The end loomed in the air like an ominous storm cloud as I kept busy cooking dinner in the kitchen. I worked carefully, making sure to perfect what I was making in order to pacify him, possibly to change his mind about me and keep him from saying what I feared most. During dinner, we ate in silence at the dining room table as he played games on his iPad. I cleared the table and washed tonight’s dishes and John took his place on the couch, slumping there with an exaggerated look of melancholy. This was his thing, the look he would always use to coax me into asking him what was wrong.
But I wasn’t biting. Rather than inquiring I avoided his eyes and continued to clean. The dishes already washed and neatly stacked in the dishwasher, I moved on to laboriously scrubbing the stove, then the counters, followed by the cabinets and the floor. As I rigorously worked he came and stood in the doorway, watching me. Staring, really, silently waiting for my eyes to meet his in order to give him the courage to talk. I looked up, flashed him a wide smile and got back to working, knowing that would keep him and what was circling in his head at bay and from reaching my ears for at least a few more minutes. We were living on borrowed time and I was fully aware of this. I knew what he wanted to say to me. And I knew all I was doing, aside from sterilizing the kitchen, was only delaying the inevitable. I just dreaded hearing those words. I wasn’t ready.
He returned to his spot on the couch, holding his head in his hands with such theatrics that it seemed like he was trying to mime what he had to say to me. I somehow managed to laugh to myself with this thought, yet at the same time desperately trying to think of some other way to occupy my attention, rendering it unavailable to him, making it as difficult as I could for him to drop that bomb he was holding.
But then I stopped. I had to. How long could I keep this up? How clean could the house possibly get before he’d finally manage to detonate it?
Surrendering in our silent battle for my undivided attention, I sank down next to him on the couch, where he clutched a throw pillow to his chest, staring ahead dolefully.
“Is everything okay?” I asked, knowing full well the answer to that question.
“No,” He replied.
“What’s wrong?” I continued, finally giving him the platform he had so struggled to win from me before.
“I’m not happy,” his voice quivered eventually. He looked pale, his eyes staring straight ahead, this time avoiding mine. I knew this so it didn’t come as a surprise, but I still felt a rock forming in my stomach. It was that kind of feeling you get when you just start to make the descent from the highest point of a roller coaster. It was really happening. I was really losing him. The one last pillar holding up my life as I knew it, my person. He went on as his words severing our six years together grew more abstract to my ears, drowned out by my own devastation.
A few minutes later, numb with grief, I helped him clear off the spare bed. I left the room to gather my pillow and my quilt, but he stopped me.
“No,” he insisted. “This is your bed, I’ll sleep in the guest bedroom.”
I didn’t dispute this fact. The bed really was mine, though after being with him for so long I had forgotten this. He and his stepfather had completely obliterated my then brand new bed while trying to get it up the stairs of our old house. After several failed attempts, a lot of swearing and power tools getting involved in this futile effort, John dutifully went out and bought a brand new one – which would become our bed.
I shrugged and nodded with a small amount of tepid relief. The spare bed was his own as a teenager, which he continued to use until we first moved in together. His old, lumpy double mattress was not nearly as comfortable as my newer, queen-sized pillow top. Despite my fresh wounds, I felt a small ping of satisfaction at the thought of him tossing and turning in this old 1970’s monstrosity as I enjoyed the comfort of an adult-sized mattress.
However, sleeping alone for the first time in six years I felt restless and lost. What the hell just happened? That question looped in my mind, trying to wrap around this alien feeling. My life…I didn’t even know my life without him. Crumpled into a fetal position on my side of our – my – empty bed, my body shook with sobs and eventually grew limp as I drifted off to sleep.
Night turned into morning with only patches of sleep to be had. But despite such a restless night a rush of adrenaline acted as my alarm clock as I woke up before the sun, bounding out of that bed as if it were on fire.
Fuck this room. Fuck this bed. Fuck that asshole probably sleeping like a baby in the next room. Throughout my body I felt this primal urge to run, to escape. I just couldn’t be in that house another minute. As fast as I could I threw on my clothes and pushed my feet into my shoes. I bolted out the door and down the sidewalk of our quaint, red brick street past the well-kept houses of our neighbors. I felt almost possessed as my legs pushed my body, attempting to sprint away from the emotional demons that awaited me back home.
Can I still call it ‘home’?
I crossed Lake Ave. into the park, my Mizunos pounding the asphalt path. Past the pool, through the park, down the solstace stairs and to the lake I ran as my heart and mind processed the melting pot of conflicting emotions – unrelenting sadness, fear, even relief. When I finally reached the end of the trail, where Lake Erie hurls itself into the rocks, I stopped in my tracks and gazed across the water. I felt my heart furiously pump the blood through my veins from this explosion of activity
The skyline of downtown Cleveland was nestled in the distance, on the other side of the U shape that makes up the city’s west side waterfront. John and I had spent countless times in this very spot, walking Happy, taking photos, just enjoying the day. But one thing we always talked about doing yet never had was watching the sunrise.
I sat down on one of the benches, letting the sweat bead down my face as I watched the sun slowly emerge from the water, gradually illuminating my city.
What am I going to do?