What's Left to Lose?

"Was it a mistake to love you? Was it a mistake to think that we could actually become something more? Was it a mistake to offer myself to you- every part of me, every tear, every ounce of love that I held in my heart, every dream and every hope I had that someday we could wake up beside each other with a permanent smile, happy that we had another day, another memory to share?
Perhaps it was. It could be that perhaps I had yet again jumped the gun. But I’m not going to let it tear me apart anymore. Despite the pain, despite each night I spent sobbing into my pillow, clutching that part of my chest that once held a stable heart... despite each and every morning I woke up, afraid to live another day... I want to say thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be reborn. Thank you for making me stronger. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to find the right person that deserves what you had the nerve to throw away. Now I wake up each and every morning comforted by the only thought that gets me through each day: You will never find anybody else like me."

I wish I had the courage to give this to him. But writing it was a start. Sure, most of it isn’t 100 percent true, but hopefully it will be, in given time. Keyword being hopefully. It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. I used to be such a good writer.

I heard a faint rustling in the bed. Wade must be waking up. I glanced over to where he lay, bundled up beneath a cloud of sheets, red in color. The shade of red wasn’t that of a candy heart on Valentine’s Day, no; rather, its shade reminded me of dried blood that gathers on your skin just after you’ve picked at a scab too much.

Wade was facing me, his raven hair masking his eyes, which were still closed. Through a gap in his tousled hair, I could still see the birthmark on his cheekbone, a small brown dot that all the ladies love. It adds character to his already handsome face, but now it looks like a bothersome mole to me. The bags underneath his eyes have gotten darker, worsened only by hours spent awake watching late night television.

His eyes fluttered a bit, snapping open then closed. With an audible yawn, he stretched his arms behind his head, lightly bumping the headboard. I slipped the note in the computer desk underneath a growing pile of bills. I pretended to be browsing the internet, opening Facebook even though he knows I’ve grown to hate Facebook.

“Good morning,” he muttered.

I focus my attention on the computer screen, staring at the bright blue page.

“Good morning,” I mumbled.

I heard him shift around in the bed and I started to click on random things that I had zero interest in. His light steps creaked on the wooden floorboards, each step playing its own tune. His hand slithered across my shoulders; his fingers are more rough and calloused than I thought. With effort, I decided to shift my gaze up at him and our eyes locked momentarily. His eyes are bloodshot... I wonder how long he’d been awake last night. There’s something different. The look he’s giving me... it’s odd. It’s somber. Almost pleading.

“You shouldn’t sit so close to the computer like that,” he said. “You’ll hurt your eyes.”

He looked at the screen one more time before shuffling out of the bedroom. I spun around in my chair and I let out a long-held sigh. I’ve become a prisoner in my own home.

I changed into some fresh clothes, taking as much time as I could before leaving The Dungeon, as I liked to call it. The air sent chills throughout my body and gave me goose bumps. This room was always the coldest in the apartment; now it goes beyond temperature.

I walked out to the living room where Wade was sitting on the couch eating cereal, staring at the TV. It’s astounding how one can watch so much TV. I sat on the opposite end of the sofa, resting my feet on the coffee table. Wade shot me an annoyed glare.

“It’s not an ottoman,” he said.

Without breaking eye contact, I slowly planted my feet on the floor. He went back to watching baseball and scooping spoonful after spoonful of cereal into his mouth. As odd as it was, we used to share bowls of cereal. We were like kids on Saturday morning, waking up bright and early with a bowl of cereal, excited to watch our lineup of TV shows. I rarely eat breakfast anymore.

“Where are you headed to?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re dressed up.”

“Oh. Well, I wasn’t planning on going anywhere.”

Wade looked me up and down briefly. I hate being analyzed like that.

“You know those jeans have a rip on the side, right?”

“I’m aware, Wade.”

“I’m just saying.”

“Yeah. Okay.”

My leg started kicking nervously. I can’t lose my temper. It’s just not worth the energy anymore. I looked over at him as he was brushing his greasy, matted hair out of his face. I’d been telling him for weeks to get it cut, or at least wash it every other day. He always gave me the same smug grin and changed the subject. After awhile, I just stopped caring.

“You know what, I think I’m gonna go take a walk,” I said, rising to my feet.

“Don’t get lost,” he snickered.

I flipped him off behind his back and slipped my shoes on. I couldn’t get out there fast enough. I was met by a crisp breeze as soon as I stepped out. I took a deep breath, inhaling the smooth scent of wet cement after fresh rainfall. I stomped on the cement, splashing the little puddles that formed in the little dips of pavement. The water soaked through my shoes and socks and I felt like a toddler again.

