After The End

He tasted of toothpaste and smelled of nothing much at all, but he was mine, and in that knowledge I felt blissfully, blindly happy.


1. Fade

He tasted of toothpaste and smelled of nothing much at all, but he was mine, and in that knowledge I felt blissfully, blindly happy.

He looked at me, sending a blush to my cheeks and a smile to my lips, like our happiness was some joyous in-joke; love a secret that only we shared. I remember thinking how on earth I was supposed to get used to this, this dizzying, vivid feeling of wanting everything to happen and yet for it to never change. How could I wake up to him every day and live my life when the mere thought turned me into an inarticulate mess? But at the same time, how could I not? Loneliness would sting so much more keenly when I knew what love felt like; how could I go back to banality after having touched something that was a hundred times more real?

Years go by, and things fade to normalcy, as they always do. The extraordinary became part of my life, and ceased to be remarkable. I knew he would lean back to kiss me before he left the house; knew also about the magazines at the bottom of his wardrobe and the annoying way he had of wiping his mouth on his sleeve. Burning passions fizzled and died, and the rest of my life stretched before me, tied to a man who left hair in the sink and tried to make me ‘dress up’ more often.

Frown lines seemed to never leave my face, which, when I noticed them only added another worry to the list. Things faded into insignificance, apathy blotting the vibrancy of life, smudging the beauty into vague, shapeless forms, like the bright colours of a paint-box mixing to become a dull, sludgy brown.

Then there were the other things. Things that seemed heightened, loud, and sparked a ringing in my ears. The way he scratched his stubbled neck in the mornings, or always left his briefcase on the kitchen table after work, or fiddled with his wedding ring like he was nervous, or distracted, or … regretful?

There were some nights when that worry would penetrate the haze and stick there, taunting me. My own happiness had dulled to a glimmer for years now, but the feeling that he was discontented too, that I wasn’t enough for him, polluted my miserable, overwrought mind and caused the seeds of resentment to grow shoots and spring up until they blocked out everything else. If I was certain, then something could be done. I could confront him; start an argument so I could have something to forgive him for, instead of bitterly stewing in the dregs of trust and companionship. But I wasn’t certain. And I didn’t dare try and find out, didn’t want to accuse him of something he might not be guilty of. I had lost the energy to fight, to plan and be reasonable about things. It was so much easier to sit and seethe.

So instead I found other targets, other meaningless comments or actions that could nevertheless spark rows, which were really just attacks. They always ended with that horrible hurt look on his face; the one that still knocked all the fight out of me. How could I have done this to him? How could I have become this? But that didn’t mean I had to apologise. Something ugly twisted inside me; shameful but strong, it fed enough pride into my brain to stop me holding him; to turn my tears into more slashing words.

I was too tired one night to summon up anger, so settled instead for disdain. Sneering, superior disgust at his attempts to keep things amiable between us; and it turns out, that was all it needed to really break things between us. He cried, properly, not in the choked-up way he sometimes did while trying not to let me see. But I think he knew, by then, that there wasn’t any point hiding it anymore. He didn’t take anything with him, not even a jacket, just paused for a second on the doorstep, breaths heaving in and out, and in that moment I wanted more than anything else to stop him, to break down and hold him and tell him how sorry I was. But I was too scared. Scared of what else I might do instead, not seeing why things would be any better the second time round.

I thought it would hurt him less to just let him go. But judging by the whimpering, hopeless noise he made as he shut the door, I could have been wrong.

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