Rekindling of an old flame, an Internet relationship.
|It started with a phone call.
I still can't really believe it, standing here listening to the message on my answering machine. Repeating it over and over. And over. "Hello Ru… I'm… sorry I missed you. I'll call you tonight. Uhh… it's Myra". Funny that I didn't need to be told, that I still remembered your voice so well. God, it's been a long, long time. And feels even longer too.
I remember the last time I heard from you.
A tearful goodbye for both of us, though I like to fool myself that you didn't hear it in my voice. We'd become way too close over the previous few months. All-encompassing, our passion for each other had taken over both of our lives. Constant contact, via phone, Skype, email, instant messenger. We couldn't get enough of each other. Late nights talking via Skype, you speaking discreetly in hushed tones, me staying up late night after night, paying for it at work the next day, my performance falling way below what I'm capable of, and for the first time in my working life, not caring.
It came suddenly but it was inevitable. You had been getting a hard time at home about your time spent online and I had finally been placed on a "performance improvement plan" at work, my boss' patience finally giving out.
I came home that day in a blind fury, stamping across the car park like an enraged bull and into the building, slamming each door behind me. Storming into the apartment, locking my door behind me, flinging my keys at the wall with a scream of rage. I pulled my phone from my pocket, noticing for the first time that I had missed a text message from you. Fingers flying across the touch screen with barely a thought, the phone as my primary link to you having become almost an extension of myself these past few months: "Calling you earlier tonight. 5 your time". A terse message even for you from whom I was used to receiving very brief texts. A quick glance at the clock confirmed I had 20 minutes till you called, but there was no way in hell I could speak to you in this mood, I had to calm down.
Stripping off as I crossed the apartment, I grabbed my portable house phone on my way to the shower in case I wasn't ready by the time you called. Standing under the shower, the high pressure hot water pounding me, I closed my eyes and thought of you, feeling the tension and anger slowly draining from me as if it were being washed away, down the drain with the waste water. I lost track of time and before I knew it the phone rang, shrill in the quiet apartment. I banged my elbow painfully against the shower door while stepping out and reaching for my phone, muttering darkly under my breath. Bringing the phone to my wet ear, I answered "Hello?".
Your voice came down the line to me "Ru!" as though you'd been waiting forever to speak to me, bringing a smile to my face. "Sweetheart," I answered "is everything okay?". Holding my breath while I awaited your answer, fearing I knew not what, but concerned nonetheless. The line wasn't good, you were probably calling me via Skype as usual but it was good enough for me to hear you crying quietly. A surge of adrenaline rushed through me as thoughts of disaster raced through my mind.
"Myra? Baby, please talk to me. What's wrong?" I began to panic at this stage, fear fuelled by a strangled sob escaping from you.
"Ru… it's over… we need to stop now…" I gasped in surprise, sheer shock. Stock still, unable to move or think for what seemed like an eternity.
"Ru… I'm sorry, we can't… ". You burst into tears and I instinctively tried to comfort you, no thoughts really penetrating my shock yet.
"It'll be okay love, it'll be okay… don't worry. I love you, you just cry if you need to, I'm right here".
It was like flipping a switch, your crying stopped and you almost screamed at me "No, Ru! Not this time, it's over. It's fucking over!"
My paralysed brain snapped back to reality, your words sinking through the confusion, the fear for you. A wave of terror swept over me, like I'd never felt in my life, there was no way I could lose you, no way I could let you go, not you, not my angel!
"No Myra, no! Whatever it is we'll fix it, we've done it before, we've been through so much", tears pouring down my face, barely seeing myself in the bathroom mirror I faced, shock and panic etched in my face. Almost as suddenly, you returned to outward calmness, though I knew you must have been hurting so badly inside.
"No, Ru. It's over, there's too much at risk now. I don't want to, but it's over. I need to go now."
I knew then that nothing I could say or do would change your decision, and the reason for it didn't matter. I stood, shaking like a leaf, frustration and grief competing for control and I won the battle with myself to remain calm, though how I did it, I'll never, ever know.
"I love you Myra. You've always been the one for me, I love you more than I have ever loved anyone. Please don't do this…" my voice trailed off as I realised how futile my pleading with you was.
"I have to, Ru." I could hear the emotion, you were on the edge of breaking down again. "I love you too, but we can't do this anymore. Goodbye Ru." Your voice, your soft, sweet voice cracked on my name, and the last thing I heard was the click as you put down the phone before I passed out.
I took two weeks off work, unable to face anyone. I returned in the end, quieter, broken, with no lust for life, my happiness burned out of me by the loss of you. I buried myself deep in my work, 16 hour days the norm, always busy, the consummate over-achiever, anything to avoid thinking of you, grief digging its claws painfully into my heart when in a moment of weakness my thoughts drifted to you.
I survived. That's really the best way to put it, I survived. Nobody would have called it living. I got by, and eventually I learned to let people back into my life. Friends, family. An occasional fling, nothing that lasted. I learned to accept the good things that came my way, but never get too emotionally invested in anything.
It's been almost 10 years since that day and I never forgot you or what you mean to me.
