Will left me in the morning with a heavy head and leaky eyes. I knew he had to work, but the fear and distress of the night before had convinced me that the space he left beside me in bed was permanent. I didn’t have the cute text he usually leaves me on my phone when he went to work. I had no indication of hope left to wake up to, only a single fan blowing and the rays of a rising sun. I laid still for a moment, basking in the memories of last night. How he had pushed me away and how our first “I love you” was in the midst of anger and lies. I had never fallen apart so fast before. I’d never let someone’s actions control so much of how I felt. I was so used to apathy and shrugging off someone’s threats because I knew I’d find someone new. But I didn’t want anyone to replace Will, for once I didn’t want someone new.
After I laid in the painful silence for a few minutes I brought up his number and hovered my thumbs over the screen. I started with a simple greeting, one without the embellishments of affection I was used to giving. He replied almost immediately, sounding so monotone and careless even through the little words on the screen. I began to type “I miss you” and stopped, wondering if it was just going to bother him. I backtracked and asked if he was at work first. He said he was. I told him I missed him and he didn’t answer me back right away. “I’ll be home at four” he said, blowing past my sentiment. My heart hurt.
I had to find something to do with my day that didn’t involve sobbing in his room for nine hours. I called up a girlfriend of mine to take me out around noon. I needed to vent, to try and understand where we’d go from here.
She picked me up from the apartment and we planned on going to the mall to get smoothies. She could tell from the heaviness of my stride that something was very wrong.
“Hey, you didn’t sound to good on the phone. Everything okay?” she asked when I got in the car.
“Did something happen between you and him?”
“I cheated on him because I’m a piece of shit, and now he doesn’t want anything to do with me.”
“Oh my god, you cheated on him?”
“Like I didn’t sleep with the guy but I made out with him on his couch and I still feel like that’s pretty fucked.”
“It kinda is. What made you do it?”
“I had been messaging him on Facebook, he was always happy when we talked. Really funny. I just got kinda got into flirting and when he asked me to come over I just went without thinking twice about it. I lied to him about the whole thing, he had to find out because the idiot posted pics.”
“Don’t tell me you’re more upset because you got caught.”
“No! No it’s not like that. Fuck, I don’t know. I was trying to protect his feelings. I thought what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, but when I told him the truth, he flipped out. I told him how much I loved him and he said he loves me too he just can’t trust me at all.”
“He let you spend the night after all that?”
“I practically begged on my hands and knees to. I don’t know what I would have done if I had to spend that night alone.”
“So does he want to be with you or…?”
“He doesn’t know. Couldn’t even say ‘I miss you too’ this morning when I texted him.”
“Ouch. He’s not the revenge cheat type right?”
“Not at all.”
“Well, at least there’s that.”
“I mean, we were never official anyway. It wouldn’t even be cheating.”
“Official this, status that. Everyone knew you were a couple, there’s no denying. No matter what Facebook said. This whole labeling gig has fucked up our standards.”
“No, being shitty people fucked up our standards.”
But she was right, social media had changed everything. People could change their status to “single” for a week after a fight just to go sleep with someone else. “We weren’t official“, they’d say. It was all so petty, just as petty as I was being towards Will about it. I went there not caring about his feelings. If I really cared about him I’d have never talked to that guy the way I did. And now I’ve lost everything.
The entire day I would stare at his chat box, hoping and waiting for a heartfelt message. Nothing came. I pondered what I could possibly say. I was scared to even type a single word to him. I preferred serious talks in person. With texting there’s no passion, no visual feedback, no security. A phone call was strides better, but still not the same as letting your words spill out at the feet of a person standing in front of you. At least you can run after them if they walked away.
“What do I even say to him?” I asked.
“I don’t know. You already told him what happened, now you just need to prove you’re worth staying with.”
“I feel helpless in that respect.”
“He’s a forgiving guy, I can tell.”
“He left the last girl that cheated on him.”
“Am I really that different?”
“I think you are. And if not, you can be different. For him at least.”
“I’ve never been so desperate before, I just don’t want to lose him. I always bitch about not finding the right guy whenever one screws me over but now I’m wrecking my only chance.”
“We’ve got a few hours to figure this out, don’t worry.”
I waited anxiously for the clock to move to four. I felt my spine get tense with every creeping moment. My phone was in and out of my pocket as I checked it desperately for a word from him, ignoring all of my other conversations so I wouldn’t be fooled by the ring of my notification.
I got wild ideas in my head of other people comforting him, of him holding steady conversations with his female friends while ignoring me. My friend pointed out the tremble of the drink in my hand and the silence of my speech multiple times. I just didn’t know what to do or how to handle everything. For once, I was truly afraid of him and the power he had in his hands. A power I had never given to anyone else.