I walked out onto the street, picking up my cold feet as best as I could. I glanced at the park in the distance. I decided to head there. I dug my hands into the pockets of my hoodie and shuffled along, kicking up the wet leaves. Wade and I used to love taking walks on days like these.

If you were to tell me years ago that Wade and I would burn out, I would have cussed you out. I would have defended our “undying and unconditional” love with everything I had. But if we were to meet again right now, well, I’d at least shake your hand.

I don’t exactly know what happened. Even if I did, I couldn’t tell anybody how it got to that point. I guess the best explanation I can give is simply... I just lost it. There was no big, earth-shattering occurrence that made me stop loving him. I wish there was though. Maybe then I would feel less guilty. I don’t know, I guess it wasn’t until several months after he moved in with me. Our days became a routine: wake up, eat breakfast, chat, go to work, come home, eat dinner, cuddle in front of the TV, take a shower, go to bed (sex included maybe twice a week), repeat. After awhile, we started just going through the motions. I started noticing things I had never noticed before, like the annoying way he chews with his mouth open and the way he always corrects my behavior. Now, don’t get me wrong... we have our good days. We have fun every now and then, even though those days were few and far between.

At least the sex is still awesome.

I settled on a park bench, overlooking a small pond. Gusts of wind made the water ripple and I watched as the rings grew bigger and bigger. All around me kids were running around, dipping their feet and hands in the pond in defiance of their parents. One child stopped and smiled at me; I peered down at my shoelaces, now stuck to the top of my shoes.

Parents gazed at their darling children with adoring eyes and it made my heart ache. That was the kind of life Wade and I (as well as everybody else in our lives) envisioned for ourselves. We were “that” couple that everyone thought would last forever. For the last two years of high school and all four years of college, we were practically inseparable. It was your typical teenage love story. But our happy ending turned into a cliffhanger.

The obvious answer to our problem would be to break up. Just “break the f*** up and you’ll feel so much better” as my friends always tell me. But seriously... anyone who’s been in a long-term committed relationship would say that it’s easier said than done. When you’ve shared six years of your life with someone you trust, someone you’re in love with... were in love with... it becomes an uphill battle. That apartment is cold and unbearable when I’m by myself.

Sigh.

“...meow...”

Was that seriously a cat? I shot forward on the bench and I looked around. Maybe I’ve finally lost my mind.

“Meow...”

A small, gray tabby cat jumped on the bench next to me, causing me to jump. Its small frame crawled up to me and sniffed my arm.

“Hi sweetie... what do you think you’re doing?”

I reached my hand out to pet the little one on the head and it was hesitant to accept my friendship.

“It’s okay, I won’t hurt you. I promise.”

After sniffing my hand for a couple seconds, it inched closer and I lightly brushed my fingers over its head. It started licking its paws and I noticed that they were crusted with dried blood.

“You poor little thing,” I said, running my fingers through its fur. “You’ve been through a lot, haven’t you?”

It looked up at me with pitiful blue eyes, eyes not blue like ocean water; it reminded me of the pastel blue chalk that I used to color on the sidewalk with during long summer days. My heart melted as it slowly climbed on my lap and sat down. Its striping made me think of it as a small gray tiger battered and beaten after years in the safari. I caressed its head, scratching lightly behind its ears. A medium-sized scar ran down its left ear and it jerked its head away if I got close to touching it.

“You’re all beat up kitty,” I whispered. “But still cute nonetheless. I’m sure you hear that all the time though, right kitty?”

It moved its head up to sniff my hand again and it licked my hand. Its sandpaper tongue tickled my fingers and I couldn’t help but smile.

I’d forgotten what it felt like to really smile. I missed the feeling.

“You’re a sweetheart, you know that?” I said, gently bumping its nose with the tip of my finger.

“Look at you... it looks like you’ve been on your own for quite some time now. And you’ve survived. Despite being alone, you haven’t forgotten how to love someone. I wish I were more like you.”

The cat had no tags or collar. No signs of any connection to a home or family. I gently lifted the animal and saw that it was a female. I want to take her home. But can I take care of her? S***, I can barely take care of myself.

“Meow,” she squeaked, turning on her side. She’s so cute.

F*** it.

“You’re finally going home today, sweetie.”

I scooped her up and cradled her in my arms. I rose to my feet and started my journey back to the apartment. She started purring as I stroked her fur, which is remarkably clean and soft for a stray. She must’ve gotten caught in the rain last night.

It bothered me that for the first time in a long time, I felt genuinely happy. All it took was a sweet kitten. A kitten. A feline. An animal. Trivial things can bring me the most joy and I’m known as one of the hardest people to please.

