When We Broke Apart


How can one have such disparate lives? Each one incomplete without the other; each one a warmth subject to the numbing cold the absence of the other blows gustily in; each one a haven in which a door to the violent outside world is incapable of closing.

They had clung together fiercely then, like pieces of prophesied driftwood that in their early glory were snugly hammered together in just the right way to form the hull of a majestic ship. But they were broken before they began, and it was all they could do to fight against the tumult of a raging storm, an oceanic apocalypse that buffeted them constantly, throwing them into the great abysses of murky whirlpools before they splintered, only to be discarded on some foreboding shoreline by the tempestuous, pitiless sea. Spewed forth, they spilt over one another, awash in the froth of wave after wave of warm affection; and each time they were torn apart by the vile riptides that threw their bodies around, smashed them into the ground and bought them to the surface, gasping for air—so too did a nail fall from the structure of their support, until finally there was nothing else left to keep them together but one another.

And yet, each step she took was his thudding heartbeat. Each morning when she made her tea; when she checked for the mail; when she pulled on her tights; when she filled the tank with putrid gasoline; when she shopped for moisturizer; when she drank beer with her friends and when she laughed at their nervous jokes. Every moment, every neatly parceled motion in her life was embedded with the distinct curve of his smile, the sparkle of his deep green eye, the stubble on his chin and the pores on his nose.

When she closed her eyes sometimes she could smell him, his pungent body odor, the way she possessed it when their blushing bodies rubbed together in awkward embrace, her soft fleshy thigh against his, his flushed chest against her beating breast. She remembered most the heavy weight of his naked body when he shuddered against her, relaxed his muscles, and eased into her torso, those rare moments where the whole world fell away and they became nothing more than each other, an ugly fleshy mass of hair and limbs that was her primal perfection. Then they would sit for hours, nude, absorbed in nothingness, and those were the moments she loved best. She would feed him cheese on crackers and he would turn to her with an expression of complete surprise; it was in those moments that it seemed like he had only just laid his eyes on her for the first time, and while he was momentarily absorbed in a rapt wonderment she would gorge herself on his love.

Now she longed for sleep. Not the maniacal, shunting force that grabbed her every night, but something solid and quiet, some place where his voice couldn’t reach her. Each night was worse than the one before it. At first, sleep never came, and when it did it was abrupt, it knocked the wind out of her. Unconsciousness made her anxious, as in her sedated state she dreamed of him; dreamed of his salty tongue against her lips, his hand across her hips, and his laugh—his laugh like music—over and over again. She would dream of packing her bags, of returning, of that idyllic moment where she would rush into his arms, and then she would wake violently, sweaty, crying, her sobs lamenting the early morning silence.

And so the cycle would begin again, until at last the first shards of sunlight would find their way through the relenting cracks in the blinds. Indeed, morning would bring the sun, but still no relief. She would lie for hours then, her body intent on remaining inert between the dirty white sheets that she buried herself in, too listless to convince herself to even move. Slowly, slowly, the sun would once again begin its decent in the west and she would find herself suddenly bewildered in the early evening dusk, barely moved from her cushiony oasis—and still unable to will herself to do so.

Maybe she was selfish, she never foresaw the end. But then, who could? Her own heart had felt the savage blow by cupid’s bestial blow more than once before, and with each laceration she felt more and more that the worst thing in life would be to be alone for eternity. She despised the notion of solitude, repulsed by the image of herself as a bitter Havisham holed up in her mansion with her dollars and her dresses and her cats.

But since she had lost him she no longer cared about the being alone, the thought even carried with it a strange morsel of comfort. Now there could be nothing worse than to live her life without him.

And how could she ever really abandon that notion? That fantasy that had enraptured her from the first moment he had kissed her in the heady sweat of the club as the music pulsated around them, deflecting from their pale faces and desperate saliva, rippling around them like the spoiled surface of a subterranean pond. In that moment she had taken pleasure in the drunken bodies that pushed them back and forth, the ones that spilled their sickly drinks, moving to pounding rhythms and masquerading in their pointless self absorption; those bodies that were too obsessed with their repulsive posturing to witness the birth of this inexorable beast. Irreparably moved by this moment and the new secret that had begun its irreversible growth within her, she willingly fell, end over end, into a reckless, unconditional love.

Separation was their constant companion, and even the briefest day spend apart compelled an unquenchable longing, for every minute away from one another was like an hour, and each hour an eternity. Their reunions thus occurred in a flurry of hands and faces, in which their idolatry of one another would vomit from within them, completely unabridged.

Every time she heard his key turn in the lock her ears, sharp and feline, would prick, and as the doorknob turned, she would bound down the hall way, flying through the air into his open arms. Mid flight, her mane of dark hair would whip across her shoulders and shadow their faces in a curtain within which he would bestow a million kisses across her chest and neck. She would giggle in wild paroxysms of delight and wrap her eager legs tightly around his body; there was nothing that could tear them apart.

In this manner they would remain, he would walk with her bound around him like a serpent to the kitchen where she, against her innermost instinct of uselessness, would be attempting dinner. Amongst the debris of burnt pans and soiled tea towels, he would place her gently on the bench, sigh, and turn her mess into their nightly feast.

And now. Now she let other men kiss her, their dry lips desperately pushing against hers, their rogue fingers, in a lascivious endeavor, finding their way through labyrinth of undergarments to her bare skin. She would close her eyes in these moments, sometimes so tight she thought they would bleed, or perhaps be sucked back into her skull. With her eyelids clasping each other, in the darkness, she imagined those strange, lecherous men were him, but the kisses were not the same. The dispassionate need they had, the crying to be loved, to be touched, to make human contact—it was all a charade.

Occasionally, one of them would ask her for her heart. And she would promise it with a revised rhetoric, her apathetic countenance revealing nothing of her inward guilt, and the shrieking banshee that inhabited the cavity beneath her rib cage. And so she’d go; roaming the broken landscape with a certain sadness, for year still haunted and haunting, heartsick and alone, the wail within her never quite reaching a crescendo.

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