When To Get Back On The Horse

The room hums with the monotonous chatter of passersby, girlish giggling and the sweet surrender of inhibition. I fidget awkwardly against the doorway, looming drearily as the faces swirl together, unrecognizable in their vanity and poise. Scanning the space I tense uncomfortably, palming my device, cueing the screen to life. The shout of my name jolts my eyes upward, across the room and towards a broad space, brimming in soft lighting and sweet smiles. Each turns to observe my entrance in tandem, forcing my gaze to the floor once again. He finds himself beside me immediately, gripping my shoulder in an overzealous embrace.

“Laura, hi, you made it. Beautiful dress. Nice to see you outside the office.”

“You too. Thank you for the invite.”

He wags his finger disapprovingly, eyeing my demeanor with greedily lingering glances.

“Not tonight. You’re off the clock. Enjoy yourself.”

In an instant he’s disappeared, returning momentarily with an equally resilient member of the wait staff, cued of my arrival. Their stares quicken the raging waters.

“Something to drink?”

“Oh, um, sure. I’ll…”

What are other people drinking? Is hard liquor appropriate? Maybe I shouldn’t, seeing as…why are they staring? Oh gosh. He thinks I’m an idiot.

“Do you drink wine?”

See, he has to help you. Cause you’re acting dense.

“Uh, yeah.”

“Red or white?”

“Um. White.”

“Two glasses of white. Thank you.”

I mumble a feeble word of gratitude, brushed off immediately as we find our spots amongst the rest, pushed and packed into the corners of each table siding, wrapped in tense conversations, witty anecdotes and clumsy first encounters. Skimming the seats I linger over four gentlemen, each unrecognizable in their self-possession and dark expressions; vacant and alluring. I leer painfully, drinking in the silent power and prowess that exudes their persona, sipping cocktails with a distant vain interest in the event at hand.

Gosh who is that? That must be somebody on the board, some big-wig. Talk about anti-social. It’s like they can’t even deign to entertain the idea of our presence; dining with the little people. Probably making an appearance and leaving as fast as their Armani loafers can carry them outta here.

“Want me to introduce you?”

“What? Oh. No, no, no thank you. That’s alright.”

“You’re sure? It’s all about connections.”

Fuck. Can we cut the motivational bullshit? I thought this was a night off.

I gulp my drink absent-mindedly as the evening drones up. Liquor spews out of every goblet, brimming over with excited cheer and feverish candor. The hoards subside as members take their leave, calling it quits before the dessert rounds the table. Employees gush over fashionable ensembles, each more exquisite than the last in a sordid attempt to unleash the chaotic for a night on the town. They smirk and giggle as new relationships form, strengthening old bonds and friendly comrades. My reluctant gaze zeroes in on the four businessmen time and again, forced under my instinctual obsession. I count each one in scrutinizing order, obsessing between cocktails, draping their clothing, memorizing every detail. A clasp at my shoulder forces my attention from the bubbly chatterbox I recall exchanging meatloaf recipes from prior.

“You’re single, right, Laura?”

This is your boss! This is inappropriate. Seriously: Be. Cool.

Turning politely I skim the helm of my dress, forcing the fabric down coyly under his observant gaze.

“Um. Well. Technically. We actually just broke up.”

He nods in simple understanding, penetrating the walls I’d so carefully manufactured.

Be cool.

“Seriously. Just a couple days ago. I could get a date. I am not a loser. I just didn’t bring a date because…”

“This is a work function. Spouses were not permitted.”

“Exactly, Leo. I know.”

I snap my finger in unsteady aggreance as he furrows his brow, climbing to his feet and buttoning the center clasp of his suit jacket carefully.

That is so rude. As if I’m the embarrassing one. Wait. I think I might be. Okay. You’re cut off. This is…

Oh God. They’re coming over here.

Stopping just shy of the doorway he lingers amongst the ferocious gathering of four gentleman, each more dapper and expensive in their own right. I force a disinterested smile, barely passable as they turn from their embrace to find the space my body so impolitely occupies. Retreating in military form the two break across the room, forcing my breathing to a screeching halt against my ribcage.

I should have gone home when the other people did. Shit. I am way too drunk to talk to this guy.

“Laura? This is James. He’s one of the locals heads of our management team in sales.”

What in the hell is that?

Bracing myself I climb to my feet, flashing a grandiose smile, mirrored politely in his own.

“It’s a pleasure. I’ve heard all good things.”

Good. Lord. Is that guy ever handsome. What is that smell? Is that him? Holy crap, that’s nice.

Hardly concealing his surprise he beams forward, gesturing across two seats before falling down beside my own.

“Oh? Are you sure it was me they were talking about?”

Forcing a chuckle I remind myself bitterly that this is an evening off. Now foreseeably ruined like a freight train dashing off the tracks.

“Now, I, actually did hear good things about you, Laura. You’re very impressive. Where did you go to culinary school?”

Rambling off my rehearsed resume of clichés and familiar nuances he observes my expressions softly, with a sweet air of anticipation and intrigue. Lingering across the sentiments, I press my suit with casual conversation, the subtle injection of my own burning questions, answered in haste and quiet reserve on his part. Flowing into easy conversation the evening prattles on with the exchange of inept chatter, simple and unassuming. Bypassing polite candor the wall displaces itself, brick by brick, under my own devices, rather than his own. A master of my own emotions, they carry me well; knowing and understanding my already chosen path.

“I have to go.”

Shifting across the remaining space his leg brushes mine in subtle agony, cueing up a dazzling smile, unnerving in its power.

“Where?”

Where does he think?

“Oh. Home. It’s 11:30.”

Reaching across to tap his wrist just above the fold of a dark pressed cuff, lightly masking the chrome timepiece breathing just beneath. Unfolding it carefully he peers down with a slow exhale as the ticking stills in relation to my dangerous pulse. Replacing the fabric swiftly his mouth dispels a hard line, melding my sweet smile to call out his own.

“Alright. I’ll walk you out.”

Exchanging hearty farewells, sincere thanks and muted gestures we walk through the bevy of drunken passersby, each more resistant than the last. A frenzy of air-kisses, hearty handshakes and knowing glances force my insecurities to the forefront, hidden no more. Separating at the end of the line, I catch the attention of a seemingly increasingly inebriated gentleman, bright-eyed in his discover. Tugging my arm we exchange hushed whispers of knowing detail.

“Hey, you’re welcome for that. He’s a really nice guy. You should give him a chance.”

“Uh. Thanks Leo. We’re…I’m leaving alone. Just for the record.”

Doing nothing to conceal a dangerously overplayed eye-roll he shoves me back in place, lost in the crowd once more. At the end of the hoard I break into the dark hallway that engulfs us yet again, skimming the open space for his familiar ensemble, spotted in an instant.

Oh God. This is gonna be awkward.

Maybe don’t look at him so much, that seems to be where you get into trouble.

Approaching with his usual form of confidence he gestures before him as I fill the opening with a simple nod of understanding.

Wow, he’s really tall.

Thank God I wore this, white was a good choice.

“Well this was nice.”

Here we go.

“Yeah, thanks for dinner or…the company.”

“Of course. I was going to say the same to you. You made a mandatory work function very enjoyable.”

Wow. What a complement. Ugh.

“That’s nice. Maybe I’ll see you around at work some time.”

Reaching absent-mindedly between the helm of his jacket and dress shirt he produces a sleek device from the breast pocket, cued to life in an instant.

“Give me your number and it’ll be a definite.”

“Um…yeah, I just…I don’t really give it out…to men.”

What?

If possible, his expression extends mine in the utter shock and disapproval that shrouds his once handsome demeanor.

“O-okay.”

“Just…I’m sorry I…”

“Don’t apologize. It’s completely…”

“I don’t want to get in trouble at work or…”

“Wait a minute. You don’t give out your number or you don’t want this to be a business-pleasure conflict issue?”

Both? All of the above? Neither? I just wanna go home!

“No, I’m…not…really dating.”

Pausing between statements he observes my features with slightly parted lips, awake and at the ready.

“I’m not giving out my number just…as of late…and…because I’m recently single. So…you know…”

He nods amidst the confusion, grapping to make sense of the jumbled display of erratic emotion tumbling forward painfully.

“Unless you…want it. Or something.”

This is truly delusional.

Smirking towards his shoes a charming tooth grin stirs my inhibitions, taking flight once again.

“Yes. Yeah. I do want your phone number. Not if it goes against some sort of pact it seems you’ve made with yourself, though.”

