She opened the door with her head down. Her big glassy brown eyes to the floor, crying with composure.
I hugged her and her arms stayed to her side, limp and angry. Her hands clenched, tears dripping off her chin. I kissed her cheek and ran my nose through her hair.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I just can’t do this anymore.”
“Stop saying you can’t, when you can,” She replied. “You just don’t want to.”
She was right.
We met three years ago at a movie theater. A friend of mine who was dating a friend of hers introduced us. I complimented her eyebrows. She smiled and thanked me. That night she wrote her number on her ticket stub and placed it in my hand.
Three years later and here we were.
I crossed the living room and grabbed my favorite book from the bookshelf. It was a collection of Hemingway’s short stories, my dad used to read to me when we took trips up North. She sat on the couch, her arms crossed. I asked her to walk me to the door. She nodded and wiped her face. I could tell she wanted to scream, to tell me how much of an asshole I was being. She had questions, like where I had been for the last four days.
Four days ago I spilt pasta all over the kitchen floor. But it wasn’t just the pasta that set things in motion…
She came home from work, in a bad mood, I told her I was making dinner. The pasta was near boiling when she announced she wasn’t hungry. She ate at work. I knew she with that guy, a co-worker she was secretly falling for behind my back. I didn’t bother to pry, to ask her what she ate, or with who. For the moment, I stuffed my resentment deep, where she couldn’t see it.
There it can simmer.
But then I took the pasta to the sink to drain, my fingered slipped off the pot, and everything splashed onto the floor. Her response wasn’t how my steaming feet felt, or if the pasta was still salvageable, but instead a reminder how she had cleaned the kitchen a day prior.
I acted on the opportunity to get mad. I brought up the text I found from the guy she worked with. She brought up the email from an ex-girlfriend. I threw a lamp and was out the door.
I spent the next four days on my dad’s couch with his dog resting his head on my chest. It was a relief knowing it was all finally coming to an end.
The truth was there was someone else. There had been for a while. I justified my lies by assuming she lied to me.
Our relationship had shrunk into the better memories of those first six months, and then it was all weighted down by our jobs and responsibilities, the unknowing of both of our futures; she wanted to get married, I didn’t. She was patiently waiting for me to ask. I was patiently waiting for a reason to leave.
That’s why this new girl felt good. Her past didn’t matter. She was sweet, trying to impress me. She was insecure for all the right reasons; like if her make up was in line or if she smelt good. I knew for sure when she went to the bathroom the time I took her to the movies behind my girlfriend’s back.
She came out with her mascara in line and suddenly smelling sweeter than when she walked in.
It started when a movie trailer was brought up at work and we agreed we both needed to see it. But it was her idea to go that night. I wondered if she knew my girlfriend was out of town. Of course she did. On break, I was telling a co-worker how I had the apartment to myself. She was at the vending machine listening.
“You’re dangerous.” That’s what I told her when she said I should take her to the movies.
She smiled and strutted away.
That night, after the movie, we kissed in my car. She apologized and I told her not to.
And there I was, at the doorway. There were no more tears. I put my hand out. She looked away. I could confess and tell her why this all had to be over. But there was no point, no more reason to yell or explain each other. No more blaming or reasoning for our actions. I just knew I had feelings for a moment in time and I acted on them. Just like when I complimented her eyebrows. Just like when she handed me her number. I couldn’t go back now. It was time to leave.
I opened the door. She held it open. Her eyes away from me. I stepped back, outside the apartment now.
She let it shut.
With my favorite book in hand I didn’t look back. I took the stairs, to the lobby, outside to the parking lot, into my car, and drove six blocks to my workplace. I parked and placed a text to the new sweet girl. I let her know I was outside waiting for her.
I opened my favorite book to kill time. My eyes crossed the page, but I wasn’t reading. Instead I was playing out the rest of my life in my head. I thought about everything that lead me here, sitting in the parking lot waiting on that pretty girl from work. I had built something with someone else for so long. It all started at a movie theater, three years ago, with a smile and compliment.
Then it all fell apart.
Now I’m abandoning the mess.