by London Rush
After five years absent, a young man and woman briefly reconnect.
| It’s the men without pasts that a girl should be the most wary of. There are only two kinds of men in the world: those who struggle with their past, and liars. I manage to ascribe to both classes.
When I found her, I worshiped her. I hung on her every word. I swam, breathless, in the gray blue pool of her eyes. I was young, she a little younger. Yet I was old enough to understand one simple truth. Afterwards, she would live her life, a free spirit and alive; I would forever be a captive man.
Yet here we sat in the ethereal darkness of a movie theatre, watching a romantic comedy with all the shared ingredients of my current situation save one factor--they always managed to tie up all the loose ends and live happily ever after. But I had to hand it to Hollywood. They made a damn fine business of regurgitating the same urban fairy tales year after year and luring the young girls, the washed up whores, and the hopeless romantics back time and again.
Marx didn’t know a damn thing. Sex is the opiate of the masses.
No, not the literal act of intercourse! I’m not talking about porno—give me a little credit. But you watch two hours of this drivel and it has this way of sucking you into it. The girl finds the guy that completes her existence, and then they’re separated for some reason or another. Throw in a fling for both of them, a couple roundabouts, then thrust them together at the end of the film, breathless and alone. They find each other at last. The man brushes the hair out of her eyes. He runs his hands down the small of her back. She leans into the warmth of his body. He cups her chin and leans closer. They taste each other’s breath. Time stands still. Oh, God…
Like I said it’s always the same. Every time these scenes unfold, there is always at least a few who are watching who are wondering if it’s really possible, if it could really be them in that situation. Not likely. The reason people flock to the theaters is because there they can have an experience that transcends all reality. For two hours they can forget the asshole at home that only wants to talk when it’s time for sex. After all, that is all men want—sex.
So am I delusional? Or an exceptionally rare case of virtue? I’m a lying fiend with a past who’s not interested in sex. I wonder what repressed childhood memories created this god-awful paradox.
I steal a covert glance at Hanna. She’s so enthralled by the film she’s not aware of my existence. It gives me a moment to trace the contours of her face—the gentle slope of her forehead and the soft curve of her brow, framing those doe-like eyes. Her slightly up-turned nose and the curvature of her lips, soft and slightly parted. The curve of her neck leading downward to naked shoulders and further down to the ample rise of her breasts.
I quickly return to the film. I drown out the trivial plotline with my usual cynicism. My heartbeat flutters in my ears and my throat scratches so I cough, and pretend to be enraptured by the film. She looks at me and I force an awkward smile.
Hanna is the bookends of a broken dream that grinded to a stop after four years and eight months. She was there in the beginning, waiting, offering. I chose to walk away five years ago and leave her alone. I pretend to not know it hurt her. God, I know it did. Here we are again though, five years later, right where we left off. So far this story has the makings of the Notebook part two, and to beat all I’m back in North Carolina. But I’m no Ryan Gosling.
Yes, I pretend to be unaware of her feelings—at least the incriminating ones.
I pretend to not know a lot of things. If willful ignorance is the worst kind then I am a wickedly ignorant man. But an ignorant man is less conspicuous than an indifferent man.
Hanna leaves to California by month’s end. I stay in North Carolina, in a small, backwater town. I ponder what I should do about all of this—if anything. Maybe it would be best to let her leave my life the same way she came in, silent and alone. After all, she has plans that aren’t going to change on my account. I have a life, or the remnants thereof, I need to be worried about.
God, I’m as bad as a fucking pedophile. I get my fix and let her deal with the goddamn mess. She drifts through my arms at opportune times, apparently at five year intervals. She binds my wounds, captures me completely, then I let her crumble through my fingers. I don’t think she sees it that way, but again, I’m not going to say anything.
Willful ignorance is not the greatest of evils. Remember that.
The movie ends. We walk outside. The sun blinds me and the early summer breeze feels warm against my cheeks. How has she already managed to get such a tan this early in the season?
We get in her car and drive back to where I parked at a local gas station. The muffled hum of the radio provides ambience but we are both silent. I think a Taylor Swift song is playing, but I’m not sure. Appropriate? Maybe, if I knew what she was thinking.
A thunderstorm is rolling over the Appalachians. I should be getting home. Hanna parks the car and we sit in silence as the engine idles. My car is next to us, but I don’t get out. For half a second, I want to divulge years of regrets and hidden sins with a plethora of apologies, but for what? Soon she’ll be gone. I’ll be alone. And life will trudge on much like it always has.
She’s looking at me, her bleached blonde hair framing her curious face. She always had a way of making bleached hair look classy.
“I’ll see you later,” she says abruptly.
I don’t think she meant it sharp, but I hesitate then nod and get out of the car. I shut the door and fumble with my keys as she backs out. She rolls down her window. Reluctantly I walk over.
“Can I ask you something?” she says.
I nod and shrug.
“Well,” she hesitates, “it doesn’t matter.”
I rest my elbows on the window and lean closer. “What is it?” I know what it is. Frankly, she wants to know why I’m such an asshole. She wants me to explain why she got to be the bookends to a five year mess. She wants to know so much, but I have so little to say.
She locks eyes with me for a moment. My mouth feels dryer than an oven. I know what she’s thinking. Years of unconfessed hurt swim beneath her eyes and I know I am the creator. Her arm brushes mine and I catch it. I start to speak, but nothing comes out. Then I lean in and run my fingers through her hair, eventually cupping her head in both my hands. She doesn’t resist. The warmth of her cheeks radiates into my palms and up my arms. I kiss her once on the forehead then once on the lips. I begin to pull away but she holds my wrists.
Her eyes speak. I hold her again and pull her lips to mine, tender and moist. At that moment, I know I am her captive for as long as she wants me. The softness of her lips makes me weak and I know I am a fool for lingering, but leaving is impossible. I press my mouth more firmly against hers, kissing her several more times. Slowly she pulls away, fingers grazing my chin as she returns the car to drive.
“You knew how much you meant to me,” she states. It comes as an accusation rather than a casual observation.
Flushed, I fumble for words. I look up and see the glisten of tears in her eyes. Finally I stutter, “And now?”
She shakes her head. “I don’t want to. But yes.”
She drives away before I can say anything. Out of breath, I lean against the trunk of my car and watch her leave the parking lot. For a moment her brake lights come on. My heart races. She adjusts the rearview mirror and our eyes meet. Then she floors it.
Word Count: 1457