We had spent the last three years chasing the ghost of a good thing. It still haunted the dark corners of our small apartment. Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye, or hear it creak in the old hardwood floors. Occasionally, though not often, I would think it had come back to life, as we sat there at the breakfast table enjoying the silence of each other’s company after a long night of screaming, shouting and sex. Of course, the realization that we were both fantasizing about others would inevitably bring reality crashing back in, and we were left with nothing except silence. Silence worked for us. If we weren’t talking, we weren’t fighting, and that, at least, was something.
The silence had started three years ago with a fight at her parents’ house. Neither of us remembers what it was about, but the things that were said left us and her family befuddled with the anxiety of not knowing what to do next. So, we kept doing what we had always done. But I could never get out of my head the way that she had looked at me through her green eyes set into the dark complexion of her face framed by her kinky black hair, her lips slightly apart to let the disbelief slide out of her lungs. Following the fight, we stood toe to toe, and soul to soul, having it out internally, our inner workings grappling for anything from which we could squeeze out any small amount of life that might be left. The aftermath had left our spirits destroyed. Our shells were still there and we kept on with the actions, making our monthly appearances at family functions, barbeques and the like; we put on a good show, but it had to be obvious to everyone that the love once there had been pulled out, beaten, drawn and quartered, beheaded, and defenestrated. Just like that, everything that we had ever had, out the window.
Now it was time to move on, or so she said, as she packed her tattered old Samsonite, dropped her ass on it a few times for good measure, and headed for the door. I didn’t approve, but I didn’t disapprove. I had stopped fighting three years ago, and there was no point in starting up again now. So I watched as she stood in the entryway, looking the same as she had when we first met. She struggled to free the door key from the ring in her hand. I mentally caressed her neck where it dove, perfectly, into her shoulder.
And that was that, or so I thought, but as she turned around for one last look at our old apartment, with second-hand furniture, a coffee table stained with the memory of late-night coffee with no coasters, a hole in the wall and torn curtains from a brief stint where we thought a cat was going to fill the massive void we had created in space and time, her green eyes blurred with a few tears; signs of life in an otherwise desolate desert. My initial reaction was to pounce on it, like a coyote seizing a hare, ripping at its throat, tearing hide and hair from bloody flesh to get at the sinewy red meat. Instead, the words “I’m sorry” slid across my tongue and out of my cracked lips, choking me as they did so, leaving my mouth dry and bitter from the taste of foreign words. The words crawled across the floor, navigated the woven rugs, table legs and hardwood, finding their way to where she stood in the doorway. I tried to will them back. I dug down deep for any reserve I had left. I had nothing. When the words reached her, she fell apart. The delicate arches of hate she had built to support herself collapsed, smashing the mirror of her former self into a million glittering pieces.
I was not to be outdone. I imploded with all the brilliance of a star with much more mass than our own sun, burning hot and fast, compressing atoms to such a density that all light, heat and life seemed to disappear into oblivion until in one last brilliant flash I exploded in a spectacular universal display.
And so it was.
We lay there in pieces tangled up in each other, the sheets pulled tightly around our legs. The smell of sweat and sex permeating the silence of our black hole. It’s not much, but it’s ours, and that, at least, is something.
Ryan Fowler lives, works, and writes in Pocatello, Idaho with his wife and three children. He has a Masters in Public Administration from Idaho State University.