Hold your breath

I want to say something. She opens a drawer after the other, grabbing everything inside, the clothes we folded just three days ago, and almost as if on purposed throws them wrinkled and messy in one and any of the opened suitcases on the bed. Shirts, then gym clothes, then pajama pants. With every single thing that she moves from their cozy place in our cozy life straight to her new future, a part of me is ripped apart. I want to say something. I have nothing to say.

Dresses taken from the hangers. The blue one she wore to my last birthday, when we had that date too expensive at that restaurant that wasn’t really that good; the one with flowers from the dinner with my brother a couple of months ago, when we laughed and drank wine and as happy as we seemed to him; the one I bought her when she turned thirty-nine, which she loved so dearly as if I hadn’t shown the saleswoman a picture and asked her to just choose anything; the burgundy one she wears every Christmas, which I always thought she looked so lovely in. I watch as she grabs them from the hangers, and throws them together in a bag, wrinkled as if paper, and I choke in my own silence. I see the memories I forgot I loved so dearly, and I see them clear as day, colorful and bright and sometimes so dark she couldn’t see, I see them flying by in front of my face, blending in the air with all that has been said and all that hasn’t.

The only sound of the room is that of drawers opening and closing, hangers bouncing lighly, bumping into each other as she pulls each dress, closet door banging, each thing aggressively and compulsive, with maybe something resembling rhythm within the anger which fills the room. There is no sad, melancholic song, no soundtrack that makes any sense, no cathartic background music. There is only the sharp and violent sound of ending, and the silence between us.

The closet is empty now, empty as I must be. Her clothes are gone. I feel naked. She moves to the living room, and I follow, neither of still not saying anything. Books are thrown from shelves to boxes, piles of them hitting the floor at once, making a noise that would give me a headache if I didn’t have one already. I imagine our downstairs neighbor, an old woman who lives alone, listening, and wondering what’s happening. The last time I remember seeing her in the hallways, one hand held my wives and the other a grocery bad, and I was still safe and okay and almost in love. In her mind we must be still what we were before the letters were found and everything changed, before the nights full of questions I have never been brave enough to answer, before the crying and before everything broke. In her mind, we are still happy and in love. She must be confused with the noise.

Our shelves, once full and cramped, are now half empty. She moves to CDs, running her fingers through them, trying to identify the ones that belong to her as if most of them weren’t bought by the two of us, together. She reads the title and goes on to the next, and I want to tell her take them all I don’t care but my throat is dry, I can’t speak and it feels phenomenally pathetic that I could try to fix all the hurting and lying and pretending with telling her to take some old CDs. She won’t care, and I doubt she really wants to take anything of mine with her, which is ironic, because I feel like who I am will be gone as soon as she is out the door. The person I have built for two decades, the skin I have lived in and so often promised it was my own, taken away from me. Despite how terribly unfair to her I know it is – and it is so unfair -, is it the truth, raw and maybe cruel: I am me because she is here, and I was so desperately thankful for that I really, really almost loved her.

And now she’s closing the bags and taking clothes and shoes and books and only two CDs, and with them the quiet, horribly beloved lie of an entire life. I am left with only myself, the person I’m most afraid of. No company for Christmas, no date for dinner with my brother, no one to spend two weeks thinking about the perfect birthday present for. I am left alone with a slightly empty house, full of memories of the person I need the most: the man I created.

She is at the door, with her boxes and suitcases, quite literally a foot out the door, headed to the life she deserves. I want to say I’m sorry. I want to tell her I loved her, I loved her, but I do not want to be the person that lies again. I want to tell her I’m relieved for her, I want her to be happy. I want her to be happy. She looks into my eyes and almost breaks the cold silence between us, but ultimately she just keeps looking.

She moves her eyes away from mine. In a way, my heart breaks. She reaches for her car key and takes a look then at the picture we keep by the small table, next to the spot where we always leave – left – our keys. The picture frame is silver and plain, with small, delicate detailing, probably a present for so many years ago from friends we don’t talk to anymore.  There is a picture of us, on our wedding day. She looks gorgeous and glowing and so terribly happy in her white dress; the kind of happy that makes it seem like forever isn’t a story someone told you once, but the simple truth and beautiful consequence of a choice made right. It is the glow of being sure.

Next to her, her maid of honor, who I haven’t seen for maybe a year now, holding a bouquet in her dark green dress, so happy for her best friend. On the other end, my own best friend, who I wish I had ever had the strength to go months without seeing. I’m between him and my lovely bride, in my black tuxedo and dark red tie, holding her, looking young and in love. In a way I was. I looked sharp, calm – always so good at pretending -, not like a man who was holding his breath and would keep holding it for so many years to come, until he choked in his lies and there was no way out of the simple yet unerasable truth of betrayal. I wonder if anyone who looked at this picture over the years it has been sitting on our small wooden ever got even close to imagining what my confident eyes really meant to say.

I was scared. I thought the I do would save me from myself, make me love her in the way she must have been loved, in a way rewrite the story of who I loved, the beautiful women by my right, whose future I partially stole.

She stares at the picture for a second, ten seconds, one minute, so long I stop counting. I want to say please, stay, to beg and promise I need her,  I’m scared of myself and I need her, I need her, I need her. I don’t. She knows as well as I do that I have been selfish enough. I want to wish her as much happiness as she tried to give me. I don’t. What I’ve said is enough and it will never be enough.

She moves her eyes from the picture to me again, and for a while we just look at each other, until it feels just a little less uncomfortable. I hate myself more than ever, because she never deserved any of this, but I know there is nothing I can do except to let her go now, to let her find a piece of the life I must have stolen from her. She closes the door, taking her clothes and shoes and books and only two CDs and me. She takes me, the man I am and the man I have been, the skin I have promised is mine, at last naked of lies. She leaves me alone somewhere that once was a home, now half empty.

She leaves, and I’m alone with myself. I let out a breath.

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