I mumble a feeble apology, shaken off instantly under the guise of his knowing expression. Placing the device across my open palm he towers dangerously above my physicality, closing off the minimal proximity between us. I type carefully, lingering across the numbers.

“You’re not really like what Leo described you as.”

Jolting my face to study his own he continues forcibly as I gather air.

“Pleasantly surprised.”

“Oh. That’s…nice. I mean, he never talked to me about you, but, to be fair, I mean, I didn’t know you existed. I don’t really talk to anyone outside of the people in my department and I’m mostly part-time, so…”

Oh my god. Are you insane? Be quiet!

He beams behind sparkling eyes, awake with intrigue.

“So. Um. Maybe we’ll do something some time then.”

“What about next weekend?”

“Okay. Not like a date though. Just…”

“Wow. You’re not having this, huh?”

“I just don’t…really date.”

Yeah, you do.

“I get it, you’re out of my league. But there are some things you don’t know about me, that might change your mind.”

Come again?

“Like I’m rich and funny. That’s gotta count for something.”

“Are you really?”

Closing his eyes he gestures embarrassingly. Unleashing a roar of laughter we melt in the moment, falling into ease. Clasping his hand round the device once more he returns it to his pocket with quick fingers, unmoving eyes.

“I’m just asking for one night; dinner and drinks, and if we end up back at my place, I’m open to whatever.”

“Shut up.”

“You said you don’t date.”

“Yeah well…still…I don’t…shut up.”

The laughter falls away flatly as he instinctively leans across, cupping my shoulder in silent reprise. Cool and firm to the touch the feeling shocks and numbs my sensibilities, calling for solemn surrender.

“Thanks for talking to me tonight.”

Shrugging curtly he recoils instantly.

“No…I liked talking to you.”

Uhoh.

This is really skanky, you know. This is next level.

But, I mean, I am single. How long do I have to be broken-hearted for?

Now we don’t even wait for the dust to settle on one failed relationship before jumping to another?

This would really upset Ryan. I bet he’s still devastated. 

But he’s so handsome. I can hardly be held responsible for this.

…And another one bites the dust.

How much time is enough time between relationships? Are we expected to grieve and weep for an extended period of time, an appropriate degree of devotion displayed and dolled out on cue? Can we have truly felt what we believed we did if we find ourselves so ready to love again? How do we know when it’s right, when to jump, how deep to go all in? Though we all grieve in different capacities, is there a general expectation, a period of mourning, a devotion to the love now hopelessly lost? A relationship can be a living, breathing entity, created in private, held captive, guarded against and longer for. A literal chemical addition that robs us of our personhood, calls to flight our inhibitions, screams and swirls in victory and reprise. A break up of this devotion joins together the paralyzing grief and overwhelming physical and emotional withdrawal of our addiction. We cannot breathe, move, live and thrive alone any longer; not once we have tasted the sweet fruit of romantic love and desire. The world continues without you; twirling, swirling, ever present and alive. They move on while we remain stagnant, lost, alone and afraid. But what if we aren’t? If can feel like an opaque curtain has descended all around you, separating you from the rest of your world, the one cultivated and created just for you; expected, warranted even. The most familiar scenery may feel alien, uncommon and aloof. Or, our grieving may facilitate the re-birth of a greater ambition. We may be freed in our separation, cast off the shackles, begin anew. What happens when our grieving stops and our happiness starts? What happens when our happiness begins from another’s grieving?

Is there a required wait time before relationship recourse?

-lc

Our Generation of Bailers

What. You’re the only one here?”

I raise my arms in muted surrender, clutching a water goblet as she sinks regrettably across the space between us.

“No one else is coming? Everybody bailed?”

“Yup. Looks like it.”

“Unbelievable!”

Slamming her purse across the leather sectional she fusses angrily with the helm of her skirt before skimming her forearms across the cool marble tabletop, overflowing with disdain and angst.

“Was it not Michelle who picked this location? Where the hell is she?”

“Something came up.”

“And so what’s Jen’s excuse then?”

“Birthday party.”

I tip the remnants of my glass, draining the cooling liquid with a smart retort before observing her mortified expression, married across the frowning lines of desperation and ceaseless longing.

“A birthday party. Well isn’t that nice. Heaven forbid they bother to send me a message.”

“I think she just found out actually. She sent me a text an hour ago.”

Every time. Why should this be any different. If anything, this is right on cue. 

She shoots a disapproving look, studying the pages of her device with cunning advances. Across the way patrons clink glasses in a frenzy of wit and grandeur. The large space sprawls wildly before us, boasting the birth of a thousand flirty fantasies, relaxed encounters and ethereal daydreams. My eyes scan the tables, alive with poised gentleman, dapper in their art, approving clientele and overzealous bartenders. Drawing across my own space I observe the moments in agony, each thought mirroring the last as the jewels of my carefully cultivated attire catch the light in a flurry of dance and spectacle. The realization escapes in a fragmented whisper.

“Seriously, what is happening.”

This is quite obviously what I believe I deserve in a friendship. If it keeps happening, it’s because I’m allowing it. I enable this behaviour. 

“I know, right? Are we the only ones left with any manners? They’re so inconsiderate. And to expect us to come this far? It’s a work night, I have other things I could be doing. I don’t have time to…”

The words fall on deaf ears, in my vain attempt to understand the situation now thrust upon us. She falls quiet as the chairs adjacent us loom heavy in their solitude.

“I mean, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m not…so great to be around.”

“What? No! This is not our fault. We made a plan to hang out, if they choose to bail at the last minute then it’s their own stupidity!”

“Yeah, but if it keeps happening, at some point, you gotta ask yourself why.”

“Why what?”

“Why are we sitting at a table of eight, alone.”

The space falls quiet as she forces her mouth into a hard line, damned with a searing infuriation.

“I don’t know about you, but, this seems to be a pattern for me. So maybe I’m the common denominator. I’m always organizing and trying to get everyone together, but maybe that isn’t what they want. The honest reality is, if they wanted to be here, they’d be here.”

“So we are the problem. For trying to do something nice…”

“Maybe they just don’t want to. And that’s okay. I don’t want to spend my time with anyone that doesn’t want to be out with me. Why bother?”

“So what is the solution? You know if you or I don’t organize something, we’d never get together. They wouldn’t do it for us.”

“Then maybe that’s the problem.”

Sighing heavy against the weight of my demons the space fills with heat, pouring and oozing hopelessly from every breath of humid torment.

“Maybe I am forcing myself, or my presence, on people who quite frankly, do not make the effort, and do not wish to be around me. It is what it is.”

It is what it is. Really. You’re pulling that line.”

“Well, I don’t know what else to tell you! We come from a generation of people who are conditioned to be completely self-absorbed. Whatever you look like online, whatever you own and have, that’s what’s important. That’s what we worship and put value on. Friendship means nothing anymore, and in fact, people don’t actually know how to be friends. They sit behind the keys of a message board, cultivating these delusions about reality and what life is really like, when in actuality, they have no idea. They think these people are their ‘friends’, while passing over the only people who truly care about them. They’d rather spend time texting you than seeing you, and nobody puts in even the slightest of efforts to try to forage a real relationship, a personal connection, a general bond with another in even the simplest of ways. It’s a generational thing, it’s nothing personal anymore. Maybe we can’t help it.”

“Oh they can help it alright. They can get off their…”

“No, seriously. I mean it. It’s like our parents had so many trials to overcome that they would pump us up with everything they could muster. They’d work themselves into the grave ensuring that we’d want for nothing. And what do we give them in return? A generation of lazy, entitled, internet-obsessed drones.”

“They’re idiots.”

We smirk at one another across the dark space.

“Sorry, Laura.”

“No, no, it’s fine. If anything, I kinda needed this. I gotta see something get to its worst before I can make the changes that I really need to. It’s a bit of a downfall of mine. Anyways, this was good. Now I know where I stand with everybody.”

“Yeah, in a restaurant far, far away.”

“Exactly.”

Clinking glasses we stew in the feelings, the cold chill of reality running circles across the confines of my cloudless memories.

“So this is it huh. This is the end.”

“Oh it is for me. I’m never agreeing to this stuff ever again. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to hang out with you. One on one.”

“I’d like that.”

She smiles bleakly, attempting to dress the wounds she’d so inadvertently gashed yet again. Immediately pressing for answers the mod shifts dangerously.

“What about you?”

