Just for now let’s pretend that it didn’t happen.
We’ll pretend we’re both good people.
We did the right things for the right reasons.
And nobody got hurt, at least that’s what we’ll tell ourselves.
And if our conscience tries to interject – hit it off at the pass.
We did what we had to do to survive.
We did the right things for the right reasons.
And nobody got hurt.
Chest hurts – something is pushing on it, or sitting on it.
Am I crazy? Am I having a heart attack? No, I’m crazy.
Should I tell someone?
I don’t tell anyone.
It’s all in my head. It will go away. Just breathe. Deep breath in.
But I can’t breathe.
Gulping for breaths.
I have to be okay.
Focus on something, anything.
A point in the distance.
A sound in my memory.
Close my eyes.
I can see the heart beats, staccato beats.
Focus on the breath.
Short, in – short, out.
Don’t think about the pain in the chest.
In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.
Heart rate slows.
Notice my fists are clenched at my side.
Open my eyes.
Breathe in and out. In and out.
I made it through another one.
I followed you today, from our old apartment on 78th Street. You stopped at the deli for coffee; black, no sugar, and a chocolate croissant. Your favorite breakfast after our trip to Paris when I insisted that you try mine and you ate the entire thing. But you bought me two more to make up for it. You were always generous and thoughtful that way.
You left the deli and turned right and I instinctively knew you would end up at the park, sitting on our bench, the one where we watched the world rush by while we took our time drinking in the beauty of life. I followed at a safe distance, but close enough to drink in your muscular frame, toned from daily runs, your dark hair that curled slightly at the ends and, when you turned to look at the people around you, your strong jawline, angled nose and dark, thick lashes which were the envy of every woman you met.
At the entrance to the park you stopped and smoothed your hair, pulled your shirt straighter, which I thought was odd. When you started walking again my eyes went to the bench and I saw a woman sitting there, holding a coffee, watching you. My stomach lurched. She was average looking. Dark blonde hair in a chin length bob, basic brown eyes, nondescript face. A cliché really. I think that might have made it even more painful. That you didn’t find someone fantastically beautiful to replace me. You pulled out your chocolate croissant to share with her. Then you both sat and watched the world rush by while I watched you. It was a perfect contrast in contradiction.
I scanned the hallway as I put my key in the lock and turned the knob, letting myself into my empty apartment. The darkness took me by surprise and my heart rate increased. I always left a light on so it wouldn’t be so dark when I came home late. Maybe a light bulb had just burned out. I went to turn on the nearest light switch, feeling along the wall, when the reading lamp next to my favorite chair suddenly switched on, illuminating the profile of my ex-boyfriend. I jumped and took a sharp intake of breath. My whole body began to shake. “How did you get in?”
“You know I’ve never had any trouble getting what I want when I’m motivated.” His deep voice sent chills up my spine. Suddenly I was the frightened girl in the corner, hands covering her face in self-defense. The girl wearing long sleeves in the summer to hide the bruises. The girl ready with an excuse for anything. I remembered all the terror he had put me through. I froze in place unsure of what to expect next. His voice rose without him moving. “Be a good girl and pour me another drink. We might be a while love.” He lifted the glass in his hand and I could see he had already started drinking, another sign that things might not go my way tonight. My mind frantically raced through my options while my body seemed calm, crossing the room to retrieve his glass, a slight smile of acknowledgment to appease him.
I refilled his glass with whiskey, unsure of why I still kept his favorite brand in my cabinet. My hand shook and I spilled some on the dark wood counter. I stared at the pooled liquid and remembered the previous times I had spilled liquor, the punishment sure to come later for the few precious drops of nectar I had cost him. Unconsciously I wiped the spilled liquor with the sleeve of my sweater then took the drink to him. I began to plan my escape route.
I sat on the sofa across from him as he drank the whiskey, only halfway listening to him prattle on about how we were meant to be together. The fact that he was so calm, so impassive, worked in my favor. “I have to admit love, you definitely stumped me when you left. I thought I had lost you for good. But you just threw me off the trail. You’ll never lose me. Understand, love?” His blue eyes pierced through me and I felt them all the way to my soul. I whimpered and nodded because at that moment I knew I would never escape him.