Stuck. Trapped. Ensnared. Chained.
She heaved a sigh, and decisively yanked the headphones out of her hears. If she heard Celine Dion’s quiet croons about lost love one more second, she’ll scream. Taking a deep breath, she tried to remember the words of the Dalai Lama.
Live in the present. Live in the present. Live in the present.
The past has already gone, the future is not yet here. Why worry about what is already gone? Why fret over something as indefinite as the future?
Stop. Stop. Stop thinking.
Live in the present. Live in the present. Live in the present.
Did she make the right choice? Did she make a mistake? Should she have let him go?
Stop. Stop. Stop thinking.
“I didn’t exactly want to get divorced. I didn’t exactly not want to. I believed in almost equal measure both that divorcing Paul was the right thing to do and that by doing so, I was destroying the best thing I had. By then my marriage had become like the trail in that moment when I realized there was a bull in both directions. I simply made a leap of faith and pushed on in the direction where I’d never been.
— Cheryl Strayed “Wild: From Lost to Found on the PCT”
The perfect punch, dead and center.
She thought she was done—over it. Or, at the very least, 99.99% done, 99.99% over it. She’s on the mend. She had her whole life ahead of her. The past is the past, and the future is bright before her.
She had learned what she needed to learn, and it’s time to move on.
She had to move on.
So, it frustrated her, when that simple little passage hooked onto that last 0.001% inside her. When that simple little passage made all the raw emotions from that time to surge back into the surface.
She was supposed to be over it. She thought she was over it.
Did she make the right choice?
What does it even matter, anymore? She had met the bull, had shut her eyes, and made that leap of faith. She’d made her choice, and is now walking the path she’d never been. Maybe it was the right choice—maybe not.
She had no way of knowing it—not yet.
So she’ll keep walking. She’ll keep walking, and walking, and walking.
Still, as she quietly shut off her kindle, and packed it back inside her bag, she couldn’t help but take a deep breath in an attempt to ease the ache.
Finally, after the incredible luck of eight consecutive green lights, the bus slowed, easing to a stop before the intersection. Sighing a little, mentally reminding herself to celebrate the green lights instead of complaining about this one little speed bump, she gazed out the window. Glancing past the rows of neat houses lined up by the side of the road, her gaze settled onto the tan Corolla slowing to a stop beside the bus. She smiles, recognizing the grandmother laughing, presumably, with her grandson as he chauffeurs her to her destinations. She noted the wild gestures the old woman was throwing around, the rapidly moving lips, and gently laughed.
Oh yes, that grandmother was happy, alright.
In the midst of her giggle, he turns, mid-conversation, and flicks a glance out his window. And saw her.
He sees her.
Inexplicably, she freezes, blinking owlishly down at him until, finally, he grins ever so slowly and nods a greeting. She liked that smile, she thought even as she sheepishly smiled back in return. And yet, the thought had barely crossed her mind before the roaring hum of the bus engine brings her thoughts back to the present. She jerked forward, caught sight of the green light, before sneaking a glance back down at the man and his grandmother. Secretly, mentally, she laughed again when she saw that the grandmother was prodding impatiently for her grandson to go.
“It’s green now!” She imagined she’d be saying.
Obedient to her prodding, he turns onto the left. The bus continues forward along its path. Slowly, the tan Corolla disappeared completely from view. It was only a moment’s worth of an encounter. Chances are, she’d never see that young man with his elderly grandmother ever again. It had only been a moment, and a moment lost. And yet—
What if this was a small glimpse at her soulmate? Her partner? Her significant other? What if this had been a gift, from Fate?
Be patient, the Universe seemed to say. It’s not yet time. But, your time will come. Let what will, be.
It was, just barely, Saturday morning—6:37AM, to be exact. She sat on the toilet seat, her head hanging forward,scarcely held up by arms that shook heavier than leaves on wind. The world spun, round and around and around, and she knew that if she tried to stand, she’d fall. So, her wits still barely with her, she stayed seated atop that toilet, miserably swearing to never again touch alcohol for as long as she lived—a pointless oath, really, and one she’d break in a week or two.
She felt decimated. Completely and utterly decimated. She didn’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that she felt somewhat like how she’d imagine the grime at the bottom of a truck’s wheels would feel—perpetually squashed until beyond all recognition. Inside, nausea swam, threatening to spill over despite all of her efforts to keep it down. She swallowed, again and again, despairing over this losing battle. Oh she’d drank too much, alright, and quite,quite miserable.