“Sure, I’d love to hang out with…”

“No, I meant, what about you with them? Are you going to contact anybody after this? I think we should wait and see how long it takes before they even realize we’re done with them. I bet we’d be waiting forever.”

The thought of such games amuses my sensibilities, drawing the curtains to a close across the dark, shrouded ecstasy of my day.

“I don’t think so. This pretty much solidified it for me. It’s a two-way street. I can’t put in all the effort all the time. If they’re not interested, I can’t force anybody.”

“Who needs ‘em!”

“It’s sad, actually.”

“Aw, no, don’t be! They’re stupid!”

“It’s sad that I’ve reached a point in my life now where these things don’t even upset me. I’m indifferent. To everyone. I am a caring person, I try very hard to help others wherever I can; I do good, I deserve it in return. I am not desperate. I don’t need this. I’m good on my own, trust me. I’ll just move on. If they want to see me, they can reach out to me, and then, if they fit into my life, I’ll see them. If they don’t want to see me, frankly, I’ll find other friends who do. That’s all.”

“That’s a great attitude.”

I think it’s awful.

And now I’m done. Bitterly. 

What happens when you’re let down ever time? Do we go back, eagerly, for more? Do we turn away in disgust ridicule and torment? Do we seek solace in the comfort of a familiar face, understand the moment, reflect and respond accordingly. Not ever relationship can span a lifetime, not ever friendship finds peace in the arms of another. We must understand the purpose of each love, whether entering or exiting our lives, and possess it today, if only for a fleeting moment. When we acknowledge the rationale behind our emotions, we can better master and utilize their power. Though we may burden heavy, scream and hurl in fury and rage, love and desire with an ecstasy deep and enduring, it may be one simply all our own. We cannot put our desires on another, hoping for fruition of the fruits of our labor. Although we place all the pieces in a row, the puzzle may still come jumbled. Do we feel we are owed love in return because of our investment? Do we put our own desires, wishes and wants onto another in relationships? Are our friendships fueled on our insecurities? To be good friends we must be open, willing, honest, true and kind. It is when this betrayal of emotions occurs that our devotion is called into question. We wait and worry with baited breath, hoping that one day our personhood will be called into practice. That we might deign to be wanted, worthy, desirable; accepted all our own. But in true friendship, can there really be such boundaries? Such cut and dry objectifications of what it means to be there for another. We want the prize without the victory, the love without the sorrow, the devotion without the reciprocation. We light the fire, but are we willing to risk the pain and torment of the irreparable flames?

Build a friendship worth saving, and the fires wash themselves.

-lc

Why We Put Our Insecurities Into Love

Perched across the leather sectional, I sit with baited breath, agonizing over ever inhale, tormented in the raging waters of lust and fear. The people pass in somber tones, hushed giggles and flippant remarks, all alike in order and nature. Surveying the space is brightly lit, the setting of many evenings and spectacles alike; with the fragrant, aromatic delights that engulf the senses upon contact. I stare across the moment, lost in the woes of a thousand unspoken words; now bursting to come to fruition. My eyes jolt away at the sight of him, tall and slim, impressionably poetic. Quite obviously the last time he’ll hold such a power over my emotions; a thought that lurches my stomach bile aggressively. Approaching the table I stare across passively, forcing an expression of poised serenity. Beneath the mask the waters rage so angrily they threaten certain defeat.

“So sorry, have you been waiting long?”

I shake my head in rigid motion, holding back the delirious revolt of my logic.

Oh God. I don’t want to do this.

“No, and I appreciate the moment to people-watch.”

He smiles in a coy, unassuming gesture, kind and inviting. Saddling up across the way his body mirrors mine in desperate longing; a vain attempt to breathe life in a bleeding wound. The air feels abnormally tight against the cool breeze that wafts across the open area. I caution myself against my affectionate sentiments; now unraveled in the storybooks and dairies of my mind’s eye; horrific accounts of harrowing romance, unrequited love and dangerous tragedies. Charged on the promise of restitution, I force the gates shut, lock away the secrets if only for a moment.

Keep it together.

He remains unwavering, with an outstretched arm resting modestly across the linen tablecloth, the upturned shirtsleeves of his white button-down blowing softly under the gentle afternoon light. His eyes flit upward from the menu, cupping my hand gently before maneuvering the hair from his face, cuing up to observe me behind the sweet smile of his dazzling eyes.

Say something.

“So. Um. They have a really nice spinach dip here.”

Leaning to my side he brims with cheerfulness, brushing my cheek with the soft outline of summer lips.

“You always think of me.”

“Did you miss me.”

The question poses a statement. His free hand jumps across his chest, gripping the supple outer pocket of his shirt, in mocked hilarity. My eyes drop to it, the piece delicately clothing his heart in a drapery of softness.

“Are you kidding me? Every day.”

Hmm.

“Did you?”

“Hm?”

“Did you miss me?”

I nod morosely, forcing a toothless smile behind dark eyes. The dragon breathes heavy, skimming and clawing the bars that bind and cage it temporarily.

“I never really heard from you. I felt like you forgot about me.”

He sighs, leaning back to open the space as the emotions pour like lava spewing across a mountaintop.

“At least now, you’re back, and everything is…back to how it was, hm?”

“Yup. Looks like it.”

I want to scream bloody murder.

“Laura…”

Please, I beg of you, leave it alone.

“What’s going on here?”

What’s. Going. On. Here. Yes, Ryan, let’s study this, shall we. What in the world could possibly be the problem.

Okay, relax. Breathe.

“Nothing. I’m…”

“Are you upset with me?”

Choosing the words carefully, they escape in a dangerous staccato.

“No. I am not upset with you. I am upset in a very general sense of…”

“Laura, what is going on? What’s happened?”

“Nothing’s happened.”

The deadpan of my expression jolts his eyes across my features, carelessly searching for answers behind a bolted door.

“I saw you just a few days ago and everything was fine. Now it’s as if you can’t even stand to be around me.”

“More like I can’t stand to be around me. But, go on. Please. Don’t let me interrupt you.”

The cut of my words stuns him into silence as the roar of chatter swells all around us. A ticking bomb in the center of a crowded room.

“Laura…”

Don’t say my name like that! I am not the one that needs reprimanding.

“Talk to me. You gotta give me something. What is happening here?”

His eyes plead with a river of emotions, desperate to encase themselves in the facts of a sensory insight. Everything prickles hot with a burning crimson fueled by a frenzy of irrational thoughts, all vying to be victorious.

“I am not interested in a relationship for the sake of being with someone.”

“I know.”

“Did you? Did you know that?”

“Of course. And I never thought that…”

I purse my lips in an involuntary gesture that silences his objections at once.

“You know what. I’m going to talk now. You are always talking. And now I’m going to talk. And you can listen – or not – but I’m going to be the one talking.”

A single nod conveys his understanding.

“I’m not interested in dating just for the purpose of having someone. I’m completely fine on my own; and I don’t need you – or anyone else – to save me or help me or anything of that nature. I’m fine.”

His eyes bore into mine with a desperate longing to make sense of the situation. The words find their light in a dazzling marriage of truth and terror.

“I want to be with you. But I’m not going to be with someone that does not want me in return.”

“Of course I want you.”

“That isn’t true.”

“What…what are you talking about? You are the only person I…”

The words trail off, fallen too short to wound.

“I’m not perfect; and I don’t need you to say that I am, or tell other people that. I’m not the one, or the right person, or any of those grandiose things that you have built up to be the truth in your mind.”

The screech of his chair beside mine shocks me from a dreamlike state. His arm grips mine in desperation.

“Okay, Laura, listen to me. Maybe to you, you aren’t, but you are to me. If you could see yourself the way I see you, you’d understand. To me, you’re perfect. You’re perfect for me.”

“No. I’m not. I’m not perfect. I can’t be perfect. And I’m okay with that. I don’t want to be perfect. To wait and hold out hope that maybe – one day – someday you’ll deign to think of me as ‘enough’. I don’t know what sort of perfect person you’re looking for here, but I…”

The tremor of my voice thickens with each inhale. He raises a hand before thinking better of the motion, releasing it to his lap at once.

“I’m better off on my own.”

“You think that?”

“I do. I really do. This proves it to me.”

“Proves what to you?”

“That maybe it truly is impossible for someone to feel about me the same way I feel about them.”

He shakes his head with an angry vigor.

“No. No that is not true. I do feel the same way about you.”

“I don’t want to live like this.”

“Like what?”

“Pretending everything’s perfect and hoping that all our problems will magically resolve themselves. This isn’t a fairytale. You have to be realistic. We’re mismatched. I have to accept that.”

