setting down to it
We need to talk.
Well, what’s going on?
It’s a lot.
I have a lot of time.
She paused and the August night closed in and filled the silence with cicadas and crickets and distant thunder sounding the upward reaching depths of the heavens.
…I’ve been through a lot this year. You know that better than most. And I haven’t treated you very well either. There was the whole November thing, and then in the spring, and when summer started, well, I don’t really know. It’s been weird.
Yeah it has.
Yeah…and I’m sorry about that. I didn’t really know what was happening. A slow fade, you know? Just a distance starting and staying, between us.
Yeah I feel it.
I know, and I’m sorry. It’s taken me a year to get to this point. My mind goes in circles, over and over and over, and I can’t communicate it well. I just get hung up you know? Like…well I don’t know.
Well, we got close fast last year. Really fast. Faster than I have ever gotten close. And it was good…until it wasn’t. I got scared.
I scared you?
No, not you. Me. I scared me. My deepest feelings, fears, you knew them and stayed anyway, and…I don’t know, you know? It scared me that I was feeling. And I thought you might have been getting…closer, you know, so I shut down.
Yeah, you did.
And I’m sorry.
And I forgave you.
I know. I’m still sorry though. I thought you were getting closer than friends and I shut you out, which wasn’t right, I know. I don’t know what I was thinking…I was scared.
Like I said, I understand.
Yeah, and you stuck around, which I don’t get. I don’t know….
She was silent then, chin cradled in her long lithe hand, body curled up over her crossed legs in the Adirondack chair, staring out with wide eyes under her beat up ball cap. She was preparing. Then she burst.
I resented you. You didn’t get angry. You never did. You collected my feelings and struggles and fears and you brought them up again and again and again and I felt betrayed because you get close like that with everyone and I thought that it was special between us. So I was angry and scared and I didn’t know what to do or how to feel or how to say what I felt so I cut you out and…. Yeah. I treated you badly and shut down…I didn’t want…I don’t know. You started dating her and I thought what we had was special and then I saw it slipping away. And I got angry, but I didn’t want to, so I got scared again.
She was silent again, and I was out of breath. The heat of the night crept all around me but I didn’t feel anything but iciness, pouring from her body and spirit and mind, all needles of chill directed at me.
Wow. That’s a lot.
Don’t be sorry. I understand. Well I don’t understand. But I forgive you.
Yeah…I figured you’d say that.
Well, yeah, of course I’m going to say that.
I just don’t get it. Why can’t you just be angry? Or hurt? Or upset?
I am hurt. But I stopped giving my anger power. I know you want me to be angry. You want justification for the treatment you have given me, and I won’t give it to you. Your feelings don’t need to be justified. You are entitled to your feelings.
Yeah, but I feel bad about them.
Well…you shouldn’t feel bad for feeling, only what you do about the feelings. And, well, what you did… isn’t the greatest. But I am not angry. I’m hurt, I’m sad. But I won’t be angry.
We sat there and the pulse of the insect noise waved over us like so much velvet on the hot air, rippling around the tension hung in between us by the expectation of punishment and the refusal to deliver. I sighed, looking up to the dusky sky full to the bursting with red and pink and grey.
Well, where does that put us?
What do you mean?
Obviously there’s this…block, between us.
And I don’t want to fix, because you’ve told me you don’t want that and I get it. But this is impacting us, and I won’t let it impact the others.
No, it shouldn’t.
Right. So what do I need to do? Or not do.
I don’t know. I don’t feel like this when you aren’t here.
So…I need to go?
Yes, I think so.
For how long?
You’re right, that isn’t fair. I can’t put a time limit on it.
So, just, I don’t know…no one on one?
I stood. I slipped my sandals on. I stretched my arms up above my head, reaching for help, reaching for the words to say.
I love you, you know that?
Do you? I don’t think you do. I care. That’s why I bring things up again and again. I don’t collect. I care and I check in. That’s all. I need you to know that. It’s because I care. There was a time that I thought there was something more between us. But I knew you were uncomfortable so I shut that down fast. I was only honest with you…always. I only ever cared…always. It hurts that you put all this on me, but I get it, I do. It’ll be ok. Can I hug you?
I wrapped my arms around her. I felt her tension, like always, pulling away from me to somewhere I couldn’t see, couldn’t understand, somewhere deep in her mind where I was the villain. No, not that. Somewhere where I was a friend that was more than a friend, somewhere where I was close but not too close, somewhere perfect. Somewhere not here.
I care about you. I’ll give you the space you need, even though it hurts me and I don’t understand.
I let her go. She pulled away so quickly that I was cut again, a physical manifestation of the verbal and emotional distance that had been forced between us, polarizing us, fracturing us.
I walked away, hands in pockets. My head erect and carriage easy, I walked down the steps from the portico to the lawn and straight down the walk into the twilight. I didn’t look back because I didn’t want her to see the tears in my eyes and the quivering sneer on my lips. The cicadas droned on and on and on. They drowned out my sobs.