“Shouldn’t he be back home soon?” my friend said.
“He should be there once we get back, yeah.”
“Alright, I’ll drop you off then.”
We threw away our empty smoothie cups and started to drive back. I asked him if he was off work yet and he said yes. My heart was pumping right against my chest. I kept looking for his car, perhaps on the road beside us or on the highway ahead. When we pulled up to the apartment I couldn’t see his car in its usual spot. My friend sensed the rising eagerness inside of me.
“He’ll pull up soon, just go wait inside alright?” she rested a hand on my leg.
“I will. Thank you so much, wish me luck.”
“You got it, just text me after.”
I got out of the car and walked up the steps to the building. As I approached his door I only hoped his roommates weren’t there and was relieved when the apartment seemed empty. I sat in the living room so that I could hear him walking towards the door.
I waited another five minutes before I gave into my worries and called him. After the longest three rings of my life, he finally picked up.
“What do you need?”
“I was just wondering when you’d be home.”
“I just pulled up, chill.”
“I’ll see you soon. Bye.”
I felt ready to jump out of my own skin. Another eternity later, I heard the door knob turn. I stood up and started picking at my finger nails, looking right at him entering the door. He paused for a moment, just looking at me. I wanted him to run into my arms, to hold me, grab me, or kiss me. He only turned and sat on the couch in silence. He let out a sigh.
“I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you all day. I just needed some space.”
“I just don’t understand why. Things were great between us,” he said.”
“I know, things were perfect. I just made a stupid decision based on selfishness, and now I’ve ruined everything.”
“I don’t know…”
I sat beside him and grabbed his hands again. Instead of his fingers curling into mine they went limp. Another crack formed in my heart.
“I have been so upset with myself all day. I just wanted to talk to you. I just wanted to tell you how much I was sorry,” I said.
“That doesn’t change what happened.”
“I know it doesn’t, but maybe I can really show you now that I care about you. Maybe I can show you how much I love you.”
“I told you, this shouldn’t have been the catalyst for that. It should have happened on its own.”
He pulled his hands away and stood up, walking towards his room. I followed him frantically, holding on to the back of his shirt the whole way.
“I’m so ready to be everything to you, you have no idea.”
He nudged me away and sat down on the bed. I crawled over beside him.
“If you won’t take me back, at least don’t cut me off. At least be my friend,” I felt the tears forming in my eyes again. He breathed in and out again, the weight of his decision carried on his breath.
He spoke no words.
“Just give me an answer, please… Tell me what you want.”
“I don’t want anything,” he said emotionlessly.
I felt a hammer strike my chest. I collapsed into his lap, sobbing. He sat still for a few seconds before reaching out and running his hand up and down my back.
“Let’s just be friends right now,” he said in a low voice. I looked up, face damp and eyes red.
“Will we ever…?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“I’ll still love you like I always have.”
“I know, I know…”
“Please just don’t leave me, please be there for me…”
“I’ll try….I will try.”
He pulled me into an embrace and I began crying again. I knew this was going to be the end of everything. I had blown it. And I couldn’t believe myself. I wanted to throw myself out the window, to be punished for what I did.
But he wouldn’t want me punished. I thought that him refusing to have me again was punishment for my actions. But it wasn’t, at least it wasn’t meant to be. He let me stay another night, just to hold me during my tearful outbursts and tell me we were going to be okay. In the morning he said that I should start spending time back at my place again and not stay there so much. It was hard to swallow, but I reluctantly left for my apartment when he went to work instead of staying and waiting for him to come home. My roommate was able to keep me company for a few hours but when she left I felt the stale air of loneliness. Our cat sat upon the bookshelf, uninterested in my existence. My phone was bone dry. I couldn’t even think of what to do with myself. I had never realized how much of my life revolved around Will.
It was always about what he was texting me while he was away. And even when he was away he was just making plans for us when he got home. On his days off I would wake up right there beside him, ready to enjoy a lazy day. When I was at my place it was only a matter of time before he asked me to come over or just came over himself. We had been inseparable for almost four months. And now? Well, now I couldn’t even think of how to start a conversation with him.
I was nervous all the time. I spent a few days shut up in my room aside of the measly hours of the day that I had to work. I vented tearfully to my roommate about what happened and she was sure he’d give me another chance. I served customers the wrong appetizers and let ice waters slip through my shaky hands. Luckily enough, my manager was more concerned than upset. When he didn’t come visit me at least once that week like he usually did, she looked at me with an eye of understanding. I shifted my focus to the ground.