Alive. She also felt alive.
And she also felt loved, and protected, and so, so blessed.
She had friends, who had stayed out until four in the morning, drinking with her just because she needed it. Friends that had taken her all the way home—despite the fact that she practically lived in the boondocks—because, for the first time in ages, she was drunk out of her mind. She had family that had called, again and again and again, throughout the night because they’d worried about her safety. Family that had, despite being thoroughly irritated at her, tolerated her obnoxiously loud singing when she’d finally tottered through those doors at the break of dawn.
She had gone out, had fun, met new people, drank because she wanted to, and lived.
And, she knew, she could do it all again.
Everything is different now, yes. She can no longer go back, either. She’d been telling herself, nonstop, that everything will be okay. It’ll all work out. It’s okay. Let things fall as it may.
She wasn’t sure if she’d ever really believed herself. Until today. As she sat atop a toilet, staring at her hungover face on a mirror at the crack of dawn. The irony of the situation did not escape her, as the first fits of laughter started bubbling through her lips. Quickly clamping her hands over her mouth—lest she woke her family up again—she nevertheless smiled.
Clasping her hands before her, lashes fluttered softly for a moment before her eyes quietly drew close.
Thank You. God, Buddha, Kami-sama, the Universe and the Cosmo. Whoever You are…Thank You.
“Why are you still so confused? I don’t understand why you’re still indecisive about him…”
It frustrated her, that question. A part of her had wanted to retort that if she’d known why she was still so confused, most likely, she wouldn’t be as confused, now would she? But she hadn’t. And she wouldn’t.
She flopped bonelessly onto the giant sofa in her home, curling into a tight ball in a last-ditch effort to ward off the inevitable gloom. Today was going to be one of those days then. Squeezing her eyes shut, she deliberately took a deep breath before loosening her muscles. In…out…in…out…
She knew, without having to be so bluntly told, that the rest of the world is moving on. After all, she’d been the center of their concern for a full month now. And, in terms of break-ups go, it’s about the time when things should be shifting back into gear. She also knew, on some days, she was about to be ready to move on. On those days, when the world felt a little brighter, and she felt a little stronger, everything almost seemed one hundred percent okay again.
But that’s not every day. That’s not even every other day.
If she had to rate herself on a one to ten scale, she’d rate herself at maybe a seven point five. Almost there, but not quite yet.
And that’s okay.
And that’s okay. How she wished she could tell them that. To beg for their patience and tolerate her rants.
It’s only temporary. She’ll get over it, eventually. Just a little longer.
Give her a little more time.
Yes, it has already been a month since that day. But, it’s also only been a month for which she can mourn the death of her five year relationship. Yes, she’d been the one to first broach the subject of a break up; yes, he might not be her future husband. But, that didn’t make it hurt any less; that does not make him any less important in her life—just different.
So yes, he’ll still pop up in her conversations. And she’ll still have weak moments every now and then where she misses him—misses them—terribly. She’ll wonder if she’d made the right choice. She’ll go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth in her mind. Some days, she’ll reach a conclusion; other days, not.
And that’s okay.
It’s her right to be indecisive. It’s her choice, and she shouldn’t have to feel guilty over this indecision. She shouldn’t have to feel rushed, because the rest of the world is moving on.
All she asks for is time.
And all she has now, is time.
Today, five years ago, they began.
He was quietly confident in her attraction to him. She, softly reassured of his interest in her. Both were not yet completely sure of the other, but both willing to give the other a chance. On that moment of chance, on a willingness to believe, their relationship started.
Today, five years later, they had stopped.
He, a busy entrepreneur, working to make his business grow. She, a corporate employee, with an eye on grad school and her mind already settling on her prize. Both, slowly but surely, clawing their way up in this world. Two lives, once so tightly intertwined, now with futures worlds apart.
And where would they be, in another five years?
Slowly, her eyes opened.
The bright morning air gently filtered around her, quietly calling her awake even as the blankets continued to wrap softly around her, faintly lulling her back to sleep. She breathed, caught in the struggle between wakefulness and sleepiness. Closing her eyes, she saw, once again, the swirl of colors, the sounds, the scent.
