I don’t want to hate you.
I don’t want to beg.
A fascination gets in my way.*
Beginning without her, life was somewhat gray and lifeless. I’d been through the wringer. I guess I was wounded or triggered or offline and unavailable for a bit. The online dating arena was boring me to death, even as I imagined myself coming out of the shock of my previous relationship disaster.
I knew it was coming. I was sidelined. As I discussed with myself nightly, “I am new to the team, I understand that. But I want to be on the field. I want to play. At the moment, you’ve got me on the bench. While I love the dance between you and your beautiful son, I’m beginning to feel like a nice to have rather than a required player. Put me in coach.”
The third time I came back to her house her best friend was diagnosed with invasive brain cancer. While I knew my nurture and support skills were up to the challenge, I was not invited to the sacrament. I would not be invited to the funeral either. How can I remain alienated from your best friends? Even as I took her son for the initial days of the scans and doctor visits and hope, it was clearer and clearer that this long descent into the ravages of hell would not include my hopeful influence.
Time for me to go home to my single dad strapped by child support apartment and reexamine my choices of the last year. The time of shunning and disrespect was over between the landlords and me. There was no place for the anger and resentment in the house of dying. It was clear the games ahead would require my withdrawal or trade to a different team.
Oh, I understood how to be alone again. I stared out at the lit and rippling swimming pool just below my 2nd story window. I noticed the noisy play of my upstairs neighbors and was inclined to walk up the stairs to meet them. Instead, I stayed in a daydream of sleeping pills, psychotherapy, and antidepressants. Nothing worked. Loneliness came creeping in. Depression would be soon to follow. I was all too familiar with this trajectory.
Six months in, a hopeful remission compelled us to the tennis courts again. We met in the park and discussed “the fkrs trying to break us up.” How could we let their toxic bitterness to ruin this deep connection we had, both to her son and the courts we would dance on every Friday night?
I jacked up on suppression strategies for my rage and began sleeping over again. Then everyone’s world flipped upside down with the global apocalypse and we agreed to shelter in place together, the three of us.
In an alternate universe things worked out. Her dying friend welcomed the support and the “boyfriend” that had reinhabited the house they provided at such a sweetheart rate that included fielty to the king and the descending queen.
Of course, I could’ve survived the end of the world alone in my apartment with the luminescent ceiling of insomnia. A week before she was granted a summer pass from her dying friend and we left the burning plains of Texas for the nearly virus-free Vermont with cousins and a younger brother’s drinking problem, I moved all of my Earthly possessions into a 10 x 10 steel storage unit without climate control. I’d been through this movie twice before. A defeated withdrawal from the house of pool luminescence led us to new highs and lows.
She never really returned from Vermont. It was her former college and post-graduate home. Her brother’s family came with built-in cousins who had a horrifying habit of using “butthole” in most of their taunts and retaunts. I was not okay with the language, the violence, the disrespect, but I drank the wickedly strong craft IPAs and kept my mouth shut. More Prozac and Xanax.
“We’ll always have Vermont,” I messaged her a few years later, weeks before her best friend died quietly at their tower-like house just over the back fence from her rental house. I got back the only appropriate response. (A green heart means love of a different variety.)
I did not know anything about her life or the life of her son, even still I felt a release when a friend told me yesterday that her friend had finally ascended. I can only imagine the subsidized housing might be at risk when the king began thrashing about in pain looking for escape velocity in his newly refurbished gold 911.
Read more Short-Short Stories from John.