Our conversations became dull and my attempts to flirt were waved off with cold remarks or non-existent replies. No good mornings, only good night. We hung out a few times in public for a couple weeks, times when I’d reach for his hand and he’d pull away. I was heartbroken but still happy to see him.
The worry set into my stomach that someone else could come along and take Will for themselves. I was watching his page closely, looking for any hints of change. He was talking to more people but nothing suspicious. I felt my heart drop when he didn’t answer my calls immediately and constantly looked for excuses to come see him, even if it was just the fact that I left my contact case over there. Anything would do. I knew he caught on.
A month went by. One whole month of awkward hugs and short texts. No kisses, no cuddling, no sex. I was always at his heels, always wanting to make him happy. He asked me for the first time in weeks to stay the night again. When he kissed me on the head during our hello, I knew something was about to change.
“Hey beautiful,” he said. I lost my breath.
“Well I haven’t heard that in awhile,” I said with a smile. The first real one in weeks.
“Well it’s always true.”
I was glowing.
I later realized that this was a test for me. Not in a malicious way, but just to prove something to him. For a month, I ignored the various men who tried talking to me. I didn’t hang out with a single one alone. My conversations were all tame and I had my entire focus on Will. He noticed that. He noticed how I still wanted his company from day one to thirty, regardless of whatever opportunities I had. He saw me spending more alone time instead of going out when he wasn’t available. And the most beautiful part of it was I didn’t even have to try to do these things. They came naturally.
“Why are you in such a good mood today?” I asked.
“I just…” he took a moment to catch up with himself. “I’ve really missed you. And being away from you has shown that maybe we really do deserve each other. You’ve been so loyal to me this whole time even though you didn’t have to be.”
“I know, I was, I couldn’t even talk to anyone else like that. I didn’t care enough. I just kept waiting for you to call and say you still loved me.”
“I do still love you, I did the whole time.”
“And I loved you,” I raised my hands to his shoulders. I pulled him in for a kiss. It reminded me of our first with how perfectly his lips moved with mine. I missed it. I missed it so much.
Six months after I kissed him we moved in together. He was blessed with a promotion and we decided to get our own place. It was new and exciting for both of us. I loved every bit of the process, even looking back now. I loved us bickering over furniture at the thrift store or going grocery shopping for ourselves for the first time. I loved how we took the chance to sort through our things to give away, him being protective over your camera equipment and myself over my old journals. We uncovered old trinkets and memories and talked about them for hours. My laugh came so naturally around him. I didn’t care about my silly noises or how much my face scrunched up. I didn’t care about my bedridden hair or my bare face. I just wanted to be there in that moment with him.
It was a small apartment but it was perfect for us. A quaint place on the second floor with a balcony. The first night we were just happy to get all of our belongings inside. In a sea of boxes and scattered clothes we fell asleep on a mattress on the floor.
I started taking morning shifts so I could be home when he got off of work. We’d share coffee and cigarettes on the mornings when we woke up together. The next couple weeks I would put things away a little bit a time, with a final burst on the last day to surprise him. Everything was neat and ready, he came home and straight into my arms as usual.
“It looks great honey,”Will said as he pecked me on the head.
This was so new to me. So refreshing. I loved it. I felt like I could spend all of my life there with him.
The cold started setting in to the air and I felt the excitement fading. He was still so glad to be in my arms every night, and I was too. But I felt a sense of longing for something more, something that was once familiar to me. The days went on and the leaves fell. My once cherished home was now smothering me. The familiarity that was once comfortable now became frustrating.
Every day I saw Will. Every time I was home he was there. He rarely went out with his friends, and even when he did he’d be back soon or he was texting me the whole time. I would be the same at times, but the hypocrite in me only had an issue when he did it. My friends started coming over often and he became part of our circle. He started getting upset when I wouldn’t pay him enough attention, as if I wasn’t there for him every night after work. We argued about bills, about what I made for dinner and why he wouldn’t eat it, about his frustrations with creativity, about my friends that he didn’t like, and about the balance of chores in the house.
I could have dealt with the arguing, I could have been more caring about his struggles in photography instead of belittling him. I could have done more chores and had the rent taken out on time. I don’t know why I became so defiant to him. In time, I was just downright mean. I would blatantly ignore him and snap on him for asking the simplest questions. He would walk away like a hurt puppy, lids lowered and stature broken. Looking back I couldn’t believe how I treated him. He only wanted me to come to bed with him so we could cuddle, but I bickered about him not giving me alone time. He only wanted me to make his favorite meal because he hadn’t eaten all day, but I told him he was needy and he could make it himself. He just wanted my love and my sense of responsibility, and I gave him cold shoulders and recklessness. His love was a bulb burning bright and I made it flicker at every harsh word.