“I wasn’t pretending. To me, it was.”

“And that’s exactly our problem. You think this is okay.”

“I never thought we had a problem. Whenever we did, we discussed it and…”

“And brushed it under the carpet and pretended it wasn’t there. I’m not doing that. I’m not living like this. I want someone who wants me.”

The stings of the words bolts his limbs to the chair in muted horror.

“I deserve to be with someone who wants me.”

“Oh. Oh, that. Okay.”

Like a divine epiphany he shifts awkwardly under the realization of my confessions.

“Okay. That, we can work on.”

“So you’re going to work to find me attractive, are you? Brilliant, perfect, okay, and then…”

“No. I have always found you attractive. I mean, come on, I’m crazy about you. Maybe I’m just a little less…adventurous, than you are?”

I want to go. I want to go now.

“Call it whatever you want but if we’re not connecting in…”

“No, no, no, we are. We’re very connected. I get you. Believe me. I understand what you need. That’s what all of this was about. I tried to give you space. I want you to feel comfortable around me, feel like you can trust me. It’s not a bad thing. I care about you, I want you to feel that I love you – which I do – it’s not just about that for me. I love everything about you. And, of course, I think you’re beautiful. Come on. You know how I look at you.”

His hand catches my hand in a gentle caress too sweet to resist. My spine clings painfully to the backrest of my forgiving seat, pushing the space between us in villainous spite.

“It’s not just the words. I need to feel it. I need to see something – anything – you gotta give me something to work with. I can’t be out here on a limb, begging you to be into me. I’m not talking about this anymore, it never leads to action. It’s like a never-ending carousel. And I want to get off the ride now.”

“Okay what do you want me to say here?”

“Noth-…”

“I think you’re hot. I thought you were hot the second I saw you, I always thought that. I am super into you, and every time I’m around you…”

The moment falls upon deaf ears, as pools of sorrow flood the precipice, ushering in certain defeat.

“It’s okay. You don’t have to say that.”

His shoulders sag heavy with the burden of my desperate unhappiness, lay bleeding before all to see.

“I thought I was doing the right thing. That you were the one, and I could build a steady foundation on that. I thought we’d get married.”

“Is that what I was; a foregone conclusion.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“It was like you’d already decided that I was going to be the right one for you. Like you’re working on ten years from now and I’m here today, trying to make it work. We don’t make sense to one another.”

Please, don’t say it.

“You know there’s this saying…”

Don’t.

“It goes – if everybody says that you’re dead, it’s time for you to lie down – and…”

Okay. Come on. Just leave. Don’t go there.

“And it’s true. It is. I kind of always felt like I was unlovable or unworthy of someone like you, and this has really solidified that for me. So maybe I should just surrender to the fact that I’m not the right person for someone that I think is the right person for me. That someone that I want isn’t going to want me in return. Not in the same way. Cause you’re like a 10, and I’m like a 7, so…”

“Laura, please…”

“No, it’s fine. It’s okay. This is just the way that it is now.”

I dash a tear angrily as he waits with baited breath, sullen in his forfeit of the fight.

“Man, I have never been this broken hearted. And that’s saying something.”

I chuckle at the humor of the moment, thick against a wall of deliriously wanton desperation.

“I always dated people who had problems, they couldn’t really love me in return, it wasn’t their fault, they’re just wired differently. But with you – you’re the whole package. You’re perfect. And now I’m the messed up one. So what did I expect. I mean, how could this have worked out? I knew it wouldn’t. Because at the end of the day, you’re not messed up, you have everything together. Everybody likes you. Everybody thinks you’re handsome, and kind and you’re thoughtful and responsible. Which means it has to be me. It has to be me who couldn’t be wanted by someone like you.”

This is not good. You should cool it. It’s not his fault you’re unworthy.

“So, yeah, if nobody wants you that you want to feel wanted by, then maybe you’re not the one. Maybe I’m not right for the person I want.”

The movement of my chair halts his wayward thoughts, gathering the remnants of my shattered existence in bursting armfuls of jackets and sundries. His hand finds my wrist in uncomfortable silence.

“Okay, wait. Don’t go. Let’s talk about this. I don’t want you to be so upset.”

I trace the hem of my skirt, relishing its beauty as the tears press aggressively, forcing my eyes to one fixated space between us.

“No, it’s okay. It’s not your fault. It’s mine…I…”

“It’s nobody’s fault!”

I don’t know what to do here. I’m out of my depth.

“You don’t want to be with me anymore. You want to break up.”

The submission of his complacency parts the seas, quietly all uproarious thoughts of victory or tragedy.

“I don’t find you attractive anymore.”

“Ah.”

“I just…I feel like you don’t want me. So maybe it’s a defense mechanism but…”

“It’s okay.”

I dare a glance as the rivers of our eyes mirror one another in sorrow and desperation. Hunching forward his forearms meet knees in a final act of surrender.

“I don’t know how this happened, Ryan. We’re supposed to be together. Right? It’s like I finally had it all together. We’re good together. You bring out a better side in me. I mean, obviously not now or…you know.”

The words stun momentarily, breathing life across a far-gone corpse.

“We don’t have to break up. We should be together. We want to be together, right?”

“I just…I’m…I’m gonna go.”

Rising instantly my legs charge under the heat of the moment, my foolish vanity surpassing all other. His body ascents to meet mine harmoniously.

“You’re…you’re not going to stay? We’re not going to eat?”

“I’m just gonna go home. It’s okay, Ryan. Really.”

I stare at my shoes in defeat, perilously devoid of all thought and feeling. Numb to the torment that swirls violently across my psyche.

“Okay…okay we won’t talk. Just stay and we’ll eat something and then I’ll drive you home. We’ll get a little air and…”

I shake my head vigorously, tussling the locks of stray hair, releasing their lilac-scented blossom fragrance with divine ease. Sighing candidly, I slouch against the moment, lead up and across the conveyor belt to my certain slaughter.

“Can I just go now?”

You’re asking his permission?! This is an all-time low. 

Just go! 

Without waiting on a response, I forage across the space, leaving a stunned expression across his desperate reprise. The safety of my new solitude ushers in the tears, right on schedule.

I told you he was too good for you.

Do we enter into relationships with conditions? Do we place our own insecurities upon another, and hope that somehow, they will be able to navigate the labyrinth of our emotions? We long for the feel of security, the safety and happiness that comes from a familiar face, an understanding ear. But do we truly want another for themselves, or for the demons they slay in our presence. We want to be loved, accepted, adored all our own, but is this conditional. We charge our love on those around us, we seek restitution, observance, happiness and desire. But what happens when we are desired less than required? What happens when the person we desire, deigns to desire us in return? Is it them or is it us. Do we place conditions and restrictions on our love, in the hope of securing that equal reciprocation from another? Can we love fully without the reprise of its return? Or do we condition our love without notice, on the things and feelings, the thoughts and emotions that we must have in order to be fulfilled. Who tells us what these are, how do we decide? Are we enough on our own, for surely, that is our greatest peril. To be incomplete without another, constantly searching and scrounging, eager to be loved in return, deemed worthy, desired. How do we move past our insecurities, masquerade and dress them up, challenge and change the restraints that bind our mind and bodies.

Why do we place our insecurities on our romantic partners?

But truly, who else can we blame, if not the person in the mirror.

-lc

Can Your Life Ever Be Too Good To Be True?

“Would you wait out here for me?”

“Oh. Oh! Yeah, yes, sure. Of course. Okay.”

He slips behind the sleek fixture with ease, as the lock clicks once more, leaving stunned silence in his wake. Peering across the faceted pathway I paw at my ensemble, primping against my coy reflection, staring back at me in muted amusement. A keyboard clicks tirelessly just behind the partition, as I mull over the events of the evening, eager to depart the now vacant office. Everything feels different; bathed in blackness, the streaming fragments of sunshine peeking through each window pane, subdued only through my transient wayward thoughts. The door whips open instantly, jolting my eyes towards his physique, now strewn carelessly across the doorway, gesturing me forward. Turning his back, oblivious to my anxieties I tousle my hair in a vain attempt to quiet the raging demons, lurking just beneath the surface.

“Please, sit. I’ll be just another moment.”

“Okay.”

Following his lead I fall down across the forgiving resting space adjacent his own. His hands work quickly; gathering and fussing across a steady stream of photocopy papers, neatly caressing them under my watchful gaze. The excitement of the evening’s festivities dropping away from us as the space between fills with thick anticipation. My eyes fall carelessly across his body, drinking in his splendor.

