some fall in love. i shatter.

A History of Persia (#35)

In Stories Volume 2 on December 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm

A wave of nausea washed over him for the second time in as many minutes. Three blocks removed from where they’d parted. Five before he reached the nearest subway station. She was probably four away from her apartment if he recalled the address correctly. He stopped before a crosswalk, felt the 2am drizzle intensify and the pressure of history and consequence expand with each drop. In the future, he would forget what he had worn that night but it was his maroon leather jacket, raindrops making a distinct popping noise upon collision. That color would bring something indistinguishable to mind every time he saw it.

When he stopped short, Hill knew it was his moment: either a moment for failure or for glory, but definitely a mark for the future. At the crosswalk, neither crossing nor walking nor deciding because he already knew the coming action, he just wanted to muster a little support for himself. Rubbing some of the rainwater out of his hair, Hill turned around to face north on Third Avenue. The rain falling past the orange street lamps reminded him of old film reels while little puddles formed in the pockmarks of the sidewalk ahead. A police siren cut through Hill’s reflection and spurred him forward, first at a brisk walk, then a hop, then a jog, then a slight run. Up Third Avenue the sidewalks were empty and his long legs spread out in front and behind him. Traffic lights lit up in his favor though few cars drifted off the artery and onto the side streets.

Hill turned the corner on 73rd and his eyes charged up and down the block, hunting her shape. He couldn’t see her but knew she would be walking eastward. A cab honked as he crossed against the light, distracted and looking much further ahead. Only when he reached the corner at Second Avenue did he catch a glimpse of her nearly a quarter of the way towards First. Traffic was heavier. He couldn’t beat the Don’t Walk sign. He watched her walk further away until the cars ceased their overrunning of the crosswalk. Hill ran halfway down the block before she could hear the heavy footsteps of his boots. Her eyes, brimming with panic and a readiness to fight, softened upon recognition.

“Is everything all right?” Her relief had quickly turned to concern. Hill did the best possible reading of her eyes in those two seconds, trying to do quickly and successfully what he had failed at over long periods past. Like every time before though, he lost himself somewhere between the iris, the pupil, and the retina. He remained inside, losing himself further as he slowly brought his face to hers, crossing a boundary. Her eyes closed with him still lost inside. Their lips met on that secretive stretch of 73rd, just steps away from the brightly lit intersection with First Avenue. One eye fluttered open to ground himself in reality. It rested on the steps of the brownstone behind her and it beckoned the brain to relax a moment or two, knowing that whatever heavy lifting was coming, there would at least be this brief moment of happiness and comfort to revel in.

Then she pulled back.

“You’re leaving,” she said

And there was nothing he could say but “I know,” because there was nothing else to say. There was no lying about it, no denying it; it had been the tallest hurdle between them.

She leaned upwards to kiss him again and he kept both eyes open as her smooth eyelids collapsed. He searched for a clue to what a kiss meant when it followed, ‘You’re leaving,’ while she tore through the blackness of her closed eyes for the same answer. She had known this was coming, had alternately thought it inevitable and written it off, never imagined it would be so dramatic as it turned out to be. She tried to relax, to appreciate the cinematic quality of his chase in the rain, the breathlessness at 2am, the wild, passionate look in his eyes, but she too felt burdens. Most importantly, though it was hard for her to say which was most important, the burden of being the one placed in the spotlight and making a decision based on the actions of one who’s had months to think things over.

She pulled back again but only as far she could while maintaining her grip on his waist.

“I have a boyfriend.”

“I don’t care about your boyfriend.” The right corner of his lips twitched with the ring of confrontation.

“But I do.”

“Do you?  Honestly?” She answered with silence, uncertain of the dividing line between what she felt and what she wanted to feel. “I think I know the answer to that question, Claire, but only you can say for sure. And I’m not asking you to.” Hill stepped out of her grip.

“I kind of have to answer that.” She hesitated, leaving him uneasy on the sidewalk, unsure of what to do with his hands, and unconcerned about the rain that had lightly but perceptibly picked up.  All he cared for was what she had to say.  He felt possessed by a different idea of a different man, one more inclined towards meaning.

“I care about Paul,” she said. “I don’t know how much but this isn’t the time or place. I need to think about things. Plus you’re leaving, it’s not quite fair to gloss over that fact.”

“Fairness isn’t important.”

“Fairness is so important, particularly in a situation like this.”

“Nothing will ever be fair between two people, Claire. Equal footing is a myth. It’s something we strive for in relationships and friendships in order to have something to strive for. No matter when we met or when this happened, we’d always be in different places.”

“I don’t think that’s a fair assessment.” She smiled broadly at their inside joke. He barely laughed. “Even if you’re correct about the false pedestal of fairness,” she said with equal parts seriousness and sarcasm, “it’s something worth striving towards, particularly in situations when so much lays upon the decisions of two people and the state of each person affects the decision of the other. Maybe I would feel different about Paul if I knew that you were staying. Maybe you wouldn’t feel the urgency if you weren’t leaving, or if I was flying solo.”

“We both know the footing now.”

“I guess we do.” A silent deflation, the quietest pinprick against thin balloon membrane.

“I’ll let you go then.” He hesitated, uncertain of the words to say or the words said. “I’ll get going. You know where to find me.” They looked in each other’s eyes for a few seconds, giving the other a sort of pass-over, scanning the image of that person in that exact moment to be stored away for whenever they felt lonely or angry or self-righteous. Hill felt that same wave of nausea from earlier. “Goodnight,” he said. Hill had long ago slipped his hands into his jeans pockets. Uncertain of his movements, he pulled his right hand loose and placed it against her lower back as his cheek hung next to hers and his lips hovered in the air, the most polite of empty farewell kisses. He turned to go, wishing the rain would ease off for at least a few minutes.

“Hill.”  He didn’t bother turning back, aware that it would only prolong an already awkward situation and he took great pains to avoid awkward situations.

He would see her again, there was no way to avoid it, and yet it was still farewell. Hill knew that there was no regaining the footing that they had just abandoned. The logic of thought that she so desired to insert signaled the death of any flash that may have come afterwards. For just a passing moment he allowed his hand to linger on her side, in the vague hope that she would have a sudden change of heart – of mind, really, he thought; it is the offending organ – then he turned and began away on that silent and empty city block. Something weighed on him but he couldn’t place it. It was the same thing that had compelled him to act, to put himself so blatantly on the line like he never had before.

A noticeable lack of horns and sirens, shouts and stereos, and his thoughts had that much space to move around. They were able to stretch beyond the space in his head and into the night sky, caterwauling amongst the stars hidden behind the orange haze of the city night.

As much as Hill told himself that it was all meaningless, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a lie; that it was so meaningful and that he had begun to lose some of his very own meaning.  That something about her promised a type of redemption.  No, redemption was too strong of a word. Or, actually, yes, he decided, redemption was the right word but ‘promised’ was wrong.  She brought the possibility of redemption.  She opened up a path to the dreams and the aim that he had been so desperate for of late.  No guarantees he would attain those things but she could show him the way.  She had that in her.  She still had that inside of her, but it wasn’t to be for him.

A wave of cars came floating up Third Avenue.  Still adrift, he thought, still adrift.

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