I had spent too many emotionally draining hours with my siblings, ransacking our childhood home as our mom prepared to finally sell it, and finally let go of all that happened here. I’d rather be anywhere else doing anything else than going through my dead brother’s old room, and my dead father’s old things. A lot of unwelcome memories come flooding back and compete for head space and it would honestly just be easier to take the edge off with something, or set it all on fire. I don’t like to admit I’m an addict, but the tendencies are in my blood, and recovery is hard and complicated, so I take out my old bike to escape the house I have such a complicated and nostalgic relationship with.
I ride away.
Crossing town, the setting sun burned my eyes as the freshly-spread manure wafted through the quaint and narrow streets and filled my lungs. It was the perfect recipe to drink and smoke and roll off the face of the planet.
But I’m different now.
I went to the old ball diamond to sit on the bleachers and watch the sunset over the never-ending corn fields. I closed my eyes tightly as the sun seared my skin. A tiny bead of sweat trickled down my brow to meet up with the tiny bead of tear that had escaped my clenched eyelids. Count the inhales. Focus on the exhales. This feeling will pass. This craving will subside.
“Nice spot, eh?” a voice from behind me caught me off guard. Who the hell ever comes to this shit hole anymore?
I swiped at my eyes and collected myself before turning to greet the stranger. He was just as shocked as I was.
“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t realize it was y-” he stumbled through words. “I mean – I should’ve known it was you. That’s your fucking bike. The same fucking bike you’ve had for the last… fifteen years,” he made a point of over-dramatically emphasizing the presence of my bike with outstretched hands. “Jesus Christ, get a new fucking bike.” He turned and walked away.
My mouth hung open, slowly filling with the heavy, manure-y, country air. He had always been good disruption, flawlessly executed, and I had always welcomed his disruption. I fell for his disruption. I yearn for his disruption. But I didn’t go after him this time. I’m different now, and… paralyzed.
I could hear his footsteps approaching from behind again. He walked, so purposefully, to the front of the bleachers and climbed up. The rusty metal bolts creaked and the wood plank benched bowed under his step. He sat near my feet on the bench in front of me, and it felt like a mile between us since we were usually on top of each other by now.
“What brings you to town?” I asked.
“No? No answer? Cool. Good talk.” I wrap my arms around my knees and resume the meditative position in which he found me, and I do it out of spite.
“I had a really rough break-up. I wanted to escape.”
I give him that raised-eyebrows, slow-nod look of disbelief or disapproval, I’m not even sure.
“I honestly didn’t think there was even a chance I would run into you,” he was crumbling. Maybe this shit was real. He breathed hard into his hands and ran them straight up into his now slightly-longer, more-carelessly-coiffed hair. He was perfect.
“You know, with your whole thing going on in Montreal… I never thought you’d come back.” He couldn’t even lift his head. Maybe this shit was real. “I just wanted to sit here and not think about anything… maybe hang around town for a couple days where no one recognizes me anymore…”
I nodded in agreement.
We sat in silence and watched the sun fade behind the dancing tassels of the corn stalks.
“Are you okay?”
He chuckled, smirking again, and sighed. My heart was breaking. Who hurt him? What did they do to the absolute
love terror of my life?
I cocked my head gently. I wanted to grab his hand. I needed to feel his skin on mine. I ached to touch him.
“Remember, like, eight years ago?” he guessed. “When I flew you to Miami… and Paris… and Vancouver?”
That was a busy summer, especially for ecstasy.
“And we were together… like, actually together… And then you decided to leave. And you told me you didn’t want it anymore. It fucked me up. You fucked me up.”
I clenched my teeth, reliving the day in my head. The second worst day.
“But then we slept together two more times after that, and I was still so in love with you, the same as before. Then I started seeing someone and planning a life with her, and I realized, it wasn’t me that you didn’t want.”
He put his head back in his hands. I will never not be in love with you.
“So, I made this plan, like, a week ago… I broke up with her, I quit my job, I sold all my stuff, and I found a rental here, and I was just going to take some time to sit and think, and make sure it’s right, and I literally get to town, set my bags on the floor, and I decide to go for a walk, and here you are. Here.”
He laughs at himself.
“Here, at this shit hole ball diamond, for whatever reason…”
He is perfect.
“And now I’m exhausted and questioning everything I believe in.”
Just one more time.