Thursday, October 15, 2015

Chapter 19: Clenched Teeth and Venom

And Liam wrote:

She said we need to "talk."  Right,  I thought.  Tell me about "we."  And don't forget "need."  Tell me more about what I need.

Mastering my rage, my pain, the words that actually left my mouth were "Yes, we do."

And then she delivered the kicker:  "I wasn't just leading you on.  You need to know that."

Right.  Tell me what I need.  You're so aware of what I need.  And what I need is so important to you.  You want to make sure that I have what I need.  And not just what I think I need... but what you, in your privileged wisdom, KNOW that I need.  Enlighten me, baby.

The office was empty, but I knew the web design team was meeting in the next room, so what wanted to come out at the top of my lungs came out low, through clenched teeth.

"Oh really?  I need to know that?  Is that what you think?"

"It's the truth."

"Ah, the truth."  I was clenching harder now.  "Is the 'truth' what I need to know or what you need me to know?"

"Spin it any way you want, I didn't lead you on.  There's more to this than just your feelings, you know.  If you'd just..."

I wasn't able to hear another word.  What sounded like a freight train that had been building in my ears for the last minute reached a crescendo, and I was deaf to all else.  "No.  No.  You don't get to do that.  You don't get to wash your hands at the door and then walk out.  To hell with that.  You want to exonerate yourself, go to confession, go see a shrink... but don't wipe your dirty hands on me and walk out the door again.  I won't let you use me for that, too."

"Use you?"  Now she was pissed.  "Why you...” she was clenching her teeth now, too.  "I left because..."

"What part of what I just said didn't you understand?  I don't want to hear it.  If you have a declaration or excuse to make, save it for someone who will care."  In that moment, I was sorry that the only thing I had to hurl at her were my words.... and that I couldn't find any that seemed heavy or sharp enough.  And at the same time, what little venom I could spout burned me on the way out.  

"Fine."

She walked out of the office and slammed the door.  Fine, indeed.  For as much as I wanted to hurt her, to make her feel as bad as I felt, deep down I knew she was struggling too.  I knew it that night in my hotel room.  I obviously had no better response now than I did then.  I guess this time, genius that I am, I wasn't going to let that stop me from action.

I felt like putting my hand through the monitor screen.  Instead I cradled my forehead in my hands, elbows on my desk.  I am not, I repeat, NOT going to go through this again.  I let it... and her... go.  It was over.  Done and gone.  I will move on.  

Yeah.  Right.

At least with a doorknob remark, escape isn't far behind.  This time for both of us.

I tried to distract myself all the way back to the hotel.  I read the evening edition of the paper... or tried to... during the subway ride.  But really I just stared out the window, having a conversation with her in my imagination.  All of the things I wanted to say, all of the anticipated responses...

Why? Why did you leave me?  Why did you stop?  Why did you even come up?  Why did you let me kiss you?  What are you so afraid of?  What in the name of God do you want from me?

I knew all of the answers.  It wasn't the questions, or even the answers, that hurt do badly.  I was aware of all of that from before the first moment I leaned in for the first kiss.

My anger gave way to sadness before I reached the hotel.  I didn't want to go back there, to see the desk and remember.  But I couldn't avoid it forever.   I swiped my cardkey and pushed the door in.  The foyer was still and the room was bright.  Room service left the curtains open again.  I wasn't three steps in when I saw a silhouette at the table by the balcony.  

She had a single wineglass on the table in front of her.