I KNOW NOW THAT THE DARKNESS I HAD SEEN WAS MY OWN SHADOW.
* * *
Cut it off, run now. Don’t look back.
You must go missing for him to learn how to miss you.
I pack my proverbial suitcase and head for the door. I look back and know that what is left will not be the same if I returned. But returning is not an option, at least not now. I must learn to keep my feet moving past the door, out to the street, into a cab and set dynamite across the bridge as I cross over the canyon.
Never to return.
Without him, I may never know if this house we painted pink would have ever been a home. With him, the walls breath in staggered paces, huffing and puffing as if their lungs had been filled for centuries with the toxic fumes of my own self-loathing—gasping to make out the word:
* * *
But I do stop running. I return.
From winter in Phoenix to a 79-degree night in Williamsburg, I find the thread in my messages with the contact labeled, “New Phone Who Dis.”
I’m drunk so all I can get out is “hi.” That will do. Plus, the long absence ended with the word “hi” seemed so fitting for us. I was always just a “hi” away from self-destruction.
To my surprise he confesses it all to me within minutes. He says he loves me, that he had always loved me—that I was the love of his life. He says he fucked up. I don’t believe him, I don’t know how—but I am walking drunk out of the bar, wind blowing from that river I still don’t know the name of up through my skirt and now I’m at the ATM getting cash out for the taco truck.
The man I love has finally come around. Maybe he is here to cast aside my doubts. Maybe he learned his lesson.
Maybe he learned to miss me after all. But in the morning I’ll resent that I was the one who had to pull it out of him.
I am home now.
My friends texted me asking where I went. I don’t answer. I fall asleep—phone in hand, white Styrofoam container of tacos on the floor—and sink into my pillow with ease. I am smiling.
I am falling asleep and I am smiling.
* * *
I am a wife. At least that’s part of what we do. We pretend.
We make up stories. We fantasize about who we could be together—but when the heat wave comes I fantasize about what it would be like to live out my dreams—by myself.
Maybe it’s not a fantasy for him, maybe it’s what he really wants.
I fear he will block me, control me—put me in a cage and destroy me. I need to know that our love means something, so I call him.
I call and call. He’s at the beach. It’s summer after all. He’s with his friends. I’m annoying him, I can tell.
He says he’ll call when he leaves but then says I’m crazy. Don’t call me crazy. Crazy people drag someone in to their lives to complete them. I won’t be crazy. I won’t be that girl.
I threaten to leave. I threaten to sever communication—blocking the remaining waves he sends me from the coast.
I will not be a victim, it’s easier to say goodbye.
Now I’m scaring him. He says so. I take comfort in the fact that he’s scared because maybe then that means he loves me. But I jump back into the fear that it’s all a tactic, this man is tactful I wonder. He will keep me. He only wants control.
I know what I must do.
I runaway again, for the second time.
* * *
In another drunken heap later that same summer, I think of him again. I think of calling. But I don’t. I don’t text him. I don’t send a message. Instead, I DM his best friend.
I tell her how much I love him and that I miss him and—“oh my god I hope he loves me too.”
I am unsure after all, no matter how many times he’s said it.
A few hours later I get a text. The thread formerly labeled as “New Phone Who Dis” has been upgraded to his actual name. The text says: “I love you so fucking much.”
Here I was dying for his love yet again and he returns it back via text. How beautiful is that right? Although in the morning when I’m sober I’ll think that he probably only did it once his friend told me I DM’d her. I’ll think that he just saw that as a sign that he still has control over me.
He’ll later deny that she ever did. I try to believe him. But I can’t.
* * *
He wants to move in now.
Just hearing the words “move in” makes me feel like the wall itself is moving in. He wants to live in my bed, inhabit my space. It would then become our space.
At first I think I can let go, take the plunge, find a new life with him.
I wonder if allowing him in is another ‘easy button’ I push to quiet my inner darkness.
I wonder if not allowing him in is another ‘easy button’ I push to quiet my inner darkness.
Either way, I feel like I’m doing a disservice. To him. To myself. To us.
If his voyage were to bring him here, he will be the ruler, I will be jester of my castle. He will be the King. I don’t see myself as strong…not strong enough to take a crown for myself—at least not now.
I can’t let him move in. I send him links to other apartments in the area and he gets mad at me.
“Don’t you see,” he says. “It’s not about New York. It’s about us. I don’t care about New York; I just want us to be together. You’re all I want. I want to move for us.”
It all sounds quite lovely. But again I don’t believe him. I can’t.
Panic sets in. It’s time to run again, this time over a wider canyon.
* * *
It’s summer again in New York. I don’t know what to do.
This is the fourth time I’ve returned unto him but something doesn’t feel right. This time, I’m not the run who’s taking off on a quest over the canyon. This time, he is. He says he’s through with the way I treat him.
I am not in control. I am not in control.
He had to go missing for me to learn how to miss him.
* * *
I KNOW NOW THE DARKNESS I HAD SEEN WAS MY OWN SHADOW. MAYBE I WAS WRONG ABOUT ME ALL ALONG…
to be continued
* * *
Photo by Natasha Minoso.
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