Suddenly, out of the blue, your phone call.
I'm shaking now, the old feelings flooding back. It seems like yesterday you whispered your love for me over Skype, that night when you couldn't bear to go offline and we stayed up all night together. I pull the nearest chair to me and sit down shakily. Sitting, head in hands… I've thought of you coming back into my life so many times, but now I'm not sure, I'm afraid of not being able to handle hearing that you're back just to be friends. I can't bring myself to believe it will be more than that though. You'd never agreed even to meet me for a coffee regardless of how close we had become, so why should that change now?
A thought occurred to me and I groaned aloud "Tonight?! You'll call back tonight? That could be any time in the next 12 hours!" Exaggerating as I usually do when I'm impatient or stressed, but still that possible few hours seems like a lifetime, stretching out ahead of me. God, I'm freaking out, my heart is pounding in my chest and I need to calm down. I don't dare have a drink though, there was a time when that didn't end so well, another emotionally charged conversation. I sigh and get up, crossing the room to the couch and collapsing into it. Closing my eyes feeling suddenly incredibly tired, my thoughts drifting… Myra, my Myra…
Dreaming, dreaming of you, of the times we spent with each other; you singing to me that one time, bringing tears of happiness to my eyes, the first time you told me you loved me and my shock and joy at the words leaving me speechless for so long you thought I had gone offline, your reaction to that first piece of writing I sent you, your praise for that which meant so much and that I never forgot, the memories coming thick and fast, so many good times. I slept and dreamed for - well I don't know how long really, the rest of that night was a blur to me. Waking up with a start as the phone's digital ringer trilled, I leaped across the room to grab the handset from the charger, pushing the green answer button which glowed in the dark like a beacon.
"Hello?" My usual brisk, businesslike bark fails me, my voice coming in a husky whisper only partly due to having just woken. Silence on the line, nothing but the low static hiss of an open line. I cough, clearing my throat and try again, "hello?" My heart beating, pulsing in my chest with the force of a pounding hammer. The sound of a deep breath being taken and your voice comes across the line at me for the first time in almost 10 full years, "Hello Ru". Oh my God, that voice. Soft and sweet, as beautiful as I've always remembered it, all the memories come surging back, washing over me like a wave. I stand frozen for a moment, opening my mouth but totally, completely unable to speak. “Ru?” your voice comes at me again breaking the spell and I manage to clear my throat and speak “Myra? It's really you? Are you okay? Is everything alright?”
A pause on the line, and then your voice comes back to me across the wires, across the miles of land and ocean that separate us, "I don't know … is it?" You sigh softly, and continue. "How are you, Ru? How have you been?" I hear a chair creak as you move or maybe sit down and the sound of the phone moving against your cheek. I'm still in a daze, still not really believing this is happening after all this time. "I'm okay," I answer, taking a deep breath. "Missing you… still." I can hear you breathing on the phone line, hear the unevenness of your breaths, you're either nervous or emotional, maybe both, and it tears at my heart. I take pity on you, on both of us, and try to break through the uncomfortable, slow, "niceness" that is getting us nowhere. "I still love you, if that's what you're wondering about. I still think about you, dream about you, want you in my life. I'm not angry with you and I don't blame you for anything. And… well… I still don't think we could be just friends, so I really, really hope that's not why you're calling. It isn't, right?"
Nothing on the other end of the line at all for a what seems like forever but can't really have been more than 20 seconds, and then I hear something, hear you… what? Crying? I'm about to speak again, about to ask if you're okay when I suddenly realise you're laughing hysterically. "Oh my God, Ru!" you finally gasp. "Ten years! Ten years and you didn't change at all!" I'm laughing now too, all the self-consciousness falling away and suddenly it's like we'd only spoken yesterday. I fall sideways on the couch, your laughter fuelling my own, laughing hard and unable to stop, starting each other off again when we try to calm down.
Finally, we both manage to stop laughing, breathing hard for a few minutes. We talk for 5 hours, laughing, reminiscing, talking about our lives and all that has happened in the last 10 years. You call me stubborn for clinging to my belief that we would be together one day, but I know it makes you smile, I can hear it in your voice. It gets late, after 2am your time, and we agree to sleep and talk again tomorrow. I tell you I love you, and we say goodnight, both smiling, both happy.
I can't sleep. I don't really want to anyway, I want to lie awake and enjoy, luxuriate in the feeling that my life has become so much better again, from a single call, from having you back in my life. I roll over in bed, pulling the spare pillow against me and closing my eyes, imagining I'm holding you in my arms. I picture you, like I have a million times, murmuring to you, telling you I love you and holding you close. I don't know how much later it is when I finally start to drift off to sleep, happier and more contented than I have been in years.
I'm on the edge of sleep when unexpectedly the phone rings loudly in the darkness. I snatch it up and hold it to my ear. "Hello?" I mutter sleepily. "Ru," you say "I couldn't sleep… and I was thinking." I swing my lags over the edge of the bed and sit up. "Okay?" I say, wondering what it is that has made you call me back so late. In the past you've hesitated to wake me, even when I claimed to want you to.
"Ru… I want to meet you."