“We’d end up just hurting each other again.”
I cringed at her pointed words, not because of how unfair her insinuation was, but for why I knew how true it is.
How many times have I had this conversation: with her, with other people?
How many times has anyone, everyone, gone through this scene again?
“I know. But I love you just the same. I’d love you still anyway.”
She broke into tears. Just like before. But unlike before. Because I’ve seen her cry when she was sad. I’ve seen her cry when she was frustrated. I’ve seen her cry when she was angry. And I’ve seen her cry when she was so unbearably happy.
And I cried as well, because I didn’t know why she was.
That was how I remembered her best: at the worst moment of my life, waiting for the gentle waves of our tears to subside until our sobs no longer echoed on the empty street— faintly reflecting how our hearts first met, truly known each other, when I confessed to her under the romantic streetlight on a windy Friday night. As crazy as it sounds, I missed the pain of missing her. Of being missed by her. Because pain is something we can easily recognize and acknowledge. Pain teaches us something. Pain is a hateful but faithful friend. And because pain, any pain, is better than this utter sense of numbness. Pain drives you to live. Numbness mocks you towards death.
“Hey, you okay?” Mario asked me, his face a mask of real concern. I nodded, downed the remaining contents of my bottle, and slumped my head on the table. I felt his hand gently pull the bottle off my grip. “Come on. Stop pretending that you’re drunk. This is, what— 4.5% alcohol only?”
“You know I hate parties.”
“I know. I don’t care. You need to get a life. And a love. Preferably both.”
I shook my head, and reached for the pitcher of ice water. I could kill for some coffee right now. And some solitude. And maybe, pizza.
“Hey, hey! Dianne!” Mario called out. A woman in glittering dark dress approached us. She was tipsy. “Where’s Audrey?”
“Oh, she wasn’t feeling well. That’s her excuse. She’s not in the mood, I guess. I didn’t want to force her.” Dianne shrugged. Whoever this Audrey was, she had a better friend than I did. Mario muttered irritably as she left. I sipped from my glass. Minty.
“Look,” I said. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do. But seriously, you’ve got to stop this.”
“This. This you trying to hook me up with someone. This you looking out for me, trying to fix my life simply because you think it’s broken. I’m not saying it isn’t; I’m saying you shouldn’t. My mistakes, my repairs.” I slugged the cold glass of water as if it was some awesome, expensive shot of alcohol. Then looked at his eyes: not with a drunken, infatuated look. I am a straight guy, both sober or alcohol-infested. I looked to tell him I was okay, I was honest, and I wanted to get the heck out of here.
He looked back in the eye, and it told me clearly what I’ve always known all along: he sucked at eye languages.
“There’s still Cindy…” He stubbornly offered.
* * *
“I don’t want us to end up hurting one another again.”
She cringed at my tactless words, not because she knew how unfair I was, but for why she knew how true it could be.
How many times did she have this conversation: with me, with her past loves?
How many times does anyone, everyone, have to go through this scene again?
“I don’t know. But I love you just the same. We still love each other, anyway.”
I broke into tears. Just like before. But unlike before. Because Dianne had seen me cry when I was depressed. She saw me cry when I was disappointed. She saw me cry when I was furious. And she saw me cry when I was so inexplicably happy.
And she cried as well, because she finally understood why I was.