There came a time when there was no part of him untouched by pain. Broken trust tightened his neck and made his eyes burn with suspicion. Deception weighed on his shoulders and back– there was tightness to his movements. Hurtful words and abandonment made his stomach twisted and sick.
What was worse than his own pain was knowing the pain he caused in her. He didn’t mean to. He never wanted or intended to hurt her. He loved her. But his own fear of more heartache made him over-prepare for pain. He overstocked his defenses. He came to a battle prepared for war and only now as she slept next to him with eyes swollen from crying, cheeks streaked with salty, dried tears, did he see that it wasn’t even a battle he was attending, it was love.
He touched her cheek and she shuddered, still crying in her sleep and he realized he could no longer distinguish between love and war. He could no longer tell a lover apart from an enemy. Both had caused him unbelievable suffering. Both had blasted him to pieces.
The house was silent and he wished for some sort of noise: a car outside, a storm, a street fight, to distract him from his thoughts. It was as if the only sounds in the world were her soft, broken breathing and his thoughts.
When he met her, he was taken by her unusual beauty. She was so plain from afar, just like any other girl, nothing to stand out. But when she looked at him and smiled he was paralyzed with desire and longing.
He immediately started to prepare himself for losing her. He stocked his defenses, he sent out reconnaissance looking for lies, deception, weapons, and threats. He watched her actions looking for the invisible. He listened to her words to hear what she might not want to say. And when he couldn’t find her flaws and deception, he concluded she was a master of betrayal. Criminally good at lying. She must be a professional traitor. That’s the tragedy of love after loss. No one climbs to the watchtower to look out for patience or forgiveness. No one sends out a reconnaissance for love.
Neither had made a threat, there was no declaration of war. In fact, lost in each others arms they had said to each other, “I love you,” and they meant it. But too many fractures in his walls made him emotionally paranoid, like a frazzled sniper he could barely tell anymore who was friendly and who was a threat because time and again, his closest friend and lover was the one who hurt him most.
And after that, everyone is a suspect. The trust is broken. Preemptive attack is inevitable if not necessary.
The thing about trust is that when it breaks, it doesn’t break only for the person who betrayed it. It breaks in all directions. It breaks for all relationships current, past and future. The very reality we once knew, where people lived and loved for pleasure without pain is shattered.
He accused her. It was a test. Her loyalty, her honesty, her value to him was on the line. He was attempting to play her game because he knew, in the pit of his stomach that the end was near. His gig was up. He’d watched and searched for her lies and come up short so he came out blazing. No more time for research, this is war. Where was she on Thursday. Who was this? Who was that? What was said?
Her shock and tears and confusion confirmed his suspicions and he carried on. She had no answers because in his mind, she hadn’t prepared for his frontal attack. She had underestimated his ability to sense the enemy within her. She stuttered incoherently, searching her mind for answers to appease him. He hated her tears. He hated her confusion. He hated her weakness. He hated that she had brought him to this state.
She answered his questions, shaking. She begged him to stop fighting her. She pleaded with him to believe her. She’d done nothing wrong. She had no idea where this had come from. She was so happy, just hours ago, so happy holding his hand, laughing, daydreaming of a future. What had happened? It came from nowhere. She was afraid. Nothing was making sense. “Are you drunk?” she asked sincerely? He was drunk on suspicion and fear.
When he had stopped shaking in anger and her eyes were swollen with tears there was nothing left to do. Nothing left to say. Nothing left to lose. She had nowhere to go. There could be no dramatic ending with doors slamming and fuck you’s shouted down the street. When his anger and her tears had run dry they were still stuck there, together, like strangers.
So she got in the bed and curled up on the side of it facing the wall and whimpered herself to sleep. He paced. He replayed the night, his words and her words and he couldn’t make sense of them or of her. When she was asleep he climbed in bed too, in his clothes. His leg touched hers and he left it there. He wanted to touch her. Selfishly, he wanted her to comfort him. He moved closer and put his arms around her, pressing his body against hers as if nothing had happened, as if everything hadn’t changed.
“I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you, too,” he whispered back.
“I hate you,” she whispered.
“I love you,” he whispered back.
“Fuck you,” she cried. “You don’t!”
He pulled her tight against him and she tried to wriggle away.
“I love you!” he said, holding tighter. He wouldn’t let her go. He could never let her go. He was panicked.
“I love you,” he said again with burning eyes.
He rolled her over and pressed his body on top of her, looking into her eyes. “I fucking love you!” he said.
“I don’t believe you!” she said, crying again.
He kissed her closed, trembling lips. He kissed them hard and long until she was gasping for breath and he kept kissing her as they both started crying. Tears and snot and saliva mixed in their awkward kisses. They were gasping for air and life more than for comfort, their mouths contracted with pain more than puckered with desire. She clung to him, sobbing and squeezed him tightly. He fucking loved her.
He knew now, without question, even if she were a ticking bomb, he would die holding her against his heart.