Response to the Summer of '79 Challenge over at ds Flashfic.
Heís young. He thinks that he knows what there is to know. He smokes too many cigarettes. He drinks too much sometimes. He loves his girl with all of his heart, and he sometimes thinks that might be too much, too, but doesnít know how to love her any less. Heís got too much attitude, and he knows it, but doesnít know how to change that, either. Heís young. He thinks he knows all there is to know, but itís not enough.
Sheís killing me here. She pulls me close and then pushes me away, tells me she loves me as she tells me sheís leaving. She does this again and again. She tells me sheís leaving me because she loves me. That she loves me enough to leave me. What the fuck does that mean? She always comes back, though. Always. I donít know if I want her to anymore. Maybe itís kind of the same thing, like when she leaves because she loves me. Maybe I sometimes donít want her to come back because I love her. Maybe I think that if she wants to leave, if she needs to leave, that badly, that maybe she should.
Maybe Iím as fucked up as she thinks I am.
Maybe I donít care anymore. Maybe I donít love her. What if I just want her to go because Iím a selfish bastard who just wants to live his life without any ties, free, free, free? What if thatís it? Maybe if she leaves, leaves for good, it wonít hurt like I think it will. If she leaves, I wonít have to think about her anymore. Wonít have to hold her till she falls asleep. Wonít have to lie there next to her in the dark and stay awake just to listen to her breathe.
If she leaves, Iíll be okay. Iíll be just fine. I donít need her. Sheís gotta know that, that I donít need her, Ďcause maybe thatís why she keeps going. Why she keeps coming back to me, I donít know. Seems like she doesnít want to. Her face looks like she doesnít want to, but also kind of like she canít stop herself.
Sheís killing me.
I think that maybe Iíve had enough to drink. Not too much - I need to stay steady on my feet here. Canít get out of control; Iíve got to take care of myself. No one else to take care of me. I grin, looking down into my glass of beer. I can take care of myself. Donít think thereís any choice there. Iím okay, Iíll be just fine. This beer, and then Iíll get up and head home. I pick up the beer, swallow it down, wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. Get up, and Iím only a little unsteady. Maybe not enough to drink; definitely not enough to forget her, to forget what she said. But enough for here. Iíll go home and drink some more. Alone.
Iím cold the second I step outside the bar. The wind bites right through my leather jacket and I tug it closer around me. I donít have far to go. Itís close enough to walk, and I leave my car at the curb. Iíll pick it up tomorrow. I could use the walk. I shove my hands in my pockets and head down the street. Itís late, after midnight, and the streetlights catch my shadow. I duck my head further so I donít have to see and stride faster, till I start to think about what there is to go home to. Nothing. I slow down. Itís late, but not too late. Iíve had too much to drink, but not enough. She loves me, but only enough to leave me.
I take the stairs two at a time when I get to the building, my heavy boots creating pounding echoes and fuck what the neighbors think. I drop my keys twice trying to get in the door and I think that Iíve had too much to drink. I get the door open and go in, slam it shut behind me. The apartment is dark and quiet and suddenly I donít want to be here. I sit down on the floor, lean back against the door in the dark. I donít want to be here.
ďItís not enough, Ray.Ē
ďWhatís not enough?Ē And Iím mad, so mad here, wish I could hurt her like sheís hurting me.
ďThis, Ray!Ē is what she says. You, Ray, is what I hear. Sheís got her hands up in her hair, like she canít stand it, is going to lose her mind trying to explain to me what Iím too stupid to see. ďAll of this. I canít do this. I donít want this.Ē
ďStellÖĒ I say and even to me it sounds so pathetic. Why canít I be hard and mean with her, like she is with me?
ďDonít,Ē she says sharply. ďDonít do this to me, donít make me the bad guy. You know this isnít right, you feel it, too. I know you feel it, too.Ē Sheís in my face now, right up in my face.
ďNo, Stella.Ē Her name comes out like a curse. ďI donít know, I donít feel it.Ē I can feel the anger bubbling up inside, strong, strong. My hands are curled into fists, tight, as my heart beats wildly, tries to stay one step ahead of this, one step ahead of her.
ďOh, right, Ray,Ē she says, so sarcastic and cold that it makes me ache. ďI know you donít feel it. What do you want from me here? What do you want me to tell you?Ē
ďThe truth,Ē Itís like the words are grinding out of me as I try to hold myself together.
ďSure,Ē she says, all mocking, and sheís still so close to me. ďWhat do you want to hear, Ray, that youíre not enough for me? Is that what you want to hear?Ē
Sheís trying to be so hard, but sheís young, and even I can see it, can see how the desperation bleeds through. How she wants to leave but canít see how, so sheís here, in my face, in my space, trying so hard to provoke me. I can see it, in the wild whites of her eyes, how itís almost as if she wants to push me hard, so hard, get me so angry that Iíll hit her. Because if I hit her, thereís her ticket. Her get-out-of-jail-free card. She can leave and it wonít be her fault. Itíll be mine, and she always, always wants it to be my fault.
I could never in a million years hit her, but I guess she thinks I could.
Sheís killing me.
All I can do is breathe, and I do, I breathe, and breathe, and look at her face. And sheís bitter and angry, and I think that maybe sheís right, when she says I donít know her. And then she softens, but itís pity, not love, and she murmurs, ďOh, Ray.Ē
I catch hold of her arm as she brushes by me, but she twists away without looking at me and she is so fucking gone it isnít funny. Like sheís not even here, sheís gone, and I slam out the door, leave her behind, because maybe I love her enough to leave her.
Maybe I do.
And now itís me alone, on the floor of the apartment, my back pressed against the door as I look up at the ceiling in the dark. I think about wanting her and then I think, be careful what you wish for. And I donít know what else to wish for, because itís always been her. Even when I have her, sheís what I wish for.
I think that maybe itís time I learned how to wish for something else.
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