I paused outside the door to my apartment, mentally preparing myself for a battle. He’s not going to like this. I stepped in, supporting the kitten on my arm. I scanned the room and I saw Wade sitting on the sofa, his head lowered, arms crossed. His back was facing me. The television was off.

I crept up to him and sat on the recliner. His eyes were fixed on the coffee table. I followed his gaze. My note was resting there.

S***.

“What the f***, Cari?”

I studied his face, the way his eyebrows furrowed, the way he bit his lip. His eyes were red and puffy. I guess he’d been crying.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“You tell me.”

I leaned back in the recliner, with the kitten in my lap. She looked like she was falling asleep. Calm and relaxed.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Wade grabbed the note off the coffee table and held it in my face.

“Did you write this?”

Was it a mistake to love you... perhaps I had yet again jumped the gun... sobbing into my pillow... yikes. My handwriting has gotten sloppy.

“I did.”

He let out an exasperated sigh and crumpled the note in his hand. It fell to the floor and he buried his face in his hands. He combed his fingers through his hair and looked up at me. His eyes settled on the kitten and he grimaced.

“What the hell is that?” he breathed.

“It’s called a kitten,” I replied.

He closed his eyes and shook his head. He got up and started pacing. He paces when he’s nervous. He also paces when he’s pissed out of his mind.

Here we go.

“I don’t even know what the f*** goes on in your mind anymore. I mean, what’s the matter with you? You barely talk to me for days on end and I can’t tell if you’re all there anymore. And now all of a sudden, you bring home a cat!”

I need to buy a litter box and some food. The poor thing must be hungry.

“I’ve done so much for you, Cari. I dedicated six years of my life to making sure you were always happy. Six f***ing years. I made myself look like a goddamn idiot sometimes just to keep you around. But I didn’t care. That smile I would put on your face was worth it all. And now you say it was a mistake to love me? F*** that.”

What should I name her? Half the fun is naming a new pet.

“I can never win with you, can I? No matter how hard I try, I can’t ever make you happy anymore.”

Her name is Clover. I’ve decided. I need to buy her a collar and tags...

“I give up.”

Wade walked up to me and I kept stroking Clover’s fur.

“Look at me Cari,” he said, tilting my chin to face him. “I’m done wasting my time waiting for the impossible.”

I watched him walk to the bedroom and I couldn’t move. Clover started cleaning herself. He came back out, bags in hand.

“I’ll be staying at my friend’s place,” he said, stopping by the door. “I’ll be back sometime to get the rest of my stuff.”

“That’s fine,” I mumbled.

I stood up to say goodbye and I placed the kitten on the seat.

“So this is it,” I said.

“Yup.”

Wade and I stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. His shoulders slouched and he was paler than I remembered.

“You’re an amazing girl Cari,” he said softly. “Things may have gotten sour between us, but that will never change the fact that I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Wade looked me up and down one last time before walking out the door. The apartment is silent. I looked around, and everything looked so different to me. I was still a stranger in my own home. My feet were glued to the floor and I stared at the door. Six years walked out the door. Six years left me behind.

I heard the door unlock and my heart skipped. Wade walked through the door and my body momentarily went into shock. Tears were falling freely from his swollen eyes and he just stood in the doorway. After six years, this is what it came down to.

“I forgot to give you your key back,” he sniffed.

He handed the key to me and I brushed my fingers over his hand as I took it.

“Thank you.”

He stood in the doorway a bit longer and I watched as his tears fell to the floor, dripping off his chin. In one swift movement, he approached me and wrapped his arms around me. He held me closely and I felt his wet tears soak through my sleeve. I slowly snaked my arms around him, consoling him.

“You’re a beautiful soul,” he whispered. “You’re gonna have an amazing life with someone who can make you indelibly happy. But it probably won’t be me.”

Wade pulled away from me and a single tear fell from my eye.

“I’m sorry Wade.”

“I know.”

Wade moved back out the door after kissing me softly on the cheek.

“Take care of yourself.”

The door closed and the silence grabbed me again. Without warning, I collapsed to my knees, tears pouring down my face. I hadn’t cried like this for a long time. Maybe I needed this. I needed a reminder that I was still human. That I was still here.

That I was still me.

I felt a sandpapery friction on my finger and I looked up and saw Clover licking my fingers. With a soft meow she began pawing at my knee and rubbing her face against my hand, purring. I picked her up and kissed her soft head. The tears flowed freely from my eyes. All I could think to do was laugh, maniacally. What else can I do?

So I laughed.





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