In my head I thought I was being reasonable.
“He’s just so clingy all the time, he never leaves me alone,” I’d say to my friends. They’d agree warily, recalling all the times they were over when I started a fight. He wasn’t that bad. He wasn’t bad at all. Maybe a tinge annoying, but it was all because he loved me. Of course he needed me on his sad days, of course he came home tired from work and didn’t feel like doing chores. Why couldn’t I have understood?
I didn’t reflect hard enough on our situation and ended up taking it upon myself to become distant. I wasn’t home when he got there anymore. I didn’t tell him where I went or for how long, just that I’d be home eventually. I would go driving, go visit old friends, or take long walks downtown. I started ignoring his calls and took his worry as a negative sign, again starting a fight. There would be nights when I wouldn’t even come home, instead sleeping on a friend’s couch or bar hopping with the girls. I was cruel to him when I was away. But even then, the next morning when I came back to him on his day off, I’d collapse into the bed with him and he’d kiss me until I fell asleep.
Nine months after I kissed Will I broke up with him. I had disappeared, again, before he got home from work. He’d told me how frustrating that was for him. He didn’t mind me going out but he didn’t want to worry about where I’d be for all hours of the night without a call. He remembered my past and started getting jealous again. He asked who I was hanging out with and became saddened with each night I came home late. I was lying to him again, telling him my company was only girls. I wasn’t doing anything with the guys, but they were certainly there and some of them were certainly flirting. I felt like I had my old life back again. I hadn’t touched another man in that way, but the careless nights in finished basements or out on the town were making me high again. Our apartment suffocated me.
I was at a friend’s house at a small get together when he called. It was 11 pm and I had only sent him vague one word replies all night. He called me and I hung up. Again and I ignored it. He called me three more times after that, and on the fourth I picked up and started walking outside.
“What did I tell you? If you need something just text me, don’t blow up my fucking phone!” I snapped.
“Don’t get an attitude with me for being worried about you okay?” his voice was shaky.
“You’re always worried about me, you act like I’m not a grown woman.”
“You sure don’t act like it.”
“I’m just trying to enjoy myself, god forbid. Why don’t you go out with your friends anymore?”
I heard him sigh angrily.
“Maybe most nights I want to stay in with my girlfriend. You went on and on about how you preferred to be a homey type of girl and now you’re gone every night, like what the fuck?”
“So you’re pissed because I’m out having a good time and you’re not?”
“No, I’m pissed that I never know where you are or what you’re doing and that you can’t even talk to me like a human being when you’re around your oh-so-precious friends.”
“Well, maybe I don’t feel like being smothered all the time.”
“You used to like it.”
“Yeah well, used to. I’m having fun. I don’t want to come home.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m at Alicia’s friend’s house but that doesn’t matter. You’re not my mother, you don’t need to know my whereabouts at all times.”
“You do realize it’s because I care about you, right? I mean, it’s not like you ask how I’m doing or where I’m at. I actually care so that’s why I even bother.”
“So what, you think I don’t care about you?”
“You sure as hell act like you don’t.”
“Well, right now I don’t really care about anything. I’m enjoying my time. If you don’t like it I don’t know what to tell you.”
There was a pause and I heard him take a sharp breath. I didn’t know he was holding back tears.
“Are you drunk?”
“Not yet. Can I go now?”
“…When are you gonna be home?”
“I don’t know.”
“So again, I’m supposed to stay up worrying. That’s fine I guess.”
“You know what?” My rising anger spilled into my tone. “I don’t want to do this. I don’t. I don’t need you worrying about me all the fucking time. I don’t need you calling me or texting me or micro-managing my goddamn schedule. I want you to just go away.”
“I thought I wanted this, I didn’t. Just leave me alone,” I finished. I heard his breaths of disbelief.
“So just like that? You—you’re giving up on us? Did I even mean shit to you? Everything we did, everything we went through. I can’t fucking believe you’re throwing me away for your friends.”
“I don’t know what to say.” I knew I wanted to cry but the tears wouldn’t come out.
“Nothing. Don’t say shit to me. Just go have fun since I’m ruining that for you too.”
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow but I’m just tired of it. I’m tired.”
“Goodbye,” he said. I didn’t see him hang up the phone or bury his face in his hands. I didn’t see how fast they became damp. I put my phone away and sat there alone, breathing heavily. He took another dose of medicine and laid down, thinking of all the words he should have said. I considered driving home to him then. Every bone in my body told me to go home. They told me to walk through the door, grab Will and apologize. They told me to call him back, to message him a heartfelt reply, to wish him goodnight. Something. Anything. I only sat there, weak and confused. Again, I had lost him. For what may be the last time.