I stood up and told you I wasn’t feeling well.
You took my hand, filled it with cash, and told me to take a cab.
I walked. I walked along the ocean. Along the cobblestones. Along the homeless. Along the working. Along the drunk. I thought if I walked instead of took a cab, you would have more time to catch up to me. You would have more time to realize what you had said, what you had done, how I had felt, how you knew I was dying. You know I can’t live without love. I thought you would come find me, the way you first came for me when we first fell in love.
I walked all the way to the train, interrupted only by strangers. Never you. You never cared to interrupted me.
The train rushed in, blowing my long whispy strands of hair up around my face. And when I stepped onto the train. The color of life disappeared. My trust in oxygen diminished. And I felt like drowning may be a possibility at any moment for the rest of my life. The rest of the train ride was spent in panic. Because. I knew.
I knew I had to leave you.
And though that ride terrorized me, what with my shaking bones, churning gut, slow dripping tears, and dizzy awareness of existence alone, what is more frightening was the slow, normal, painless, days that passed afterwards. What scares me the most about this part of my past, is the fact that I knew what I should do, but I just couldn't do it.
Every day, I knew I needed to leave. Eating dinners with no words. Walking with no fingers curling around mine. Ending nights without knowing how your day went or being able to tell you about what I had for lunch. I knew my fairytale was in another book, but I couldn’t put this one down. I was so far along in the book I was already reading, so sunk into the main characters and their chapters of little things that had already happened, things like beach days, mixed tapes, and handwritten notes hidden in each other’s coat pockets.
Every day that I stayed, I realized how weak I actually was. How my ability to do taxes, travel to foreign cities on a whim, and talk confidently with strangers meant nothing when I wasn’t able to distance myself from a poison I would never build up an immunity to.
And despite the moment where you told me through tears that you would marry me one day, no matter what, and the dramatic exit I took on Hough Avenue where my little Toyota drove me away somewhere safe… That moment was not sad at all. Not. At. All.
At least not when I compare it to my first night alone in Los Angeles when I slept on the ground in the front room only feet away from the front door. I had laid there wide awake, listening. I would hear footsteps and think they were you. Any of them could have been you. Coming for me. Finding me. Admitting we got lost. Admitting you were scared shitless and that you never wanted me to leave again. I listened for those footsteps. But one by one, person by person, they passed the front door and found their own little doors that, I imagined, led to the rescue of their own fairytale love. Every sound gave me hope, and every time the sound of a human faded, I thought I was that much closer to dying. It was painful, but now I realize sometimes the deeper wounds can be painless when received but excruciating when healing.
No steps ever stopped at that front door. You never came. I never slept, never dreamt, though reuniting with you on the porch outside played over and over in such a haze in my head that I didn’t feel deprived of any fantastical reverie for the night.
When I woke up… I woke up.
And the rest of the days… These days...I live, I love, I shut the book when the fairytale runs out, and I find it again on new pages. I don’t hold on to dead stories. Sometimes, when I lay down for the night, I listen for those footsteps. I wonder why they never came. Mostly though, I think I just wanted to hear the broken porcelain that I had imagined would come at the end. The plates you never threw when I told you I couldn’t love you. I would be hated to be loved. I would leave to be found. I would read a million books on feeling lonely, on darkness, on black and white if it led to one fairytale ending.
I was waiting for footsteps. Listening for the soft apologetic pattering of men’s shoes. Holding my breath so I might not miss the softest knock on the door…Now I realize, I shouldn’t have had to listen for it so carefully. The person that will come back to find me will pound on the door with their fists. . . If he ever did let me get that far away from him in the first place.