You were mad at me. You said to me, “Of course it never worked out, because you never wanted to believe that we can work it out!”
The night almost fell asleep. We almost went to bed. For the fourth time I proposed to you the idea of breaking up.
I watched anger cracking away the soft lines of your face. Your beautiful patience stretched you six years before you raised your voice at me that night.
It was silent. The only ones speaking were my choked-up breathing, your angered breathing, and the innocent tick-tocks of the hanging clock. Chills crawled up the tips of my ribs. You looked up, hoping your tears would not spill. Like you, I did not want to cry.
You told me long ago that you could not stand being in the same room as the person who upset you, so you left. It was as if your soft voice whispered curses when you slammed the door.
Whether or not you loved me, I would never know. What I know was that I would come running to you, fatigue hidden perfectly in my suit-and-blouse. Yet each time I greeted you home, my eagerness to see you never seemed to brighten the dim of your eyes. You looked away as I fiddled my fingers near your jugular veins to undo your necktie. You made me feel as if I was a demanding task.
I greeted you nonetheless every evening, with a peck on your dry lips and thin cold fingers on your tie. I took the liberty to take your repellant gestures toward me as a cue for me to leave you be. I removed the smiles from my hellos, and the pecks from my how are yous. I kissed you once more and pretended not to make dejection out of your exasperated sighs.
At one point I adopted what I thought was your point of view, thinking that kissing you and undoing your necktie was also a demanding task. Sometimes I wondered, with our skin too cold from hours of corporate air conditioning and too fragrant from hours of car air fresheners, “Should I tighten his tie all the way and choke him to death?” But I never did, because I liked curling myself in your arms, and because I took comfort in the love we had flickering ever so slowly for each other, even when I was far from satisfied.
I sat waiting for you at the foot of the bed with cheeks tight of dried tears. Were you crying outside? Were you just sick of me being so much?
Our heavy bedroom door creaked hesitantly as you pushed it open, and I watched you standing there as you watched me crying still. I thought you did not love me, but the soft gaze in your eyes confused me. I loved that you loved pulling me close to stroke my hair. I loved the sleepy kisses you gave me in between half-awake smiles. I never forgot what we were, but I had let go of the thought of us being like what we were. Did we not love each other still?
You came and kneeled before me at the foot of the bed. You tucked my fringes softly and pried my hands away from my face. You kissed each of my knuckles, and in between your ragged breathing you gave me a painful, honest smile that shone through your puffy eyes.
It was as if I realized that I still loved you and did not care whether you loved me or not.
Donna Nadira is a writer, animator, videographer, and motion graphics artist. She is the author and co-author of seven books, including one adaptation in a graphic novel. Her artwork can be viewed at vimeo.com/donnanadira and her writings at delsw.blogspot.com. She is a senior at Columbia College Chicago’s film department with a concentration in animation.