That’s a nice suit. He looked good tonight. Confident, unassuming, kinda brash, but aren’t we all at moments.

I won’t where that’s from. It looks imported, probably really expensive.

Hm, that must mean he makes a lot. Definitely fits the part.

Does he ever not wear navy? I mean, how am I supposed to concentrate?

Man, that guy’s sexy.

Don’t check him out. Be cool.

Don’t do that with your hand. That’s not cool. That’s weird.

Fumbling against my own devices he finds his seat, cuing up to observe me, as if for the first time tonight. I force my eyes to his, offering a modest smile by ways of greeting.

“Sorry about that.”

“No, not at all.”

He smirks against my politeness, pressing forward.

“So how did you think tonight went, Laura?”

Oh it’s like that huh?

Alright. Showtime.

“Well, I felt the client was very pleased. Everyone appeared really enthusiastic about the launch during the cocktail hour – yet engaged during the speeches, so…”

“You didn’t think they dragged on a bit?”

“A bit, maybe.”

He nods, as if noting an important detail.

“Who did you speak with? I saw you chatting with David a lot.”

Who the hell is that. Oh God.

“Yes, absolutely, of course. Everyone I spoke with had only positive things to say about the expansion. I mean, it looks fantastic; it’s a great idea. I hardly had to convince anyone of that. They loved it, and I love it.”

“That’s encouraging. Good.”

He lingers across my embarrassing, forcing my stare to the floor. My fingers clench into my upper thigh in angry reproach.

“Well, I agree. You know a lot of people were talking to me about you tonight.”

The moment slaps my wayward thoughts into line.

Be cool. Aloof.

“Oh?”

“Do you want to know what they said?”

“Dare I ask?”

We smile broadly as the moment quickly dissipates, leaving behind the breathless anticipation that lurches my stomach forward; angry on a subsidy of cocktails and finger sandwiches.

“They find you completely refreshing. You have an energizing quality about you; it’s enticing. And more than one person referred to you as ‘out-of-the-box’.”

My breath escapes my lips in a stunted huff, choked with expectancy.

“Myself personally I stay away from the phrase…”

“It’s so mainstream that out-of-the-box is, in itself, an in-the-box term nowadays. Somewhat of a tautology.”

“Exactly.”

We nod in silent understanding, melting our smiles to match in perfect synchronicity.

“Would you like me to complement you now?”

Releasing perhaps the biggest smile I’d encountered within his presence he shuffles the papers across his desk in mirrored angst.

“No, thank you, I haven’t got the time for it. We don’t want to be here all night.”

“Ah.”

Falling back against my chair the cushions caress delicately, filling the gaps across my body, lulling the reservations.

“In any case Laura, you were a valuable asset tonight, and I would love to extend that appreciation from myself and the other department heads.”

“Not at all, sir, thank you very much. That’s very nice.”

He mouths the word sir silently across flickering eyes, terribly concealed emotions. Pressing his agenda we surpass the sentiment in an instant.

“So…”

So?

“At this point in time, under the guidance of the management team we’re very happy to invite you aboard the team and remove you from your probation period, early. If this is something that appeals to you.”

“What.”

None of these words are making sense.

“Are you in school full time?”

“Um. Yes.”

“And which days do you have off?”

“Um. I’m not entirely…I’d have to check…”

“So when do you break for the summer?”

“In a couple weeks.”

“Okay.”

He observes his penmanship as if studying a lost document, a page I carelessly note as my own resume.

“I can review some of these things and present you with a contact sometime next week.”

“Alright. Thank you.”

“If you’d like to stay on for the weekends and events, or seek a more permanent position; the choice is up to you.”

“Thank you.”

What is happening.

“I have often reserved myself to the ideal that I would prefer to work with characters rather than copies. And you are definitely a character. In a good way. You pump up the office, get the people excited; and that makes me excited.”

Good. Lord.

“Should you be interested in continuing with the company, we could offer you something in terms of an evaluation meeting, where you, and rather, your work, would be assessed at the six month period. Think it over. We can very easily accommodate your schedule if you’ll accommodate ours.”

Words. Words. Too many words.

“Umhum.”

“How is your sister’s home?”

“Yeah, she’s at home.”

He smirks, crossing his arms with a fragrant air, callously leaning down before me, signaling the demise of our polite conversation.

“No. How is her home. You were telling me something about a flooding in the…”

“Oh! Yes! Right. Yeah, no it’s, you know.”

“Coming along?”

“I suppose. One thing at a time.”

Nodding profusely I dare myself to look past him, lost in a myriad of dangling tricks.

“Well, from someone who’s been privy to home renovations, I have to say it can be one hell of an uphill battle.”

“Right? It totally is.”

Totally? Seriously? He’s your boss, not a sorority girl. Ugh.

“So how is your home kitchen space?”

“Non-existent.”

“Oh.”

“It’s okay. These things happen.”

“So where do you do your home cooking?”

“In my parents upstairs kitchen. The house is kinda…like a…”

My hands trail the space in a vain attempt to rectify my shaky nerves, failing me comically. He furors his brow in a challenge of wit and poise, finally surrendering to my ailing absurdities.

“Anyways. Where I was going with this…”

Oh thank goodness. Yeah, you talk instead.

“If need be you can feel free to use the test kitchen for your personal needs. As long as you were to sign out the space and offer sufficient notice.”

“Thank you, that’s very nice. Would it be on a contract situation where…”

“Without cost.”

Come again.

“What? Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“You would let me do that?”

“Well, it’s not so much me, as the…”

He trails off, brimming over with hilarity at my growing excitement. His smile fans the flames of a dangerously burning fire.

“Like all the ovens and the big mixer, I can use that stuff?”

“Whatever is in the test kitchen.”

“Even the dish pit? All the equipment. Everything?”

He nods simply against my raged breathing, drinking in my cheery pride.

“This is unbelievable.”

“It’s on a trial basis.”

The words whip me back to reality as visions of toppling cookie trays and abundant sugar cakes marry harmoniously in my psyche.

“Yes. Yes, of course. Thank you.”

“My pleasure. I’m glad to see you’re so…enthusiastic. I’ll have a set of the keys and locking instructions made for you.”

“Great!”

Making quick notes across the scribbled paper I dare myself to eye him once more. In a dark navy suit with offsetting pastel notes of lilac and white, his body appears unwavering, immobile to the dangerous perils of my penetrating gaze. He observes me once more, as if reading far beyond the spoken word, understanding my thoughts in hushed tones, unspoken, unnecessary.

“You looked very nice tonight, Laura.”

“Oh. Thank you.”

“Not often we see you outside of your uniform. It’s a good look. You should be at these events more often.”

“I’d love that.”

Don’t say it back. Don’t say anything. Okay stop staring. Don’t be weird. For goodness sake, say something! This is too long of a pause.

“So, um…”

“Show you the kitchen space?”

“Yes. Absolutely. That would be great.”

We rise in tandem as I force the excitement from my voice, under his coy musings. Gesturing before me we reach the doorway in tandem, shifting in sync motions, his hand clasps rigidly across the gleaming knob, pressing our presence within the dark space.

“After you.”

I nod in gratitude, stepping cautiously before him as his palm grazes the small of my lower back, stunting my breathing before reaching up and across the light switch in one fell swoop, illuminating the dark space in an instant.

Everything comes into focus. My eyes shut upon instinct, drinking in the moment, as I feel his painful regard bearing down across my unprotected body, silently reeling in the moment.

I can’t believe this is it. This is my place. I earned it. 

This is what I really want.

Is it?

What happens when we get everything we want? Is it the end? The finality of our soul-searching? What do we do when we find ourselves the precipice, teetering on the edge? Would we go over, fall hopelessly into the abyss of our own cultivated happiness, or would we search higher ground? Who, if any, resolves to tell us where our happiness lies? Is this what we want, or a place we have created behind the building blocks of our minds’ eye? Do you want what you cannot have, seek restitution wherever you see it available, harbor love for that which you surely cannot attain? What do we do when we reach a point in our lives where everything falls into place. When we find our happiness, strewn out before us, would we recognize it as our own? Do we see ourselves as deserving of the happiness we have cultivated? Can we ever claim it? Or is it our mission to move through life, wandering and wishing and wanting for more. As human we angle ourselves upon the possibility that there is always more, greater, wider, broader horizons, just waiting to be conquered. We cue ourselves up, desire and want, burn and agonize over the failed attempts, the what ifs. But what happens when we seek a place of utter bliss, the place we’d dreamed of, the hoped and desire now come to fruition. Would we recognize our yearnings, the time we’d placed before it, the efforts and trials? Or would we dash it aside, reach higher, claim it never was.

