It’s time to give up.
This wasn’t meant for you, anyway, not really, wasn’t something you ever dreamed you’d get to experience. And look how right you were about that; nothing has happened between you at all. Not for all those looks, those lingering fingers that have pressed into your skin in passing, nor the whisper of a thousand unspoken words, that all of the holy sonnets would have paled in comparison to, if only you could hear them said out loud.
He doesn’t want you. Or in truth, he does, you know he does, but he won’t let himself. And if you’re honest, that’s the thing that’s hurting most about this – the denial of it all. These feelings might be frightening for their intensity, and his fears things that you can’t ever know. But you hear him without him speaking, and you know him, more than he allows anyone else to know. Yet still, he won’t. And it’s not frustrating, or excruciating anymore, it’s just numbing. Numbness that spreads its way through you, for every snatched back hand, every clenched jaw biting back words, every almost action. Because not acting says just as much as acting ever does; more even. And by not acting, he has left you this; stranded, in ways you never thought be stranded. In places you were never meant to tread.
You could have, you tell yourself, said, or done something yourself, been the one to make that all-important first move, or first confession. But since you lack the experience, and have, foolishly, romanticised things between you, you have always secretly hoped that he’d be the one to show you the lead in this. And maybe that’s selfish, naive, or just too hopeful. But how can you be anything else, when hoping is the way he’s taught you how to live?
Maybe you’re just not enough for him, and this is his way of telling you. He whispers it in sentences that never pass his lips, seals them in the flicker of an eye, or a tilt of a chin that says, you aren’t anything to me; sure as hell aren’t enough. So maybe it’s not numbness you’ve been feeling, but just acceptance. Acknowledgement of all the ways in which you lack.
It’s over now.
In all the time you’ve known each other, there’s been enough time to realise, to notice, that this isn’t where you belong. He is not who you belong to. You belong nowhere, tethered only by the torment of the thoughts you allow yourself to have, when none of this was ever yours.
The waitress is pretty, you think to yourself, a mass of curls and a warm smile that widens every time she catches your eye. He taught you this game, you remind yourself, shifting in discomfort, wondering if that’s the answer to this low, gnawing pain that’s eating away at you, core deep; losing yourself in the pleasure of something you’ve never been attracted to, never even really seen much point to, when it wasn’t with someone that you loved.
Love, you scoff to yourself, returning that smile just a little too brightly as you signal for another drink, love wasn’t something meant for you. Nor was home, peace, or quiet, but you fooled yourself into thinking that they might have been once – more than once, actually. And each time it was snatched away from you, crumbled before your very eyes, or just denied. And it hurts, it hurts to feel like this. Why would anyone choose to feel this way, you ask yourself in astonishment. Surely there are more, better things to feel, than the sensation that your heart is being shred apart.
The evening drags on, the drink burns your throat, but it’s the way you’ve been taught to grieve, so there’s really nothing else you can do. Or would know how to do, you amend, then laugh, adding the reminder that there is nowhere for you to go, besides home. And home is just a reminder that you are alone; that he doesn’t want you. Because you were meant to be with him tonight, and you mistook that invite for something as more than friendship. The look on his face when you’d blurted your rehearsed words out telling him that You could isn’t a sobering thought, but is enough to signal for another refill.
It’s so late now; perhaps you can stumble your way on a walk somewhere, down a rain-soaked street on a storm-filled night. You can even convince yourself that your feet won’t carry you back to his, to look up at his window willingly, and wish that you were inside, in his warmth.
You stand, hands wide around the bar stool as you right yourself, fight for your wallet, throw bills down on the counter that you don’t even count. Turning is an interesting feeling, as is the knowledge that you’re not sure if you can even make it to the door. The door where he is now standing, you think, jolting a little, blinking repeatedly and telling yourself he’s just a figment of your imagination, or a conjuring of all the spirits you’ve been drinking.
If you weren’t so numb you’d pinch yourself.
Drawing strength from depths flooded by oceans of alcohol, you square your shoulders, suck in a breath that pricks sickness into your throat for all you’ve been drinking, yet you fight it back. Stand as tall, proud as you can, though proud is not how you feel. You stagger towards him, words muted of their meaning that you still fight to try to form into value, heart pulsing, every pound pulling you closer to him.
No amount of whiskey will ever dull his features to you. You can make out his eyes, his cautious smile, the twitch of his hands that are an invitation, even through all that fog in your mind. And as you get closer, those features morph and shift with every pace. Sadness, shame, guilt. Longing. Love. Hope?
“I’m sorry. I overreacted. I panicked,” he tells you, his fingertips grazing just above your elbows, seeping heat through your jacket into you skin as he rights you, the breath of space between you as he draws you near making you realise just unsteady you are. “Can we start over? Can we talk?”
It’s everything that you want to hear; everything.
“Let’s get you home,” he tells you, and how do four simple words have such power over you? How do they succeed in wiping out all the melancholy you’ve been feeling all evening? How can they restore all that hope that you dissolved in glass upon emptied glass?
The blast of cool night air against your face is alarming, and as you stumble at the force of it, his grip tightens for just a second before dropping altogether. You curl after it, missing his touch already, but there’s no need; a warm, steadying arm is thrown around your shoulder, pulling you too him, and even more alarming is the kiss pressed to your temple as he guides you towards his car.
The tenderness with which he gets you seated and secured is overwhelming, and you tell yourself it’s the whiskey speaking when the look in his eyes is so soft, you could sink into them. As is the way that when he’s seated, he grabs your hand, drags it across to his lap and presses, secures it there, like it belongs there, for the entire drive.