Silence was our bond.
Nothingness was our partnership.
Loss was our lover.
Yet here we were.
The silence has become a weight between us that neither seems strong enough to carry or move.
The silence is an ocean neither of us can swim across.
This silence is an umbilical cord wrapped tightly around our throats and suffocating us and all I can do is stare, stare, stare at the flowerpot my mother gave her on our third anniversary.
A flowerpot for the love of god. A flowerpot to the woman I was going to marry.
My eyes fell from it and the weight on me got heavier.
What was it she’d said, what was it my mother had said to me then, when I had told her about us?
Good, she’d told me I didn’t much care for the notion of a girl like her in our family.
The sick thing is I let her say it.
I let her say that sort of thing without even uttering a sound. Was it any wonder that she treated Melanie this way? Was it any wonder Mel seemed almost like an unsavory animal to her?
That flowerpot was our relationship. It was me.
Mom got it at a garage sale, almost proud she’d paid next to nothing for it and grinning like a shark as Mel unwrapped it. I remember how red my face went, out of embarrassment and rage, and hating my mother more than ever. My mother the great magician, who could disappear and appear into my life at will, always expecting applause when she returned.
That flower pot. That goddamned fucking flower pot.
I hung my head and stared at the table. It was more worn than when I’d lived here, but it held the lemon smell of furniture polish I had always loved. I wonder if it was on here that we made it, that we made our…
I pull my mind away from that thought, that avenue and try to focus. Mel clears her throat and I look up at her and she’s looking at me and I feel like a stupid kid who got caught doing something he shouldn’t have. I realize I am slumped over in my chair and sit up straight.
“You never could sit up in these chairs, could you? It’s like the seats were made of banana peels.” She laughs and my mouth breaks into a smile. I forgot how much I loved her stupid jokes.
I had forgotten how much I missed her.
But five years is a long time.
Five years is a lifetime.
The weight grows again and it’s getting hard for me to breath. A headache forms in my temples and it’s this place, and these smells, and these memories.
I wonder if everything is still the same here. I wonder… I wonder if I went into our, no, her bedroom and went to the dresser, the antique her father had given her when she’d moved out at seventeen, if her underwear would still be in the third drawer down. Not the scandalous stuff, oh no, that underwear she kept in the bottom drawer on the left, in case her dad or someone else decided to look for something. That underwear was the stuff only she and I ever saw…oh, oh, I guess that’s not true anymore.
The weight falls and I am left hanging there, sitting at a scarred table, with blistered hands, looking at a withered love.
This was my love.
This was our home.
This was what dreams lead to.
She looks up at me.
“A lot more awkward than I had expected, ya know? And it shouldn’t be. It fucking shouldn’t be, but it is. Ya know?”
Ya know, her favorite expression and one which I had come to both love and hate at once.
“I know. I know. I hate that it’s this way. I hate that there’s this, this silence. God, do you remember how much we used to talk? How easily it came? How…”
“Well, then things changed.”
And here, saying it without saying it.
All the pleasure, all the joy, all the pain, and anger, and arguments and fucking and on and on and it all came down to that…things changed. Only, they didn’t just change, did they? No, no they didn’t. His eyes fell from her face, fragile and too thin, to her stomach and she caught him looking and he immediately flushed. Things changed.
“It isn’t your fault.”
And who said that, she or me, or was it both of us at once? Maybe it was god.
It wasn’t our fault.
“I wish things had ended differently for us. I wish…”
“I know. And I am sorry. I needed time. After, after I had it…after I had it done I just hated you. I hated me. I hated us. There wasn’t anything else for me to do. I am sorry, I am sorry I locked you out and pushed you away. I am sorry that, for the month afterwards, the month we lasted, that I tortured you. I am sorry, god…”
And I don’t know if hers came first or mine but I know it was my hand that reached for hers, and hers that took it. Five years never felt lonelier than they did now. Seeing this woman, this ghost of who I was and who I loved, yet, there, in the cave of my heart, the echo of her heartbeat. The echo of us.
“I still love you.”
Again, who said it? Or was it said at all? I can’t tell and there’s a different weight now. A weight on my tongue that was making it hard to swallow. I looked at her, searching her face and saw nothing, no, not nothing – I saw the woman I had loved so deeply, had wanted so badly to become my life but who had made a decision that killed us, that had ended us utterly and completely, but in her face I saw that no one had spoken. I had imagined those words.
Those three words with that dangerous quantifier.
More awkward silence and she released my hand and I felt suddenly cold. I looked over at the flowerpot and realized that the flower in it was dead, its body broken, its petals wilted. I remember hating Melanie so much afterwards. Hating her for her action, for her silence, for her coldness, and finally for the ending. Hating her so much that all I wanted was to erase her and by god I did. Or thought I did.
I guess I was wrong.
It was me that had called her, finding her number in some papers I was throwing out. Finding it as I packed to move across the country and away from my past. Running away from it. And I called, and she answered, and here I was. I needed to see her. I needed to say goodbye. I needed this.
I deserved this.
Oh, but what does she deserve?
Facing her, seeing no pictures of other men, no ring, and sensing no joy in her, I was shamed at my anger. Shamed at my rage. Shamed at all of it and now I wondered if she’d seen me because she needed to or because she felt she owed me this.
“So you’re moving?”
“Yeah, I need a change. I just can’t seem to find my place here. I have a buddy out West and he says I can crash with him until I find some work.”
“Good for you. You’d always wanted to move out there, it’s good you’re getting the chance. Heck, I kinda thought you had moved out there.”
“No, I wanted to Mel, I did, but I wasn’t ready. I don’t know if I am ready now. I dunno if I will ever be ready, but it’s time. I have to go. I just can’t stay here.”
And do I tell her why? Do I tell her – because I love you. I love us. I haven’t been the same person since we ended? Do I tell her that the anger burned away and in its place there was an emptiness that only she could fill? Do I act like this is a stupid goddamned movie and that we’ve earned our happy ending?
“I just had some stuff going on here. It wasn’t the right time.”
No, this was no movie.
I searched for something to say but found no words. It was time to go.
I cleared my throat but she spoke first –
“I hate you, you know.”
“What?” I felt cold sweat start rolling down my sides.
“I hate you. I wish I didn’t but I do. I needed you for so long, I needed you to call, to write, to do something, and nothing. I got nothing. And that’s fine, I guess it’s what I deserve, I guess it’s what the price of my choice was, but goddammit, I wasn’t ready, you weren’t ready, we were not ready. I am sorry if you didn’t see it then, but I saw it and still see it. You can’t start a life together with that kind of baggage. Why didn’t you call me? Even if just to see if I was ok?
“Because I wanted to, Melanie. I didn’t call because I wanted to. I needed to. I made myself hate you, I made myself forget you because I had to or I would have died. Christ, I wanted to die. The sad fucking truth Mel? I never stopped loving you. I probably never will stop. That’s why I am moving. That’s why I have to leave – because I can’t live in an emotional haunted house, always hoping you’ll come back to me, always hoping it’d be you who would call me.”
She held her hand out and I took it and I looked again at the flowerpot and saw that yes, the flower in it was dead, but beside it, almost hidden from view, was the beginnings of something living and green. She squeezed my hand and I looked back to her and she was smiling. It was a sad smile, but it was there, and I returned it.
“I am ready to stop hating you.”
“I’m ready to call.”
I reached out and laid my hand against her cheek and I felt the smile against my skin. I wanted to look at her belly again, the habit of the past pulling me, but I kept my gaze on her eyes and hoped for something green to grow in me, over the small grave I had tended for too long.