What do you do when you get everything you’d ever wanted?

Get a new dream.

-lc

What If You’re Mismatched In Love?

The doors slam with a deafening thug, shocking me back to the present. I turn slowly to observe his beaming expression, sweet and unassuming.

“Sorry, my mom wanted to give me some leftovers. You know how it is.”

“Yeah.”

My meager smile meets his with trepidation, unwanted desire married against my shaky woes. Everything stands still. He speaks first, confident across my trepidation.

“She really liked you. Well, everyone did. They think you’re…”

He pauses seeking the words that fail him now.

“Perfect for me.”

The emphasis of each word numbs my limbs angrily, bolting them to the soft reclining space that caresses my body here.

“And what do you think?”

I smirk, delighting his transparent anxieties, beckoning the walls down.

“Oh man…”

“What?”

“This could not have been a better segway if I’d planned it. Truly.”

Breaking across the seats he shifts his weight awkwardly, pawing at the jumbled mess of remnants strewn messily across the leather seating. Returning breathlessly to a seated position he removes the fabric caught between the belt mechanism, melting forward to fill the space. He studies me in dark yearning before slowly pressing the perfectly poised package into my palm. I stare down across the pale blue piece as nervous flutterings burst the scene.

“I got you this. My family does gifts for the holiday and I…didn’t want you to be left out.”

“I didn’t…I mean I didn’t know you guys…”

“It’s okay. Just you being here is…perfect.”

His eyes bore into mine, dreamy and enchanting.

“Okay, open it.”

Unraveling the bundle, a silken pouch gives way to a single silver ring, wrapped with the roman numeral bearings of a worn timepiece. I study it against the light.

“It’s from their Atlas collection.”

“I know, I have the necklace of this.”

We sit in sobering silence as a car alarm blares in the distance.

“So I told the guy at the store that my girlfriend really likes to wear a ring on the middle finger, and he told me this one is pretty popular for that.”

I nod in understanding. Removing my current piece I slide the ring across the first knuckle, soon hopelessly trapped against the second.

“It doesn’t fit. Okay, you know what, I can get it re-sized or…”

“No, no, it’s perfect.”

Moving it swiftly to the left ring finger we silence all objections for a fleeting moment.

“It’s kinda fitting that it wouldn’t work out perfectly as expected anyways. I like that.”

“Okay. Well, good then. You know people are going to think that we’re engaged now.”

“Hey, I’m not so bad, am I?”

He smiles broadly, moving a hand up and across the back of my hair in gently harmony.

“Nope.”

Don’t go there. Relax. It’s just a gesture.

“You didn’t have to get me something.”

“No, I know. I wanted to. You’re part of the family too now.”

Oh boy. See what you did.

“You don’t have to say that.”

“No, I mean it. You are. At least, you are to me.”

See, now he’s expecting something. Now he’s waiting on you to return the sentiment.

“Yeah, um, I don’t know about that one. I don’t really ‘fit in’ with anyone’s family.”

“Well, that’s okay. That takes time. You fit in with yours.”

“I guess. Except I kind of feel like often they’re experiencing something and I’m sort of watching from the sidelines, like I’m not really a part of it.”

“Why’s that?”

“Maybe cause I’m a bit…different from them. We don’t really speak the same language, or understand each other that easily. I don’t really work on it much anymore, I just, grew to accept it. Not everybody can love you.”

“Your family loves you, they…”

“No, I know, but…I mean, would they if they didn’t have to? Would they choose me?”

He opens his mouth in response before thinking better of it. I study my hands in subservient denial, dread creeping in to choke my cheery inhibitions.

Don’t say it. Please? Can we just have a nice afternoon here?

“Your mom told me…that I’m…the one.”

Oh come on! Leave well enough alone.

“Hm?”

“Sorry, just…your mother told me today…privately…that…you think…or rather, she thinks….that I’m the one.”

Why would she say that? Did you tell her that? What was does mean? How could you know? Why would you say that? Why didn’t you tell me? Why am I the last to know?

He smiles broadly, caressing my leg in soft circles.

“Oh right, yeah, that’s funny.”

Yup. Side-splitting.

I wait with baited breath, terrified of the demons that push for light just behind the locked gate.

“That’s a bit embarrassing that she would tell you. I mean, I would have liked to have been the one to…”

“So you told her that?”

“Well, yeah.”

“That you think that I’m the one for you.”

“Yeah.”

“Okay…so…okay.”

He furrows his brow against my growing discomfort, dropping his eyes across my twisted limbs, contorted in a mix of pleasure and defiance.

“Okay maybe um, maybe you should just, you know, think about it a little more and we can revisit this whole…idea…at a later date.”

He smiles against my embarrassment as the words tumble out callously.

“Revisit what?”

“This idea.”

Letting out an uproar of a laugh he moves his hand across his jaw swiftly, camouflaging the delight that sparkles in each eye.

“It’s not an idea, Laura. It’s just how I feel.”

“Right. And maybe you should rethink that until you’re very sure that this is the road you want to take.”

Okay, crazy town, population 1.

“I don’t need to rethink anything. But, if you’re not ready, if you need more time, I’m completely find with that. I’m not asking you to say it back.”

“You already did.”

“When?”

“When you told me you loved me and I had to say it back.”

You’re an idiot.

The shock of the statement slaps him back to reality, draining the charm from his words, zapping everything flat in an instant.

“No, no, that came out wrong. I didn’t mean that I felt compelled to tell you that I loved you in return. I meant, that if you hadn’t said it that early on, I definitely would not have. It’s not you. I don’t…have a very firm grasp on my feelings. And I don’t want you to feel like you have to go there with me or make these grandiose romantic declarations. You should just…you know…think about it…carefully.”

He nods in slow recognition, his lips a hard line.

“Okay. So…um…”

Uhoh.

“So maybe I should explain myself a little?”

Nodding abruptly he continues with swift understanding.

“It sounds to me like you’re looking for a little reassurance here so…um…”

“No, I just think…”

His eyes respond immediately, silencing my vain objections.

“Sorry. Go ahead.”

“I don’t know where you got this idea that I somehow decided to love you. But maybe you are a little more scientific with your own emotions; which is fine, by the way. I never really thought about it, before now, actually. For me, I just, maybe I realized it earlier on, but I didn’t have any real choosing. It wasn’t whether to love you or not; I just always did. You’re special to me and with me, you do fit in, even if you don’t feel like it. I’m pretty crazy about you.”

“I never saw myself as anyone’s…the one.”

I close my eyes in a moment of surrender as his movement jolts me awake from my raging daydreams. Slowly he lifts both arms, cupping his hands in a long simple gesture across the air, drifting them down his body. Pointing placidly to himself, the simple signal forces a meager smile in both parties, soft and understanding, relenting against the pain and confusion of the bitter demands of romance.

Oh man. This poor guy has no idea.

Well, good luck.

What do you do when the love you receive isn’t equal to that which you give? When you feel the emotions, burden heavy and trial against all odds, yet never in the degree to which you can deserve, accept, desire? Is one partner destined to love the other with a deeper fervor? Can we ever be equals, alike in love and romance, or is one always negate of the feelings that the other holds so easily? Is love simply more available to some above their partners? Is it measurable, definitive, finite? Can we love someone in return if only emotionally, never physically? And how do we know when our love measures us, when we have reached the moment in time when we fit together seamlessly. What moments tell us that they feelings rein true, that they hold validity and valor? How do we know we are all in, that we won’t be ruined by the promise of certain defeat? We feel inadequate, unwanted against the other. For who are we to give and receive a love so deeply that it changes our very personhood. Is it vain to assume we might be another’s everything, the sun and moon, the shining stars and glistening riverbanks. We harbor the emotions, set them ablaze yet immerse ourselves in the inadequacies that plague our inhibitions. We worry and wonder, fear rejection, fight in fury against our downfalls. The ‘what ifs’ give way to the terrifying thought that perhaps we are not the one, never were, never deigned to become. That maybe we might be kidding ourselves in the assumption that we could ever be enough, worthy, wanted. And that maybe we can never be loved truly in return, in equal and measurable means. Maybe we are destined to place our love in pieces; fractioned and sectioned out across the people we feel safety with. Maybe we reserve our emotions for the truly worthy themselves. But what is our alternative? We love so completely and irrationally that we are blinded to its unrequited nature? Made foolish and floundering in the devastating wake of its ill-begotten charms? How do we know, what is worth the risk? How do we change to become open to its possibility? How do you love without the promise of its return? That even in the face of romance, you might still be left on the outs – loved in return, yet never fully, nor completely.

