throw away the next. While they might still say I love you, you suspect it’s become a reactionary kind of love — an emotional reflex. A knee-jerk response of the heart.
It’s been so long, after all.
Your domestic settling has coincided with a rare time of traction in your respective careers. Where once your relationship had been the morale buffer against disappointment and creative setbacks, it’s now become the less stimulating of the two channels. How easily the intoxicating rush of ambition overrules the gentle sentiment of home. It shouldn’t, but it does.
Lying awake at night, your mind ebbs slowly towards the horizon. You let it dance drunkenly with a myriad of hypotheticals: the “would have”s and “could have”s and “should have”s and “might have”s. You ask questions. Big questions. Is there a greater, untapped love waiting somewhere in the bends and folds of time? Is this very moment pivotal in a way you can’t possibly conceive? You feel the pressing weight of choice — recognizing, perhaps for the first time, the power you have to change it all.
Mortality didn’t used to be of much concern. You were young — and still are —but each day, you notice changes. Small changes in your body and mind and the way you view the world. Cynicism trickles in slowly, the looming shadow cast by another setting sun. Another morning alarm. Another coffee to go.
It’s nearly Christmas again. Gift-wrapping and torn-apart boxes and messily chopped meat. Lipstick stains on wineglasses. Dishwashing powder, scattered across the glistening bench-top like cocaine over a mirror.
The idea of leaving terrifies you almost as much as staying. You don’t want it to end. You’re still in love. You’re still happy. But despite your best efforts, you can’t silence those damning voices, piercing through every moment of silence. They push you into a shallow discomfort, prod you into a state of wanting. As you grow older, you crave new beginnings. Fresh starts. Blank canvases. Unspoiled pages to unopened notebooks.
Monogamy, you feel, threatens discovery. And you need to explore.
Perhaps, you think, love isn’t the answer after all. Love always lay so surely in the safety of tomorrow. But now it’s here, in today, and you fear its finality transcends its beauty. You’ve always preferred reaching in hope, to sitting in contentment. Just like your mother, it’s in your blood.
Morning comes again, as you thought it might. They awake and kiss the nape of your neck in the same way they do each morning, and you smile. You love each other, yes, but it’s dying. It’s dying quietly, drowning in a festering discontent. Chipping away, moving forth; realizing your inherent desire to be alone. Your need to have nothing.
Your stomach sinks. This, you realize, is how your relationship will end.