He glances at her, looks quickly down, stares blankly at the coffee cup in front of him. He picks it up, sips, sets it down carefully, slowly. The waitress stops at their booth and freshens their coffee, customers pass by, but they are all alone. Outside the plate glass window the day is grey and lifeless and cloudy.
“I’ve got to,” he says. “We’ve gone as far as we can go and I have nothing left to give.”
A tear rolls down her cheek. “You know, sometimes fear makes us do the opposite of what we want to do.”
He looks confused, shakes his head as if to clear it, hesitates. “Maybe I’m running, I can’t tell, but I know this is what’s right for me. You seem to want to have Bill and me both, and I can’t live that way.”
She looks down, puts her hand across her forehead. “I’ll leave him, I told you, there’s nothing between us,” she says, not looking up.
“We’ve been through all that before. You won’t see me any time he comes to town, he doesn’t even know about you and I. I feel like . . . like a secondhand doll that entertains you while you’re not with him.”
He stares vacantly into his coffee cup, sighing deeply as his shoulders slump. His face wrinkles into a grimace as if feeling what he has just said.
“I’ve caused you pain,” she says.
“No, it wasn’t your fault. I chose to stay.”
“But what I did hurt you. I’m sorry.” Inside, she subconsciously feels glad.
They sit in silence for long minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. She reaches out, tentatively touches his hand, withdraws. “I have a feeling there’s something more you’re not telling me.”
He studies her face, searching into her eyes, peering intently. She looks genuinely puzzled. He glances down, back at her, shakes his head again, stares outside. The clouds are growing darker.
“I don’t know how else to try to say it, to make you understand. We’ve been through it so many times. Like Julie told me, you don’t have to fight to have a good relationship.” He pauses. “Something’s just not right. I need some space, but I have to work it out for me.”
She brightens, “So there’s still hope for us?”
“No, I didn’t say that.”
“I’ll change, I’ll be who you want.”
He bristles, “You’ve said that before.”
She leans back, “You don’t have to get angry.”
“I can if I want to. I have a right.”
Nothing is said for a long moment. His shoulders straighten, he picks up the check, scoots out of the booth and stands, looks at her briefly, then looks away.
“Goodbye,” he says.
“I’ll see you soon,” she replies.
He pays the check, his heart aching, yet also with a sense of relief. As he walks to the door, he knows he hasn’t said all he felt – the sense of betrayal at finally seeing the truth about the other man, the missing her that’s already started. The anger, the sadness, all of it. But it’s all been said before, many times.
At the door he stops, looks back, then turns and steps out into the bleak and chilling rain.
Sometimes . . . sometimes there comes a point where there’s just not a whole lot left to say.
“before you walk away” by brains the head @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.
“brenden ii” by Bombadier @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.
Previously published in Thoughts Along the Road to Healing
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