So how do we truly love one another equally?

I’ll let you know when I know.

-lc

You Couldn’t Love Me.

“Hi Laura.”

“What…what are you doing here? You didn’t have to come…”

“Can I come in? Just for a minute. I won’t stay long.”

I nod immediately; instinctively. Before his relieved expression sets fully, he springs to life. His weight shifts between the doorways, removing his shoes with ease, filling the space effortlessly. I lead him through the rooms in silence, flicking a single light switch, illuminating the space in a soft evening glow. We find our place across one another, cueing up to observe each motion in painful detail. The weight of the moment thrusts my heart against its ribcage angrily, fanning the flames that rise up and threaten certain defeat. The calmness screams louder than my words ever could.

“You’re so sad.”

“Oh. Well…”

$30,000 damage on my watch, what do you want from me, a parade?

“I hate when you look like this. Please don’t be sad.”

My mind reels with the events of the day, the theatrics of it all, splayed across my memory like photos in a picture book; one by one, turning the pages with agonizing slowness. The worries, the fear and dread, the impossibility of reprise; all desperate to come out victorious over my carefully sedated reveries. I sigh as he outstretches a hand to cup my cheek. Resisting the instinct to flinch, the skin melts together in blissfully harmony, familiar and understanding, too tired of the fight. We observe one another with desperate longing, to rewrite the past, correct the wrongs, bring sunshine to my sorrow.

“Please?”

“Okay.”

I mean, if you’re gonna ask so nicely.

Sated in my response he pulls back immediately, relaxing in the moment. I force a bleak smile to the surface as everything gurgles just beneath. His eyes stare fixated, forcing mine firstly across the barren table, before resting upon my lap.

“Oh. I’m sorry, do you want a drink? Or some…”

“Nothing. Thank you. Let’s talk, okay?”

“Sure.”

I don’t really want to. Not now. Not tonight. You know, Andrew wouldn’t make me talk about this…Oh My God. Don’t think that stuff!

“I’m sure you’re exhausted from talking about the damage and…everything…so…is it alright if I talk and you just maybe listen?”

Oh. I like where this is going.

“Of course.”

He takes his start immediately.

“When you called me today, and I heard…just the sheer panic in your voice…I mean, there are no words.”

He shifts his hands dramatically as my eyes trail them in silence, poised and waiting.

“I felt panicked, and my job is to not panic and stay calm in these situations. It’s kinda my thing.”

We laugh uncomfortably as a smile lingers between the moments, understood and acknowledged.

“I realized, after you hung up, that that was something I haven’t felt in a very long time. It was how I would feel is something like this was happening to a family member. I was really worried about you and I couldn’t come be there to help you. It was powerless and terrifying and horrible.”

I count my inhales, holding them with dangerously length.

“I wanted to become a firefighter to help people, and you’re the number one person I want to be there for. Every day. Every time.”

“I know you do.”

He wrings his hands in nervous angst; weary of the momentum our words have gained, speeding past the point of return.

“Well what I’m trying to say, in a run-around kind of way here is, that today made me realize that I love you. In every way. And I am totally in love with you.”

Totally.

“There was something about it that put everything in place for me. I think it was that today was the first time since I’ve known you that I felt like you needed me. You were vulnerable and I love you more in those moments than any other.”

Don’t lose your head. Don’t come undone.

“We’ve only known each other a month.”

She shakes his head as my words find light.

“It doesn’t matter. I loved you from the first time I met you.”

Impossible.

“You are the easiest person for me to love. It’s effortless. Everything about you.”

“You love everything about me?”

A whisper that barely breaks the space.

“Everything.”

“I kinda never felt like anybody loved me fully. Just cause I’m sort of…a little bit weird.”

He outstretches his palm across my shoulder, the thumb pressed darkly against my collarbone, rubbing rhythmic circles. Pulling me towards him our chests meet in blended harmony, soft and surprising. His lips graze the outer edge of my hairline, as I close my eyes in sweet surrender to the moment. The effortless embrace I’d begged for so ravenously. He breathes against my cheekbone, coaxing and inviting my inhibitions to play.

“No, you’re perfect. I love that about you. All the little things.”

You can’t love him, you love Andrew. Even though he won’t love you back or be with you or want you in return. You have to stay faithful to him.

“I love you too.”

Um. Okay. So we’re going rogue? We’re ditching the plan?

“I feel like I could be vulnerable with you and open; I could trust you, like you wouldn’t hurt me or…”

“I wouldn’t. Never.”

I know. Because you’re too good for me.

“It’s just, I don’t really do this stuff very often.”

“What stuff?”

Loving someone. Talking feelings. Being open. Take your pick.

“It’s not easy for me.”

“And I can appreciate that, I really can. Baby steps, you know. One thing at a time. You don’t have to say it just because I did.”

“I wouldn’t, I just, I really want to be with you. Very badly.”

Uhoh.

“Me too.”

The flutter quickens as our smiles coincide, widening and dominating my fears with crushing accusations. My nerves catch in weary ecstasy.

“Do you want a tea, or um…maybe…”

“No. Thank you. I’m going to get going actually.”

He rises from his chair, crashing my daydream with the force of a sledgehammer.

“What?”

“It’s late, and you should rest.”

Or I could rest after.

“I’ll call you when I get home.”

He’s leaving? Seriously. You’re leaving.

“You’re leaving?”

Dashing his shoes across the carpet he pauses to collect his thoughts, smiling down against my furrowed brow.

“I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll still miss you though.”

“Or you could stay and not miss me at all.”

Too much?

“Believe me, I want to.”

Then what’s the situation?

“I’ll see you tomorrow. Sleep well.”

Hey, you know what would help me sleep better…

“Okay. Goodnight.”

The door closes with a click that nearly shatters my walls it houses. My mind whirls endlessly, screaming in sordid anger and vengeance, desperately frantic.

See, told you it was too good to be true.

He couldn’t really love you.

Not all of you.

How do you accept the love that has been given to you? Do you reserve its perfect presence, acquire it effortlessly or fight against its devilish charms, arduously following at its coattails, begging for release or justice. How do we know when it’s the right moment, the right person, the right thought or feeling. What tells us, brings us to this place, forces our hand. What word speak to our soul, coax our the demons, dress them up for our entertainment. What feelings escape the realm of possibility and fight for a different reality within our lives. How do we push them back, slam the door, bolt it shut. The feelings and moments of insecurity that creep into the happy ones, seep down and threaten certain personal defeat. That we might be happy, elated, joyous beyond belief if it were not for our downfalls becoming our biggest traits. The past may rule us with an iron fist, choke our presence, light up our tragedies. If we cannot fight against them, we become them, they are consuming, dangerous and painful. They rise or inhibitions, force them to the forefront, parade our defeat. We take a beating, we invite the thoughts, create the scenarios, breathe life into them. We welcome the pain because it is our own, self-inflicted and understood. It’s easier to believe our own lies than the truths uttered by another. Their potential to wreak havoc in our everyday creates needles across our skin, pushing and prodding, terrifyingly purposeful. They hold the power to hurt us, to destroy us beyond repair if given the chance. So why offer yourself? Why do we head to the slaughter so willingly, jump in with both feet, dance with the enemy? We need them. We want them. We love them. We long for them. We want to be wanted. We take all the sorrow, the hellfire and burning brimstone; anything, at the chance for love. We want to be loved. To love, and feel it in return. Without borders or parameters, inconveniences and requirements.

We all just want to be loved.

-lc

We Can Still Be Friends, Right?

Slinking down the steps, the house looks shockingly different, bathed in the serene morning glow that peeks just behind the window trimmings. With every motion the images come in clearer, vivid and frightening. We observe one another similarly, matching each in fervor and quiet determination.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

Eyeing one another intently everything tightens, rigid with an angry unrest. My gaze falls across the table, up and over his unshaven physique, drained and dark under a cloud of infortune.

“Thank you for staying.”

A gesture that falls across deaf ears, dashed in his cool, impassive tone.

“No problem.”

“You slept in your clothes?”

“Yup.”

“Sorry.”

