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As the rain falls
I walk out the backyard door at 8:30 pm on Friday, July 13th. I’m wearing a thin sweater and an umbrella dangles from my right wrist. I also put a small flashlight in the front pocket of my jeans, and my cell phone is safely tucked away in the other, my keys dangling from it with the black, red, white, and purple ribbons I attached to the lanyard. I don’t have to worry about my parents for once; they finally left me home alone for two days! It’s about time. I make my way through the thin line of trees as the winds pick up just a little bit. The day’s stifling heat has not been blown away and remains at a seventy-eight degrees. Heading across the elementary school field that lies just behind my backyard, I calmly but quickly walk to that dark corner, nicknamed the Panda Passageway. I’m meeting him there, between the thick forest of the tallest bamboo sticks I’ve ever seen, ten, eleven, maybe twelve or thirteen feet in the air. Things are about to change, maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. There will be more drama and depression at school, which I despise; but on the bright side, I won’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not anymore, and I won’t have to act like I love him; his hugs won’t torture me anymore; and his variations of “I love you” won’t cause me anymore of that heart-wrenching pain. I have to respond accordingly so I’m grateful that this is all written in text messages and e-mails so my lies cannot be seen in my eyes and heard in my voice. I’m an honest person, so every lie makes me feel like the lowest being on Earth. I’ve tortured myself for about a month and a half like this, and I just know I need to stop because I need to take care of myself. When it comes down to it, I’m the only one whom I can really 100% trust. So I need to do everything I can to defend myself. Tears blur my eyes, and for the first time in a few weeks, I finally allow myself to let a tear escape. A few more roll down with it, down my cheek, curving around my chin, until finally being torn down and pulled to the ground. On the top of my head and arms I feel something small and cold. I touch it, and my fingers come away wet. I raise my face to the sky and smile, feeling dozens, hundreds of the small raindrops splash against my face. Internally, I thank the rain. Most people would see rain as a bad omen, but for me, an alignment of the planets could not be a better sign than what I have: it’s Friday the 13th, the full moon is shining as bright as ever behind the thick clouds, and the rain is pounding against me gently. Thank you, I think. Thank you for the support, I needed that. When you were born on Friday, October 13th, and are relatively positive-minded for the most part, omens get completely mixed up on you. Having all these sings with me right now, including the dark of night to shield my face, I hope maybe things will go my way tonight: bearable heartbreak, unlike how it would be in the normal scenario where it would be unbearable; and maybe there won’t be too many arguments. Hopefully.
I get to the Panda Passageway and walk immediately to the place where the bamboo shoots are the tallest and bow over the small walkway. The rain splatters against me a little less than before but it still gives me enough courage, and the moonlight being filtered through the bamboo leaves makes me have hope that I will be okay after this.
Five minutes later, his silhouette appears holding a large umbrella. I have not opened my umbrella at all tonight; I don’t want to block the rain out, I need it to seep through to my heart and give me strength. I am lucky enough not to be able to see his face, and I know he can’t see mine. My face or my tears. He walks over to me as the rain starts to pound harder. He puts his umbrella over my head for a second before I push it away, back to its previous position. He, not noticing, steps closer to hug me; I take a step away, exactly the distance he covered with one footstep. I can imagine his face, still unseen in the darkness, and the rain gently splatters against us just a little more. Slowly, I watch as his arms drop. Then his voice rings out quietly in the night, cutting through the sheets of warm rain.
“Hi. When you called on the phone you sounded so urgent. What happened? Are you okay?” After three and a half months of dating him, I knew exactly what his voice would’ve sounded like just then, and I was right: worried, soft, steady… gentle.
I squared my shoulders, straightened my back, and raised my chin just a little: I knew what I had to do, no more procrastinating, no more putting off the heartbreak, no more torturing myself.
“No,” I replied, surprised and proud at how firm and brave my voice my soft voice sounded. “I’m not okay. I should have done this a long time ago, when I first started to feel the rift-”
“What are you talking about?” His panicked voice was just a little louder than before, like he was starting to become hysterical. I felt the Relaxil pills in my back pocket; they would not kill him or anything, not even knock him out. The two that I had would only relax him a little so he would get home safely. Their effects would wear off after an hour and then he would be overcome by emotion and heartache. But he’d at least be safe at home by then, not wandering the dark streets of the neighborhood, soaking wet.
