Ann would probably would paint a picture of some sort of quick and angry implosion of their relationship. Some sort of monumental betrayal. But Max knew it happened far more gradually, far more quietly.
If he were to be honest with himself,
he had first begun to consider the end of their relationship that day that
Helena came by, but looking back he knew the break up had already begun to
sprout wings. And yes, he had felt an intimacy blossom that day with Helena, but
that intimacy only highlighted a certain comfort and trust missing in his
By then they were
already arguing: screaming, negotiating, trading one happiness for
another, attaching deadlines and ultimatums to even the most trivial
frustrations. It was endless and unpredictable and it only escalated after that day, evolving from annoying and slightly tittilating to frustrating and exhausting.
And it was bad, that
anger and the freak outs and the inability to pull out of furies that seemed attached to
But that was nothing compared to when the quiet that began to
take over. The Nothing. The increasing decision to withdraw more and more into each
others individual lives, the moments when he would have a funny thought, or
experience despair, and choose not to share it.
And then there was this
night. They had both gone out, separately, but had ended up, briefly, at the
same party. By then she had already, once, moved out and moved back in and they
had experienced amazing breakup sex and moments of relief and gratitude. But
then they settled back into something like their old relationship, but
something slightly ghostly, with something key missing.
At the party they had
spotted each other and waved. Waved. Not a cute little wave,
not a dorky teasing wave, but the kind of wave you reserve for your employer
or a distant friend.
Then, noting how strange that must look to each of
their friends, feeling how strange that should actually seem to them, they had made their
way across the room, and kissed and hugged awkwardly. Absent minded and unaffectionate. And they
traded some sort of promise about texting each other at the end of the night to
possibly end up at the same place again and that sounded fine and they continued
But moments later he looked back on the wave and suddenly realized what
as missing from their current relationship, what was no longer there that was making it so shadowy, so
quiet, so empty: hope. Not love, not lust, but hope. He knew he stilled loved her, and he certainly still wanted her, but he no longer believed, on
any level, that it would just work out. And somehow that seemed
Crystallizing this thought had sent him into a mild panic and
he texted her to meet him, please, earlier then planned. He sent her wild,
hopeful romantic texts that they cast off the rest of their plans that night,
get a hotel room, do crazy dirty things all night long. With the last surge of
energy, hope, and real lust he would remember feeling for her he proceeded to
text her, to call her, to try and find her. It became imperative they end the
night together, it became impossible that they not end the evening as a
Sometime around 2am she came hope and muttered something about her
phone battery dying, but he could feel it was too late. Standing there, in the
kitchen, watching her barely make eye contact, taking in her slight annoyance,
he was struck by how different their nights had been. How much the last moments
of his relationship with Ann had existed only in his mind, only for
He could see the wisps of their relationship leaving out the
windows, the doors. He could feel the last few years blurring, disappearing in
the distance, taking on a sepia toned quality of memory.
The loneliness, the
feeling of slippage, was overpowering and so he excused himself and went to bed.
Sleeping on opposite ends of the bed that night he found himself
thinking of a close friend of his who had died not so long ago. The moments of
sickness leading up to her death and how death was already there, but still held
at bay, weeks beforehand. He had known it was coming and sometimes even prayed
for it to come sooner or later, because it was already so very there, such
an imposing presence. But then, the moment she died, it was suddenly clear
that he had been wrong: death doesn't come until it comes. And he became
overwhelmed with the notion that he could no longer give things to this person,
no longer take things away. What had existed only moments ago, a soul to share
things with, was painfully absent, and already he wondered if he had ever,
truly, grasped that presence, and how he was going to be able to grasp it's
And so, laying there, that night he was struck by how much
watching a relationship die was like experiencing a death, hanging on, resenting
the suffering, but still never being able to truly grasp the weight of his
Sometimes he would still dream of that night and wake up in a
panic just wanting to get Ann back, get time back. Then, as the cobwebs cleared
he would marvel at how endings have a way of breaking time, fracturing the past
and rewriting everyone's role, recasting every relationship with new light from the future.
And how now he would wake up next to Helena, gaze upon her and touching her in the dark never imagine her as anything but eternal.