I know why I stayed at the dive bar down the street until last call, despite my better judgement. And by last call, I mean five months too long, not hours. There are no more last calls for me. I said my goodbyes whether they knew it or not. And not many in that bar will even notice, although they sure as hell pretended to notice when I walked in. I discovered five months too late what most of them were after.
Not many, with the exception of a few (myself included), come into that bar pretending to have their heads on their shoulders. Most of them gave up a long time ago. I don’t know what is more heartbreaking; lying to yourself and others while semi-successfully pretending to have your shit together, or totally losing all self-respect by slamming down drinks to the point you’re blissfully unaware that you’ve completely given up on the life that went down the drain many moons ago.
It doesn’t even matter because one leads to the next and before you know it, you’re the one who has given up because you pretended for far too long that you could handle it and everything would sort itself out. Pretty soon, you become the one who everyone is pitying and you’ll start to hear people say things like, “At least I’m not as bad off as she is.”
I knew it was coming. Soon, too. It doesn’t take long for an alcoholic to pick right back up where they left off after a relapse. That’s why it had to stop. I threw myself into a cycle of trying to right my ship vs. giving up altogether. I would lie to myself and others and say things like, “This is only temporary” or “I won’t be here for much longer.” I even went as far as convincing myself and others playing the same game, that because I came so far in recovery a year ago, I’d be able to do it again. As if that was going to save me.
But how could I do it again if I kept saying, “Just one more?” For those of us who are suffering and/or recovering, how likely is it that you’d be hospitalized for kicking yourself every time you uttered those words? Just one more drink and something would click. Just one more day and he would fall. Just one more person to meet and they’d save me from myself.
There were a handful of people I met over the last few months that told me I didn’t belong there, including the head bartender. There were many that saw my potential and called it out while I called them out on their own. It was a fun game of “Let’s pretend we’re top shelf in a bottom-shelf existence.”
There were many that fell in lust.
And one good man that briefly fell in love.
Which brings me back to the reason I stayed for last call. I was a naive, lonely woman who had isolated herself for far too long over the last six years. And I knew better than to fall for my own tricks and for a man who fell for his own.
But I fell.
All I knew is I held his eyes in mine that night as explosive smiless formed hopelessly on both of our faces. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a moment quite like that in all my years fumbling through love on this Earth. A moment where we just both gave in to the waves and crashed on shore together. Time froze. Everyone faded away. “Just to See You Smile” played. Our cards fell and it became clear – we were in over our heads from across the room, after months of slowly unraveling into each other’s lives and hearts. I knew from the moment I met him and he dropped his head in a sigh, exclaiming how beautiful I was, that he was going to hurt like a bitch.
In our broken states, we tripped on common ground and continued to kid ourselves straight through this blossoming friendship right into an emotional affair. Our futures were laid out in pictures drawn from hope and triumphant declarations of transformation. Our pasts were entangled in words spoken through tears. In the present that we shared, the most beautiful thing we witnessed in one another was laughter through it it all. We were weary souls still burning with hidden passions and pain that desperately needed to be unleashed and shared with an invincible heart.
His heart was invincible. I just ran out of time to show him. He hadn’t flipped the coin and it wasn’t my place to do it for him. I wasn’t being completely true to myself either. Perhaps he really did believe he was an undeserving man, but from where I stood, I was far beneath the person he saw before him and I needed to be saved. Despite what I wanted badly to believe, no one could do that for me.
There is overwhelming agony that saturates the deepest of desires, sometimes making it nearly impossible to restrain ourselves from giving into fleeting temptation. Writing the inner dialogue that plagued my mind, allowed me to safely and cathartically bridge the gap between reality and the inevitable next move; winning the heart of an unavailable man.
There is growth in leaving it where it belongs; as a mere fantasy, delicately preserved on paper in an attempt to protect hearts – every one but my own. My heart was cracked wide open, but somewhere between immersing myself back into the moment and the lines written, there was a space reserved for healing and deep satisfaction.
It is not only natural to fall in and out of love with others, regardless of your relationship status, but I believe it is also inevitable. Let’s face it; try as we may, no satisfaction will be reached unless we have some sort of cathartic outlet and release for our wandering hearts. If you’re struggling with the desires for that which you cannot have, and the battle between acting on this desire and practicing restraint, try writing an ending where you left off in the secret corners of your mind. Guilt-Free.
Leave it there like a page torn from your favorite novel; a silent tribute and celebration, found within the beauty of simply being human:
“You aren’t allowed to look at me like that,” she whispered eagerly as she flirtatiously batted at his arm.
“Like what?” His eyes smiled as he locked in on hers.
She flashed her head to the side, blushing, “No, you’re gonna fucking kill me. Don’t do it. Don’t you do it.” They brought out their fingers from beneath the table and began to shake a flirtatious “tisk, tisk” at one another while exchanging candied-apple grins.
He leaned in across the table, resting his palm on the back of her hand, surprised he knew it so well, “There’s nothing more that I’d love to do than kiss you right now. But I can’t. I wonder sometimes what it’d be like just to kiss you. I bet it’s…”
Turning her hand over abruptly and smacking his with a laugh, she stopped him before he could go on, “No! You can’t say things like that and get away with it. It’s unfair.” She squirmed, as her heart somersaulted off the chair and all hopes of chastity vanished. “Besides, the melting into each other’s kiss, this kiss – like ours is meant to stay in your mind just suspended, drowning and never actually coming up for air.”
“Bullshit. So, you’re saying you’ve thought about it too,” he playfully questioned, biting his bottom lip and reaching again for her fingers.
Her coy smirk couldn’t mask the innocent lie, “No, I don’t. I can’t. You like the idea of it; the fantasy in your head. Just like you love the idea of me. It’s mysterious. It’s strange and unknown, and it’s anything you could imagine. Chemistry. It’s meant to burn slow; not to be doused with expectations. Just let it be this -perfect.”
“Try me,” he held his ground as his eyes darted between hers and the lines of her neck. He took her hands and gracefully hoisted her out of her chair, reining in his ever-weakening prey.
Eyes met and locked on ripening lips before leaning into still hearts that began to beat and wrangle in a tight embrace within each other’s chests. That itch, that fire, the hesitation and desire, welding two entangled sparks that anticipated the searing and seductive pain held within a thousand magnetic glances exchanged before.
“You’ll drown. You’ll drown in the reality of me,” she warned, whispering in his ear while gently grazing her bottom lip against his skin.
Saturated breaths sifted through his hair that now stood on end. His knees buckled as he threw his head back and released an intoxicated murmur as he steadied his body, pressing up against her waist. He twisted his hands beneath her hair, gripping her head and locking it so her eyes had no place to wander but deep within his own. He bowed his forehead against hers.
Shushing her, his fingers gently parted her lips, “For you, I’ll learn to breathe underwater.”
I’ve torn out that page to save for later. Reality is, it almost happened.
If I could have occupied his mind for the long haul, I may have stayed just a bit longer to read the rest of the story. But I’ll never know. I needed to leave and fix what was broken. If he knew to the extent he occupied mine, he may have flipped the coin a bit sooner. But he’ll never know. He needed to leave and fix what was broken.
Now we’ll never know as we depart without so much as a goodbye. One of the smartest decisions either of us have probably made in quite some time.