Sarah's Newest Scar
Kissing In The Dark Chapter One
I loved the way the corners of her lips would curl when she smiled, or the way she could never seem to keep her hair out of her face. I loved how contagious her laugh was and how frequently she’d let you hear it. For so long, I genuinely loved her, and I guess a part of me always will, but at the end of the day, love isn’t what people say. It’s not a constant omnipotent force, pulling at everyone’s hearts. It’s a lightbulb that can be turned on and off. Some would argue that just because a lightbulb is off, it still emits heat, but at the end of the day, a lightbulb that isn’t on is barely a lightbulb at all. A dim (albeit warm) love, is barely love at all. Her hands were warm in mine, but they weren’t filled with love. The same thing went for her breaths against my neck, and the feeling of her hair in my hand… warm, but loveless. What was once the most passionate display of affection has devolved into this… a meaningless hookup in a hotel room in Central California.
As I traced my finger across her ribs, I stopped; frozen in place by the all too familiar feeling of her scar, a small heart-shaped blemish that sticks out on her soft skin like a scratch on fine glass. I couldn’t help but retract my hands, almost entirely on instinct. The spacing in between her kisses becomes sporadic as she tries to figure out what my hands left her body. Within seconds, she has pulled her entire body back, looking me in the eyes to try and piece together what was going through my head. Regardless of how hard I tried, my eyes were glued to her scar; she could tell.
She grabbed my hand and placed it gently on the scar, all the while backing the rest of her body away. What was a passionate moment, only seconds ago, has now become something far more poignant. Following a few seconds of awkward silence, we found ourselves sitting across from each other, on opposite sides of the mattress, looking into each other's eyes, my hand resting gingerly on her ribs, as we both waited for the other to say something. Eventually, one of us was bound to break.
Luckily, it was her.
“Let’s be honest, we both knew this wasn’t going to work. There’s too much history here to just ignore it and justify some meaningless one night stand.” She placed her hand over mine, pushing my palm against her naked torso. I could feel her skin on every inch of my hand, but all the sexual appeal was gone; replaced instead, with sadness. As hard as it was for me to admit it, she was right. We should’ve known better than to even try and make something like this work. You can’t erase six years of history, no matter how desperately you want to.
“We never would’ve been able to forgive ourselves if we didn’t at least try though. I mean seriously. How often are we both in the same city at the same time anymore? You’re always traveling. I’m always traveling. It’s a miracle we both ended up here when we did.”
My reply fell on deaf ears. The last thing she wanted to talk about right now was us traveling for work; the exact reason we were never able to make our relationship last in the first place. Her eyes sank, her breathing became stiff. I had struck a nerve.
Without saying anything, she swung her legs back over the end of the bed and walked over to the corner where our clothes sat, chaotically stacked. The silence was deafening as she got dressed, slowly pulling her bralette over her scar. As her skin was covered, her aura shifted with it. She shifted, almost instantly from warm and loveless, to brisk and platonic. After a few more moments of painful silence, she finished dressing herself, and spoke up.
“How’s work?” Her voice was defeated as she asked her least favorite question. I knew she didn’t actually want to hear about work, but I was far too distracted to try and switch the topic.
“As miserable as ever Sarah.”
“You made the decisions you made. I told you how many times you’d be unhappy?”
She didn’t need me to answer that question. The answer was simple, too many to count.
“Even you have to admit, as granola as you were back then, it’s a tempting offer. For fuck’s sake Sarah, they pay me a decent amount of money to sit in a classroom all day, learning another language, that I’ll probably never even have to use. I clock in, study Chinese, work out, do homework, and repeat. On paper that sounds pretty fucking nice!”
She turned to look at me, completely appalled by my stance. Catching her breath, she prepared her reply:
“Are you kidding me? You cared so much in school about things that mattered! Political advocacy, societal progression, art - things you couldn’t make binary decisions about. All you wanted to do was help the little guy, and now look at you! You’re just another government shill, working for the very establishment you swore to abolish! Everything you do now is so robotic! You listen to what people say, punch it into a computer, and do whatever-the-fuck it says! Could you imagine how a seventeen-year-old you would react if he saw you now? He’d fucking laugh! You’re laughable!”
“If I’m so fucking laughable, why are you standing in a hotel room, arguing with me at 11 o’clock at night? You know deep down, as admirable as those goals were, they were fucking pipe dreams. People like us don’t wake up and change the world! You can’t slap on a suit and change centuries of corruption. Sometimes you have to look out for yourself!” Even as the words left my mouth, I knew how defeated they sounded. Ultimately, I felt like they needed to be said.
