Parallel By D.I. Jolly
After he realised that it needed to be done, it took Johnny 3 more weeks to work up the courage to actually break up with his girlfriend. She’d broken his heart one too many times and now, much like Humpty Dumpty, there was no putting it back together again.
The problem was, they had plans. They had a life that, while didn’t exactly gel, it did run parallel. He was the best man at Josh’s wedding and they’d RSVPed together. Her great-grand-nana was about to turn 106 and she liked Johnny, so wanted him there. Even though she sometimes called him Lester and made weird old-lady bedroom eyes at him. Which always made the rest of the family uncomfortable, because her husband’s name had been Edward.
There was a reservation at a super fancy restaurant they’d both been looking forward to, that he didn’t want to cancel, and besides, things were fine. Mostly. Or at least that’s what he’d told himself, every morning, for 3 weeks.
Yes, they’d had a small fight at the wedding, and she’d gotten a bit drunk at the birthday party which made him feel uncomfortable. But the restaurant date had been fantastic and they’d laughed like they hadn’t in months. Which was the kicker, they never laughed anymore.
The morning of the dumping, Johnny found himself staring into the mirror trying to find himself in the face that he saw there. He felt empty, hollowed out by guilt he didn’t own, by regrets he didn’t deserve, and by shame that had been stirred into his morning coffee every-fucking-day for a year and 3 weeks.
And he felt sad and disappointed with himself and his life. He had been so desperate to love her that he didn’t realise, that he just didn’t. Never had. And she loved that about him. Loved how much he wanted to love her. When he finally delivered the speech, he found he lost all the brave and big things he’d wanted to say. He forgot the cards in his pocket littered with bold statements like.
“I used to think you cried because you were sad, or sorry, now I think you just did it to make me feel bad.”
“How many softer hearts have cracked and crumbled against the hard stone of yours.”
And his personal favourites,
“You love you so much, that there has never been any room left in your heart for anyone else!”
But he said none of them. In the end, he looked at her, took a deep, calm breath and said.
“I don’t love you.”
To his mild surprise, she stared back at him and said,
She didn’t look hurt just, annoyed, as if he’d dared to speak to her before coffee in the morning. Not really making sense, just making noise. A look that blew the cobwebs out of his mind and cleared the last of the pink fog from his eyes.
“And that’s not ok for me anymore.”
The same word, but now it carried weight, it carried pain and guilt and sharp rusty fish hooks meant to sneer him. But it was too late. It was over. He smiled and felt a bit of himself blink awake in the back of his mind. He remembered the taste of bread and of strawberries and said.
“I think I better leave. I think, I think it’s time we didn’t do this anymore.”
For a moment he thought she’d say it again, but she said nothing. They stared at each other and where he thought he might have seen pain; he actually saw neutrality. She had known it was coming but either, didn’t care enough to stop it, or didn’t respect him enough to think he’d do it.
A couple of days later, when she had a moment and cried, it was because she had to make herself Monday morning coffee. Johnny, on the other hand, was crying because he realised that Josh’s wife knew how he took his coffee, and it was the most love he’d felt in a very long time.