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Almost Love: Part Six

The Beach

By Shea KeatingPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
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Almost Love: Part Six
Photo by Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash

Once upon a time we agreed on an end date for this, like the optimistic idealists we probably were back then. We still pretend it’s true even though we both know we’re already in too deep.

We last four days without speaking, and then he calls. I feel some twisted sense of pride that he broke before I did, as if it matters.

“I miss you,” he says, and I feel a sudden falling sensation, like I’ve missed a step. Missing me is not something he has done before, at least not out loud. I miss him, of course, but I have never said so, because that would be indicating more of an attachment to him than I’m allowed. We don’t discuss our feelings because we are not those people; we have never had the privilege of feeling anything out loud.

“Do you miss me?” he asks, and though he has seen every part of me, this is the first time I’ve felt exposed. This is not how we operate. Mostly, he pretends to care and I pretend I don’t, and we carry on with our lives hoping that all of these lies won’t swallow us whole. We never made any actual rules about intimacy, and suddenly I realize what a glaring mistake it was not to.

“I always miss you,” I say finally, and desperately hope that someday it stops being true.

By Sean Stratton on Unsplash

We spend a sunny afternoon on the beach, a rare day where I am suddenly allowed to touch him in public and realize, almost immediately, that I don’t know how. I have never been called upon to casually touch him; the only touches we ever exchange are intimate, and meant for dark corners. I don’t know the boundaries for carefree love; I spent too long memorizing the rulebook on hiding. I spend the whole day thinking about the fact that I have never touched him in the sunlight. It says a lot about us, I think, and none of it is flattering.

He worries that he’s trapping me; he says it all the time, that I should be free to be with anyone, and here I am stuck with a man who belongs to someone else. I’m his even though I’d never say so, and he knows it even though he’d never ask. I don’t admit that it doesn’t matter.

I wouldn’t leave him even if I could.

No one ever tells you that’s much less romantic than it sounds.

He’s in the sun and he’s smiling at me, and I still feel the impulse to look over my shoulder. Maybe because I don’t believe it can possibly be me he wants; maybe because I’m still making sure we’re hidden from curious eyes. I don’t know if it’s my damage or his that I’m more aware of. I feel the structure of this -- whatever we are -- being pushed aside; I’m no longer sure what we are and more importantly, what we aren’t. I don’t know what to say when what I’m telling him isn’t a secret.

He says that I’ll be the death of him, which sounds dangerously close to admitting emotion. I want to tell him that I will, I promise I will; then I worry it will ruin the mood. He is curiously buoyant, and though he often infuriates me, breaks me, damages me, I won’t say anything to break the spell because somewhere along the way, his mood became more important to me than my own. I tease him as if I also feel light, because making him laugh is its own high. I worry that if I laugh, affection will shine through the sound, so I don’t.

By JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash

He tells me, as he so often has, that his Queen is tearing apart his happiness and that someday soon, it will be over. That we can go to the beach once a week if we want; that he’ll kiss me in front of all these people we know just to watch them stare. I allow myself a few moments of fantasy, because that’s what it is. I know he’s lying, because I’m not the kind of girl anybody leaves somebody else for. I discard the dream almost as soon as he builds it; I am too inclined to believe things just because I want them, and I don’t think my body can handle the stress of believing in this one. I let him talk about it, though, because he lights up when he imagines futures we’ll never have.

He says we’ll be happy together. I tell him I agree, solidifying my suspicion that I might, in fact, be an idiot.

I wonder, suddenly and unpleasantly, if he has brought the Queen here; my tongue immediately tastes bitter and I regret the thought. I’m certain she knows how to touch him in public and the jealousy, for a moment, is unbearable. The idea breaks the spell of this afternoon, and now I want to crawl out of my skin when he smiles at me, because when he reaches for my hand I picture hers instead.

“How’s your girlfriend?” I ask, to remind us both that he has one. I ruin the moment on purpose, as I often do; I never know if I’m punishing him or myself. I am deliberately cruel because my own thoughts of him are hurting me, and I need to purge some of my heartbreak.

I don’t tell him he deserves to be happy, because given how many people’s hearts he’s currently destroying, I’m not at all sure he does.

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About the Creator

Shea Keating

Writer, journalist, poet.

Find me online:

Twitter: @Keating_Writes

Facebook: Shea Keating

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