I know this may seem strange, but there’s things that I’d like to say before we inevitably become strangers again. Truth be told, I feel that this is stupid, borderline manipulative, downright creepy. But what I feel about us are important said rather than kept quiet. After all, I don’t want to see either you or me saying or doing something that we’d later regret because we’d keep quiet instead of expressing our true thoughts and feelings. I carry so much already that the load’s got to be lightened for my own sanity, and for complete transparency, too.
This ain’t me trying to win you over or whatever—let me be clear on that. You coming over to mine on Thursday, was proof enough that you’ve made your turn at a crossroad in your life—without me. Though it’s agonising, I ultimately recognise that I can’t change your mind if this is what you truly want. That decision, right or wrong, falls on your shoulders.
Is it the right decision? I don’t know, frankly. I hope that he won’t become another bad ex, like so many you’ve had already—like you’ve told me. I hope that he loves you as much as I did, and that he gives you everything that I cannot, and that he adores you, and puts in the same effort in your relationship as undoubtedly as you will.
In time, you may forget about me. Your boyfriend’s devotion and affection for you may even outshine mine, and I’ll fade like a picture left out in the sun for too long. If that’s the case, then so be it. I’ll happily exchange a place in your memory knowing that for a few weeks, I was content, hopeful, and happy—with you. You were my first, after all, like I was yours. You were a reason to live, and when I was in pain, you soothed me. For the first time in years, you made me feel joy, ecstasy, and happiness. And in time I will be grateful for everything of you.
Though, a part of me feels like you used me for the experience. That all of those words to me—you wanting me, you feeling safe around me, you being able to be yourself around me—were lies to get to your goal of using my body. I’d like to think that such sentiments are wrong and just fuelled by anger.
Either way, truth is that you’ve led me on, making me believe that there was a greater chance than there was, by allowing me to do things you would’ve reserved for the better one. Was I this better one? Was the love I felt for you reciprocal?
Anyhow, my friends know about what’s happened between us; you’ve likely told your friends too, so fairs fair. I’ve told them that I’m more than happy for you to come over—without your boyfriend, mind—and to carry on engaging with us. Whatever they say about our situation is wholly their opinions: I won’t accept blame for anything they say towards you.
I’ve felt like I needed to say all of this, and as a way to gain some kind of closure, and so I don’t apologise for not letting sleeping dogs lie.I wish you get everything you deserve in life.
This half was complete. He stared at the crying ink, as he ran a hand through his short hair. She preferred it longer. The pain oozed from each written syllable, and it paralyzed him. There it was—hesitation. And a single tear. God, he knew that if his father caught him writing something like this when he was younger, he would have been hung by his belt. He could hear what the old man would have said to him. ‘Tears are for the weak.’
Tears are for the weak. Tears. For the many things to mourn: The long nights spent indoors, saying nothing yet expressing everything; that time they went to the Christmas Markets, and planned on doing it again for every year.
Of what should’ve been.
It was all too much. Too much was left unspoken—even the paper didn’t have enough lines to contain everything. All the pain, the bitterness, the sense of betrayal.
And the love. The passion, the joy. He tried to cling to the positives, his only lifeline. He wanted to believe his fantasies, and to somehow wedge it into the membrane of reality. He couldn’t think of reality right now. Seeing her caress the skin of another man…letting him do all the things he once did with her, was a fact he couldn’t handle.
He buried his heavy head into his arms—confused about what the hell had gone on for the past weeks.
She said that she was saving herself for a partner, but she did it with him.
She said that she wanted him, but went with someone else.
She said that she felt safe with him, so she went into the arms of someone else.
The contradictions, in all their ironic glory, spelt out the one thing he didn’t want to admit.
He had been used.
He sagged into the chair, weighed down by the feeling that he was less of a man. Now there was sadness, making his thoughts muggy; constantly moving through his bedroom—she was everywhere. Her honey smell stuck to the bedsheets, as her lips still existed as her mark on his neck. His fingers caressed his shaven neck, touching those bruises as though they’ll transport him back to those simple nights with her. Once they gave him ecstasy. Now, only pain. No, she didn’t deserve the letter, or any admission of his agony.
But God, he wanted her to feel his pain. Surely, it’s fair that someone else should also shoulder this burden? Why should he keep quiet and take it “like a man”? No, she’ll know his sadness.
Yes, he was set on sending the letter to her. If men must live in silence, let him die.
He took a clip from the desk’s drawer, putting a mere three pages worth of pain together into one neat, condensed stack. As he stood up from his chair, he felt the sadness slosh up towards his mouth, contained—barely—by his cracked lips.
With giddiness he moved through his room, occasionally stooping over the furniture to gain composure. He tried to focus only on the bedroom door. Not because the room had been dirty since Thursday, but that everything reminded him of her. Even the midday shadows looked like her naked body at a glance. God she’d left her mark deep. He let that door slam behind him as he strode towards and down the staircase. Some time ago he hoped for her to join the family photos framed on the grey wall.