Pause. Deep breath. Eyes closed. Here we go: “It’s time. I tell everyone that middle school relationships don’t last, and now I know why: we’re just not mature enough for them to last….”
“So, you’re breaking up with me?” His voice was close to tears now, so I took out the two pills.
Handing them to him, I said, “Don’t worry, these won’t even knock you out for a second. They’ll just calm you down for a little while.” I could feel his gaze on my face even though I couldn’t see it in the darkness.
Slowly, he reached out and took them from my hand, his fingers lingering on mine for just a second. Guard your heart, I wanted to say to him. Guard your heart like I guard mine and stop wearing it on your sleeve! I watched as he swallowed the pills dry.
“I’ve thought about his for a really long time, and I know that this is what’s best for both of us. No, please don’t. Don’t argue. You’ve always been the softer one of the two of us, and the responsibility of doing what’s right and what’s for the best falls on my shoulders,” I said. “So, I’m doing what’s best. We were both happy when we were just friends. Let’s go back to that.”
I heard sniffles in the night, barely audible in the pounding rain. I wanted to do something to ease his pain, but I couldn’t. If I showed weakness now this would never be over, and I would be forever chained, an eagle trying to spread her wings but only being able to ram them into the metal bars of the cage I was in. I needed my freedom like air now, just to be able to live, not die away in my shell and become a zombie. Those days had to be over now and I had to stop loosing myself to someone else.
He stepped toward me once more, for the last time. This time, I didn’t keep the distance between us. This time I just stood, rooted to the spot. Because it wouldn’t have mattered anymore; besides, even if I wanted to move, I couldn’t. My legs were practically paralyzed with the knowledge of what I’d just done, of the pain I caused him.
His face inches from mine now, I could dimly see his eyes. They were full of pain but some hope twinkled in them as well. He thinks this can get me back…. As his pained blue eyes bore deep into mine, I feel his forehead touching my skin. Then I watch as the rain keeps washing away my tears so he can’t see them. I watch as his head moves down a little. I watch as his eyes start to drift shut and his lips, gentle, press against mine. I close my eyes, too, but not in longing and happiness from the kiss; rather in pain of what I have to do. I stay there, limp, eyes closed, soaking wet in the encouraging warm rain, with shafts of moonlight filtering down on me as he places his hands on the top of my arms, never breaking the kiss. But his lips are just there, no spark, no surge of electricity. Finally, he lets go of me and straightens up, opening his eyes a second later than I open my eyes. The hope still sparkles in them. I keep my face expressionless, composed, cold.
“Are you really saying there are things more important than this?” he whispers.
No. There is nothing more important than love. But this isn’t love. To me, these are chains that bind me and strip away all the freedom of my heart and my soul. So I nod my head slightly as I lock eyes with him, because this will be the cleanest break I can give him. Clean breaks heal the fastest. The glimmer of hope disappears. He lowers his eyes, his umbrella drooping a little. He stares at the ground as he whispers, “Goodbye, my love,” and turns around to leave. I see his silhouette stoop a little and turn around three times to glance back at me. All he sees is me staring right back at him, soaked by the still-pouring rain. He walks slowly, like the pain is a series of two-hundred-pound weights chained to his ankles and wrists. Finally he walks out the of the innocent Panda Passageway and turns the corner, calmly, sadly following the path that brought him here, that will bring him home. Somehow, I already know he will never walk the path again, in fear of the weights of pain getting chained to him over and over again.
As he disappears from sight, I feel my knees wobble and finally allow them to give out beneath me. I slide to the jagged, worn-down concrete and lean against the fence, absorbing the rain and moonlight and pain that I will never allow myself to show anyone, crying. Even though the warm rain is nourishing me, heat seeps out of my body. I look at my watch: 9:00. I’ve completed the whole break-up scene in about twenty minutes. After another twenty minutes pass, I finally push myself up from the cold, hard concrete ground and make my way back home, still drowning in pain and sorrow for all the hurt I inflicted on him, still silently shedding tears, knowing the only things that can help me now are strength, time, hope, and my newly acquired freedom.