It was the hardest thing she ever had to do.
“I guess so.”
“Fine. Bye. See you never,” he said nonchalantly, shutting the screen door behind him. He disappeared into the kitchen and didn't look back. Typical.
“Thanks for nothing,” I said, under my breath. Two whole years of my life now had to be erased and forgotten once again.
I toss my heavy, fat backpack onto the front seat, fastening the seatbelt on it so the warning light on the dashboard isn’t flashing for the whole trip. Off to… I don’t fucking know—certainly far from here.
I floor the clutch, my right foot solidly on the brakes, start the car, and switch to first gear. Easing off the clutch while gassing at the same pace in a delicate balance, the old hatchback inches forward to a slow, steady, easy pace.
Uncertainty is smashing me on the head like a ton of bricks. Everything feels crushingly heavy and I can’t understand why. My head aches badly as if inside my skull, immense pressure is pushing outwards in all directions and all of my energy is being spent trying to contain it. I almost want to close my eyes and go to sleep forever. I’m so damn tired. Everything hurts.
I feel like there's a noose around my neck tied to the column on the porch getting tighter and tighter the farther I go. My breathing feels constricted and strained as a result, like I’m drowning in the middle of the deep, dark ocean with no one—no friend, no lover, no shore, no buoy—in sight. I am utterly and devastatingly alone. I'm panicking inside but I'll never let him know that.
I fear exploding into bloody mush all over the steering wheel and on my favorite jeans before ever making it out of our—his—driveway. My jaw feels like it’s off its hinges, bobbling and swaying at every bump and pebble on the dirt road. There is no solidity anywhere… nothing firm to hold on to... I am heading straight into the pits of oblivion meanwhile he's probably on his fucking computer.
The crunching of the sandy road underneath the old car’s well-worn wheels seem deafeningly intrusive. I remember when I enjoyed this sound. I reach up at the rearview mirror, turning it slightly to look at my face. My face is shiny and oily and disgusting. I look like I haven’t showered in over a week.
Maybe I'll head for the snow this time.
I smell like the sun, the wind, and tangerines. I look like I just got electrocuted. My disheveled coarse dark hair sticks annoyingly to my shiny, muggy, collarbone. Every part of my body is clammy and unpalatable.
My lips are a chapped pale brownish-pink, in a permanent frown. I bite them in hopes that color would return but to no avail. Resigned to the gruesome reality of my looks and everything else, I re-adjust the mirror back to its proper position.
Of course, just as I feared, I can’t help but look back at the closed screen door now seventy feet behind me. Wishing for what I’d find.
I can make out something that wasn’t there before—my heart leaps in glee—he's there standing behind it watching me drive away, obscured in the shadows of what was once our loving, forever home.
A bolt of lightning pierces through my heart and my stomach as I trace his outline through the mirror with my mind’s eye. I feel a sudden rush of acidic bodily agents filling every cell of my body, turning my cheeks as hot as the hood of my car in the Texan summer’s heat. I fight my face’s urge to contort into despairing, anguished shapes and instead stare blankly ahead at the upcoming turn, marked by the centennial old pear tree.
Heaving—huuu huuu huuu—I'm gasping for air as if I had been pulled out of the water unconscious and then given mouth to mouth. It occurs to me that I still don’t understand this feeling and have no idea what to call it. The sound of my heart beating reminds me of his truck’s stereo system turned up to the highest it can go… it’s pervasive, all-encompassing, painful, scary as hell, disorienting, visceral, somatic.
As I approach our… the pear tree, I notice a single pear smack dab in the center of the driveway, lying on its side. I stick my head out of the window to see if it’s good or not; the hot sun kissing my head reminds me of the warm embraces of my beloved deceased aunt and those of the man I’m leaving. I can see the pear is beautiful, perfect, bright green, and under shade.
“Snack for the road,” I shift to first gear and pull the parking brake. "Goodbye faithful pear tree, thank you."