Quickly, he reached the bottom of the stairs. It was all dour and plain, as though any substance or depth was sucked away—recently, mind, as he could vividly remember when it was full of colour. Even the front door, with its colourful stained glass and deep wood, seemed dead. To its left was a squat table, where the keys rested alone. With one shaky hand he picked the keys up.
This is it. He thought of the kamikaze planes he used to see in magazines, how they exploded into black and white after their plunge into the sides of ships. What an image they must’ve seen, rushing to their oblivion because they’d lost everything.
Though it was a cold spring, he didn’t bother to pick up one of his leather jackets. When she first came over to his place, she held one of their sleeves, and asked if he could always wear one. He was thinking of selling them now—it wasn’t him anymore.
He locked the front door behind him, one hand wrapped around the first letter. Cold gusts didn’t move him. Cherry trees outside his house bled pink petals on the driveway. Their heart-shaped patterns reminded him more of her, when—in their many encounters—he had sprinkled petals on their bed. A blanket that was once comforting, desired, for its heady smell. But, on the hard concrete, they had become doughy, and absorbed the reek of life.
Squelching sounds followed him as he walked towards the dead street. Boots scared the cherry petals with every step, towards her. Though ill with his sadness, he was still adamant that this was the right thing he wanted to do. If men can’t speak, let them die.
The semi-detached house started to disappear among the grove, as he walked up the street. In the gentle breeze, he unfurled his letter, wondering if more could’ve been written. Words trickled from the page and back into his memory.
Though he couldn’t feel the light, he knew that someday he would.
The cemetery narrows my view as I did the morbid walk to the nearest post box. They framed layers of tombstones, which were gradually worn down to mere stumps the closer they got to the walls. The etched names of husbands and wives watch my steps, as I wonder if this is where all relationships end—dead and buried.
There was little reason for me to go through the cemetery—most of my family was happily alive. Plus, there’s little reason to go to a post box. Everyone, even me, uses their phones to say what they need to. But, I don’t know, it felt right to do this with paper and ink. I suppose there’s something intimate when you get a letter, even if it is from the tax office. Something about seeing your name at the top, addressed to you personally; and not some generic ‘copy-paste’ break up text that’s been used a thousand times before, saying that “it’s me, not you” and—
I didn’t notice that I’d bumped into somebody until the drench of cold water seeped through my left shoe. It reminded me of a similar sensation, when my mum used to throw cold water on me when I wasn’t awake in time during the morning. Either way, it felt like one hell of a wakeup call.
My torn mind eventually focused on the apologetic woman standing in front of me. like Mia Rose Frampton or Dakota Fanning. It isn’t just because she’s blonde or has well-defined cheeks, but it’s her poise—a gravity. She was completely different from Anna.
‘Oh my God,’ she exclaimed. Her voice didn’t have an accent, so every syllable was crystal clear in my ears, ‘I’m so sorry!’
Her hands, wearing dark leather gloves, hovered in the air, revealing a black dress and soft, pale skin underneath the tailored wool coat. Although a simple style, she pulled it off with grace.
‘It-er-should me be…apologising,’ I replied, totally taken aback, ‘where are my manners.’
Jesus, I sound rough and awkward. Besides, I was forgetting about the letter. I was about to leave the whole bump behind me, but she wasn’t quite done with me yet.
‘It’s not the first time,’ she sniggered while removing her leather gloves, revealing delicate hands—they are different from hers. As well pruned as the celandines and forget-me-nots she was placing on a grave, ‘I never got your name.’
‘Your parents must’ve been plant lovers to call you that,’ I said.
‘Wow, you’re the first to notice that,’ her left eyebrow arched upwards in surprise, ‘but, yes, my parents loved flowers.’
Our eyes locked for a few seconds longer than normal. It was uncomfortable, but there was some, spark, behind her starburst-shaped irises. I was a bee hovering over a pair of edelweiss flowers—totally captivated by their aura. Tilting her head slightly, she looked at the letter, causing fear to stew in my heart.
‘What you’ve got there?’ she asks quizzically.
‘Oh,’ I dared a brief glance at the letter, ‘just lip service—long story.’
Luckily, she didn’t ask any more about it—thank God—because I wasn’t in the mood to re-tread old ground.
‘You doing anything else?’ she asks. Credits where credit’s due, she’s got confidence.
‘I’m not ready,’ I reply. She chuckles, flashing her really nice set of teeth.
‘I don’t mean now, silly,’ she says, ‘besides, you’ve got that letter to send.’
Ah, yes, the letter.
‘If—and I mean if—I want to see you again, how do I?’ I ask. I knew it was a shot in the dark. I mean, if she didn’t want me, then Aster definitely wouldn’t.
‘When you’re ready,’ she says as she writes something on a paper-scrap with a pen from her bag, ‘talk to me.’
I see that it’s her number, and I wonder if this is the thing I need.
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© Thomas Gallimore Barker, 2021