Sarah was my best friend, but she had a habit of overestimating humanity. Her optimism was encouraging when we were young, but as we grew older, and saw more of the world, it became evident just how delusional optimism can be. She exemplified this fact.
She didn’t respond. Instead, she shot me a single look. Not the angry glare I expected; rather, something more impactful. A silent, disappointment set over her face. Her bottom lip quivered.
“I hadn’t seen you in nine months, Hunter. Call me overly faithful, but I really thought this time would’ve been different. I thought you would finally be at a point in your life, where you would be ready. Ready to change the trajectory of your life. Ready to find something you care about again. Ready to make this work.”
The silence, now broken, wrapped around the room like a shadow, consuming everything in sight as I tried to formulate a coherent response.
“Why do I have to change the trajectory of my life in the first place? Just because our paths differ, doesn’t make my life inherently worse than yours!”
“By your own admission, you’re as miserable as ever.”
Watching her throw my own words back in my face, I couldn’t help but feel a vague sense of pride. “You would’ve thrived in politics.”
I didn’t bother saying anything else. She was already gone, first emotionally, then physically. Within a matter of seconds, she was gone, slamming the door and leaving me to myself with nothing else to say.
Us making love-- No. That can’t be the word.-- us having sex, was predicated entirely on the structural integrity of a house of cards. We were doing the same thing we’d done countless times before; pretending our baggage wasn’t still holding us back and our history was optional. We chose to look the other way, placing band-aids over bullet wounds and assuming we’d be okay. There’s only so much turning over the other cheek two people can do before they’re forced to face the music. We never worked. It only took a few seconds for Sarah and me to go from passionately intimate, to no longer speaking. We had a way of getting under each other’s skin, but that’s to be expected with years of coexisting.
Our childhoods were intrinsically linked. Being the children of two family friends, we always ran into each other at family gatherings and holidays. It wasn’t until a few years into us knowing each other that we actually started developing our own relationship independent of the family gatherings. Things were always so close to being perfect between the two of us, but there was also always at least one thing keeping us apart. If it wasn’t school, it was work. If it wasn’t work, it was distance. If it wasn’t distance, it was one of us being in a relationship. The stars never aligned for us, and eventually, that took its toll on us. Despite all the strain we’d had forced on our bond, we always held out hope that someday, things would turn around for us.
The fact of the matter is this: If things don’t work, they’re never going to work.
I didn’t bother calling Sarah that night. Instead, I crawled into the loud creaky bed, letting the down comforter wrap around my body like a warm embrace. Within a few seconds, I was sound asleep.
When I woke the next morning, I found myself with surreal clarity. I half expected my mind to race with questions about what was going to happen between Sarah and me, but by the time I woke, those questions were nowhere to be found, replaced instead with a renewed sense of motivation. If I had chosen to defend my career in the face of one of my oldest relationships, I might as well pretend to enjoy that career. Rolling out of bed, I let my feet dangle over the edge of the mattress, gently scraping the carpet below. Streaks of light bled through the blinds like blades, cascading off the dusty hotel room air. As I made my way to the bathroom, I began to playback the last night’s fight; instead of being consumed by emotions, I looked at everything very analytically. It was devoid of passion. It was binary. It was everything Sarah had said I was becoming. Robotic. I shook that thought off and continued to look around. Bending down to pick up my bag, I looked to the corner where Sarah had stood, listening to me effectively tell her to give up. Walking to the bathroom to brush my teeth, I looked in the mirror, where just hours before I had called Sarah beautiful. Even now, looking into the empty mirror I could still feel her hair between my fingers as I brushed it out of her face. I clenched a fist, reminding myself that I wasn’t caressing anyone’s hair and that I would sure as hell never brush Sarah’s away from her eyes again. Splashing my face with water, I realized how much I was lying to myself. This wasn’t analytical. This was an emotional journey, piecing the night together from a calmer headspace. Just because I wasn’t furiously arguing with Sarah didn’t mean I wasn’t emotional. I was going insane thinking about how big of a part of my life I just pushed away. Even though we hadn’t spoken in months, I always knew I could call her if I ever needed to. Distance or not, she was always emotionally there for me.
Now? That couldn’t be further from the truth.
About the author
Coming from the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, Shawn Klemme found himself bouncing from city to city during his time in the Marine Corps. As he experienced more of the country and made new friends, Klemme became a truly genuine storyteller.