His smile, those eyes. A flash of lips, a glint in those eyes. Arms, strong arms, reaching down to hold her in place. Blinking back into the present, she unconsciously sniffed, convinced his scent still lingered in the air.
But he’s not here, she reminded herself.
Flipping over onto her stomach, she clutched her blankets closer to herself, before taking another deep…and let it go. Snapping her eyes back open, she quickly sat up on bed, shook the last vestiges of the dream off, and stretched.
Time to go.
She’s so exhausted.
More than anything else, she just wanted to curl up on her bed at home, dressed in her cotton pajamas, her hair tied up in a loose, messy bun and just…disappear from this world. She wanted to hurtle herself through the darkness, into the beautiful dreams that awaited her. Her covers would rest around her, nestling the warmth against her soft cheeks, as her lashes flutter hectically against her fictitious reality.
Oh how she wished she could be Alice in Wonderland. To traverse through dreams, the oddity, and the obscure. To fall so far into the rabbit hole that she’s not sure what is up and what is down, what is left and what is right. Perhaps, what is right and what is wrong?
But she’s not in a rabbit hole.
Taking a deep breath, she forced her eyes open. Her back ached a little from the awkward position she’d fallen asleep in at her desk. An oddly shaped red print marked her forehead. Blearily, she realized that if she didn’t get her act together everyone will realize that she’d just taken a nap at her desk. And then everyone’ll start asking questions.
The last thing she wanted at this moment were questions.
So it’s time to wake up.
But…when had she fallen asleep?
It was breathtakingly spectacular.
Her arms ached from the heavy load of groceries. Her feet, already complaining from being forced into the three inched pumps her office required of their workers, nevertheless slowed from their hectic pace, prolonging its pain. Her head pounded, slightly; remnants from a hard day’s work. But despite all that, a smile blooms quietly onto her face for a moment, just a moment, at the sheer beauty before her.
Yet, even as her eyes hungrily drank in the explosion of colors against the cotton candy clouds, memories—happy memories from long ago—flitted across her mind, dimming those eyes, and killing that smile. His face flashed across her mind. The tilt of his lips, always half smiling and half smirking. The way those strong arms wrapped around her, gently, quietly, protectively. The flash of sweetness in those eyes, even as he confidently proclaimed:
“You know, an orange sunset is a promise for beautiful, sunny weather for the next day.”
It had been his way, aware as he was of her deep loathing for the rain, of making her look forward to tomorrow. She, in turn, had always intended to Google whether that little “fact” of his was truth or myth. And yet, she never did. There was always something else distracting her, something more urgent, or interesting, or important. Or, perhaps, a small part of herself (the enduring romantic still within her even now) had been charmed by that fanciful line. She wasn’t sure. She supposed, she’ll never be sure.
But she did know, however, that she would now never confirm the validity of that statement. Just as, she knew, no matter what the future brings, spectacular sunsets would always connect her to him.
And perhaps, that’s enough.
Perhaps, that’s proof enough that they had once loved.
It wasn’t a flash, and there was no burn. Her heart hadn’t pounded, and the butterflies didn’t…fly. Everything was just so clear-cut and logical.
Her mind fully understood. She should be falling for him. She should love him. Everything about him is great. He’s near perfect. So why? What’s the problem? What is he unable to give her? Why can’t her heart follow the logic so readily presented by her brain and just…fall? Plop at his feet?
The breeze felt absolutely wonderful. The warmth of the sun quietly soaked into her. Somewhere nearby, a bird chirped a greeting, and another answered in song. The resounding crash of waves filled the air with the subtle scent of salt and fish and sea. Mixed in with it was the faint, musky scent of his soap. Caught, she quietly closed her eyes, leaned forward, and breathed.
The familiar scent of soap, laundry detergent, and a faint hint of sweat filled her nose. Letting go of the handle bars, thoroughly unable to resist, she sighed as she snaked her arms around him and gently rested her head against his broad back.
It was so comfortable together with him.
This comfort, couldn’t this be love?
Maybe it’s love. Who’s to say love has to be the flash and burn? Can’t it also be a gentle and steady warmth?
“Tired?” He asks, voice softly amused. “Should we go rest?”
I need to fall in love with him. “No, I can keep going.”
She struggled against the desire to sigh.