The soft shuffling of slippers on tile meant she was already up.
The faintest hue of a pink blush began to brush the sky.
Why so early?
I watch her, but don’t speak.
She runs her hand over her face as she walks toward the door, but she doesn’t turn around to see if I’m awake. I wonder if I would’ve closed my eyes again if she did.
The distances and silences were becoming longer, and more frequent, and attempts to begin conversations through small talk fell flat. Attempts to discuss what was going wrong and how to fix it, and whether or not it was something we really wanted to do, lapsed into a different kind of silence.
Love had settled into familiarity and comfort, but the kind of comfort that came from a raggedy, threadbare blanket full of holes. It was long past fulfilling its purpose, but kept around more out of a sense of nostalgia than anything else.
And we’d settled too, like dust on an antique table depreciating in value. Neither of us thought the effort of restoration was worth the price.
The drive to the airport was silent, as if confirming what she was doing was the right thing to do. It didn’t even feel awkward that I was driving her there.
We were in our memories, just not sharing them, because that might lead to thinking we could salvage what remained. There was, if we were to be honest, a mutual sense of relief and excitement at the prospect of a new start.
It was early enough to find parking. I paid and we each carried pieces of her luggage.
“Traveling light, huh?”
“I threw a lot away.”
“Yes, you did.”
She stopped, gave an exasperated sigh. “Don’t start, love. You said you were fine with me going. You helped me pack. Please don’t make this any more difficult.”
“Any more difficult. It didn’t seem difficult at all.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Maybe not, but that doesn’t make it untrue.”
“We can’t stay together. You know this. Why be petulant now?”
“If I had been petulant earlier, would it have changed your mind. Be honest with me, with yourself, for once.”
She started walking again, beside me now, her voice quieter. “I honestly don’t know.”
The new silence was awkward. She stopped again, and took my hands in hers.
“How about a break then, instead of a break-up?”
I considered it. “We can try that.”
“Good.” She kissed my cheek. “I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.”
“Or if you’ll be back.” It wasn’t a question, but she said yes.
“All right, then. Don’t ask if I’ll wait.”
A look of surprised hurt flashed on her face. “I wasn’t going to sleep with anyone.”
“You can’t say that with any certainty, since you don’t know how long you’ll be gone, or if you’ll be back. I’m telling you up front, depending on the circumstances, I’m not waiting.”
The silence grew tense again, but neither of us moved.
“Then neither will I.” Her eyes grew wet.
“Wait a minute…”
“I’m going to miss my flight. You’re lashing out, and you’re making me lash out too, at the worst possible time.
“What do you want to do? A break or a breakup?”
“I…I don’t know.”
She sighed, then told me. “That’s not an answer, but it is. Why now?”
“Why do you need to leave?”
“To stop…this. We keep doing this. I have to go…” She pulled up the handle to her luggage.
I didn’t move.
“Are you going to help me?”
“Help you walk out of my life? No.”
I flagged down a handler and sent him to her, then I started walking back toward the car, wrestling with my thoughts.
Why couldn’t I decide? Why did I even bring her here at all?
Why is everything so blurry?
I looked back, hoping against hope she’d be running toward me, and all would be forgiven.
But she was gone.
There would be no rom-com ending.
There never is, except in rom-coms.
Love just dies, like the king of Sparta in that other movie: defiant, loud, and brave, but ultimately overwhelmed, ultimately slain, and fondly remembered in glorious defeat.