“Why?”

“Um…just that…”

“It’s fine, Laura. Do you want a coffee? Maybe you should eat something.”

Oh right. I forgot I’m fragile and worrisome now. Hm.

“Um, thanks, I’m okay.”

I fumble awkwardly as he remains seated, stagnant in his slouched demeanor, defeated in the fight.

“Do you want me to go? It’s fine. Really.”

“No. I like when you’re here.”

His raised eyebrow offers a response he thinks better than vocalizing.

“I just…shouldn’t like it. That’s all.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah.”

“How’s it going with that?”

Really? We’re going to do this now? Before my caffeine?

I fumble awkwardly with my sweater, desperately wishing I had selected one more carefully for this moment. Everything clenches angrily as I slump down under the burden.

“Um. Good. It’s…really nice. He’s…”

“Good.”

“Yeah. Thank you for asking.”

He nods silently, peering off into the distance in a vain attempt to rid me of my discomfort. The words push past the barrier in a flurry of fear and ecstasy.

“He’s a really, really good guy. We’re just…you know…spending time together lately. I’m trying.”

“I know you are.”

“You told me to try.”

“I know that.”

“Then why are you…”

“I’m not anything, Laura. I’m a little confused here, if anything. You begged me to stay here, to help you, when you don’t need me. You have Ryan now.”

“I just needed…someone who…who could understand that I didn’t want to be asked a million questions or treated like I was some sort of…I just…felt like you would understand better, what I needed in the moment.”

“I know. I get it.”

“Thank you for…you know. I know I was completely crazy and…”

“You had every reason to be.”

I smile feebly under his glare, fearful in my hope.

“He’d know what to do with you, Laura. You know that, as well as I do. Why don’t you go be happy.”

I don’t know.

“I’m sorry that you felt like I…”

“You love him.”

He shakes is head. Not good enough. My body gives away the truths my mind locks away so tightly. The words shock my sensibilities with their melodrama. Laced with truth and animosity.

“What?”

“I can tell. In the way you speak to him; it’s very evident.”

Oh God. I don’t want to do this.

“We’re just getting to know each other.”

“Well, regardless. You love him, and I’m sure he feels the same about you.”

“Why would you say that.”

Every syllable a whisper of a destiny I’m afraid to claim as my own. I wait with baited breath as his expression softens in dark surrender of an inevitable doom.

“Look, you don’t need me to worry about you anymore. I’m sure he’ll take it from here.”

The truths find their light against my uproarious objections, now choked and strained. I sigh an excess of air that never feels quite hearty enough. A wash of trauma as thick as smoke clouds my righteous thoughts, as every memory flood the surface, pushing and prodding, demanding space in my conscious mind. My insecurities burst the scene in triumphant valor, desperately longing for peace, an endless sedation.

“We can still be friends, right?”

He sighs darkly, pushing a fistful of hair across his face and into place. We eye one another with a jumble of emotions, all thrust together with the force of a thousand hammers, drumming my mind to madness.

“Laura. You do not need me. You need him. It’s okay. Really.”

No. It’s not.

“Why don’t you just say that you don’t want to be around me? Instead of always putting everything on me and making me the bad guy.”

Don’t go.

You’re the bad guy? Oh that’s rich.”

His sarcastic tone numbs my aggression; a familiar gesture of disdain I’d accepted so appropriately, understood as my own, loved and longed to be with once more. When the dust settles we are left to our own devices, pointlessly wandering, ached with a terror of the unknown.

“It’s okay, you know.”

No.

“It’s okay for you to love him.”

Please don’t.

“Laura, I want you to be happy. Believe me.”

He grips my arm, jolting my back to reality. In a flicker of time he’s reached my side, perched across, looming dangerously before me. Everything rises angrily, flushing my cheeks crimson, bashful and unassuming. He eyes me with keen understanding, gentler in his reproach.

“Why don’t you tell me a bit about him? Maybe that’ll help you. He’s a firefighter, right?”

“I really don’t want to get into…”

“How does he make you feel? Happier? You seem…calmer.”

“I am.”

He nods with a simple gesture of reassurance, coaxing my inhibitions to the surface.

“So? How does he make you feel?”

“Wanted.”

He skips a beat in time, measuring the validity of my words before his next acquisition.

“Not that I didn’t feel wanted with you, it’s just…”

“It’s alright.”

He ushers in my silence right on cue.

“I hear ya. He’d be crazy not to want you.”

Everything burns red, a dark billowing fire that clouds my perfect judgment. I dare myself to speak, to reach out, to touch him and live; if only for the here and now. We match each other in our breathing, long and low, desperately waging war on the inside. Locked together we surrender our arms, fight no further.

“You think so. You think he wants me?”

We words tumble our carelessly, low and vulgar, tempting in their brevity. He meets me immediately.

“I bet he wants you more than you would know.”

Then how come you won’t have me.

God, don’t say that.

Don’t say anything.

Don’t hurt Ryan.

Do the right thing.

Not that I know what that is right now.

Okay, do what makes you happy. Do what feels right.

“Do you…do you want to maybe…”

My eyes dance carelessly across the kitchen, up and into the hallway waiting so patiently for our entrance.

“No. But thank you for asking.”

His tone plummets, forcing my stomach to follow, lurched under the weight of my rejection.

“Sorry.”

“Let’s not get carried away, hm.”

Ugh. Yeah, we wouldn’t want that…Heaven forbid.

“Andrew.”

“Umhum.”

“I don’t want to need someone that isn’t you. It’s scary and I…”

“I know.”

“I’m worried if I find someone else, that it’ll be as if you and I never existed.”

“In a way.”

“It’ll mean that we’ve both moved on and that would just prove it to me.”

“Prove what?”

“That you never really needed me. Or wanted me. Not in the same way that I did.”

I close my eyes against the tears, like boulders barreling down the hill, too far gone to correct the pathway. The screech of his chair knocks my breath out angrily, in a huff of frightened sorrow. He stands to collect himself appropriately, somehow poised in his sobering quiet stance.

“I never said that I found someone, now did I?”

Collecting his jacket he moves swiftly, across the passageway and beyond the rooms. I follow desperately in his wake. He fastens his shoes in one fell swoop.

“You’re leaving?”

Leaning against the doorway he turns to observe me, as if for the first time in ages, under fresh eyes.

“Yeah, I think when you reduce the hostess to tears, that it’s time to call it a day.”

“I think it was time to call it a day before I invited you to spend the night.”

He smirks to himself, rummaging through his outer pockets for the jingle of his keys.

“Fair enough.”

In a moment of final ecstasy I lunge forward, gripping his torso in a tight embrace, desperate to stretch the moment.

“We’re friends, right?”

“Um, sure.”

“No, really. I mean it.”

He sighs against my hair, releasing his tension fractionally.

“Yes, Laura, we’re friends.”

“If Ryan’s okay with it, can we still hang out?”

“Laura…”

“As friends! Do friends stuff. We do that now.”

“Yes, but we also…”

Friends stuff!”

“Fine.”

We pout against one another, glimmering eyes aloft and shinning.

“You honestly think we can be friends?”

“Call me foolishly optimistic.”

Or just completely moronic. 

Can we ever be just friends with our old flame? Can we hope for their happiness above of our, put our needs aside, love at a distance? Or is our romance doomed from the beginning. Are we destined to hold the torch, bare false witness, long and lust for what once way. Our ego aside, does love truly conquer all, does it transcend our sorrow, reverse of anger and create a new space that fosters it rebirth. Does a friendship after a break up destroy the chance you ever had at true happiness? Does it doom us from the very beginning, hold us hostage and linger listlessly before our wandering eyes. Is it a selfish act of violence, a desire to acquire that which was never fully ours, to live in both vain and glory. I want him. To want me in return. To want what we once had. To want it back. I want it perfect, picture perfect. I want it all. Better and brighter than it once was. I want the happier, the anger, the love, the passion, the need, the want. I want to be wanted. By the right person, in the right moment, in a crack of destiny and divinity. We need the things we tell ourselves we cannot survive without; the things that make us stronger, brighter, happier. We fight for what we want, the people and things we so desperately desire to forage onward. But do we tell ourselves the lies we only half belief, the whispers across the confines of our mind that we are all too aware of. Do we hurt ourselves on purpose because we are too afraid to be happy, too frightened of a world where we may not have been the superhero, his all, and everything divine.

Do we want what we can never have.

Or can you ever truly be ‘just friends’?

I guess we’ll find out together.

-lc