Five Years



This isn't from a personal experience, but collected from people I've heard about who say, 'If in five years we're still single . . .' The illusion of thinking you can go back to someone who's moved on can be detrimental.

Rose petals on the ground, my feet on the earth, this flower wilts in my hand.
   This heart knows the pain and the struggle, but doubles down at the sign of trouble. We’ll ride this out, and see the sun, so we can give the devils of calamity a run for their money.
   Gave the best of ourselves, but it wasn’t enough, and never is.
   Escort me to the viewing platform, to a mirror’s reflection of where we lost steam, the smudged surface, image half-clear. We said we’d gather here on this day in five years, if things didn’t work out any other way. And that’s when I see it, when the flowers I selected with care crumble in my hand. It’s noticeable, the curve in her body, just enough to twist my guts.
   How far along are you?
   The words decay in my mouth, knees weaken, and the jagged stem pricks my fingers. I look down at a fist around the bouquet, thorns digging in, and blood spilling out. What did you expect? Too much too soon, need to turn and walk, but she stops me.
   I see her face, ring on the hand softly rubbing my shoulder.
   I hadn’t shaved in three months, cut my hair in two years, but there I stood clean cut. She wouldn't have recognized me if I didn’t sheer off my locks. The sound resounds across the block as the scissors cut away the dread, anxiously anticipating us at a nearby bar, old battle scars forgotten. Until this wears off and we make new ones. I could have walked right past.
   What we had, it’s gone, and of course, I see this too late. I’m a fool holding onto what’s no longer ours, because the truth is I just borrowed her time.
   I have to go, eyes focused on the lake, koi lapping around smaller fish.
   Her green eyes juxtapose with the browning leaves. We made each other miserable in the end, but my selective memory chooses the better parts. Sitting naked on the bed, laughing, pretending to like the same stuff the other did.
   Wash away the fighting, the drinking, and all the things that drove the wedge. I chose to forget. Ultimatums are clearly made when a beer comes crashing against a wall, voices across the hall, darkness engulfs when the sun is still out.
   If in five years we've changed, we’ll meet at our favorite park, and we’ll go from there. It was easier than saying, “We’re done forever.”
   Every time I replay her walking out that door into oblivion, I let her go. I never let it go, because one word would have kept her there. Her silhouette painted against the wooden frame, the hesitation, waiting for me to stop her.
   I don’t.
   With a drunk’s self-assuredness I spew forth from trembling lips, I’d rather be miserable than alone, but she’s already gone.
   The flowers slip from my hand to meet the fallen petals on the earth, and I nod, say 'goodbye' without a word. I don’t turn back to see what could have been if we didn’t show our true selves. We’re jagged ill-fitting parts that can never make a whole.

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