Just as I was about to get it, I hear the screen door shut abruptly behind me. I turn around and he’s running, but not at me. He doesn’t look at me—instead, he beelines it to the ripe pear lying on the ground until I’m looking at him in his basketball shorts and coffee-stained cotton shirt as he picks it up.
Speechless and confused, I watch him wipe it clean with his already dirty shirt and I catch myself admiring his profile… the same one I’ve woken up next to for hundreds and hundreds of mornings and sometimes late afternoons. It’s like I hardly know him anymore.
“Catch.” He tosses it to me, his ice-blue irises turning half gold in the high sun’s playful light. “Snack for the road,” he says.
“Thanks,” I smile, somewhat proud of myself for not dropping it. If I had, I’m sure he would’ve said something. “I was just about to pick it up.”
“I’m being generous. It’s likely the last this old lady will give. You’re welcome.”
“How kind of you,” I say, chuckling. “All those times you sat on your ass drinking ice cold beer while I pruned and watered her must’ve been such hard work for you, so, thank you again.”
Smiling, he walks closer to me.
God I wanna run my hands through his soft amber-gold hair one last time but I won’t.
I can smell him from ten feet away—he’s sweating, but it smells like home. Something warm and pleasant grows in the center of my chest and in my pelvis as he approaches and I feel my entire face and body soften to welcome him. My shoulders drop, my breathing deepens and regulates, and a modest Mona Lisa smile begins to take shape on my now plump and moistened lips.
“Come here.” He pulls me in for a delicate yet robust, long, deep hug. It was the exact thing my body needed to calm down.
It hurts so much to leave but I know I have to. I wish he would just talk me out of it but I know he’ll never do that and I kind of don’t want him to at the same time. But then I do. I really, really do.
I smile up at him, knowing that what he sees is less than a quarter of what is happening inside of me at this very moment. I place my hand on his face, gently scratching and caressing it like I always did in the morning to wake him up. His stubble is starting to grow again; it’s during this phase that I can’t stand him kissing me or going down on me. Still, I’m going to miss getting tickled to death by his surprise neck kiss attacks. I remember the morning he woke me up, rubbing his spiny chin and cheek on my soft, exposed belly. He knows all of my weaknesses I guess.
“When you finally learn how to love, you’ll realize I was your person. But I can’t guarantee I’ll be here waiting for you by then,” he said, straight-faced, looking directly at me with his stunning—icy—eyes. I search for the man I signed up for through the windows of his soul but I can’t find him.
“Take care, b,” I kiss his prickly cheek, then make my way down to his neck, my free hand squeezing his forearm. I run my hands through his sweat-dampened hair like I wanted to do but said I wouldn't.
I didn’t care that we were baking under the heat or that the collar of my white tank top was soaked in my own salty sweat. I took my lover’s hand in mine and brought it up to my face to kiss it tenderly without breaking his gaze.
Closing my eyes, I clasp his hand in between mine and hold it against my left cheek and then my right. I run my hands softly all along his forearms, to his biceps, under his sleeves. He grabs my waist and pins me closer to him, rubbing my back as if to console me—maybe he knew that I felt like buckling at the thought of him not being around anymore after all.
His hands crept lower and lower, squeezing my ass tight as he jerked me even closer to his hips in a final, agonizing, heartbreaking, heart-to-heart.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but I finally manage to pull away, shutting the driver’s side door behind me. With his left arm he reaches into the open window, smiles at me, and tenderly pinches my cheek. I smile back, squeezing his arm and kissing it to let him know.
“You won't get far before you turn back,” he said, clenching his jaw. “I love you. Don't do anything too stupid. Take care.”
I nod. “I love you too. Bye,” I turn left and drive away.
Still, I have no idea what the hell this feeling is or what to do with it. I'm broken—I know I am—and he hasn't been able to fix me and I haven't been able to fix him, so we have to fix ourselves.