In ten seconds you will break my heart.
In a thousand years, I will never recover from the words that will come out of your mouth, from this serious conversation you want so desperately to have, from your dead shark eyes that fail to hold my gaze. I will get up from this moderately priced seafood restaurant’s table, fully understanding that our relationship is, indeed, over. Like preparing a fish for a feast, your words will cleanly gut me. And at this point, I seriously doubt my legs will support me. As if already stung from a sea urchin, a numbness grows from the depths of my pitted stomach.
I know what’s coming.
How much time do we even have left?
In a hundred years, I will not understand why you pushed your food around your plate on this night of nights. Like a sulky little boy. You’d think you were on the chopping block, a future you heartily envisioned, crumbling like walls of a badly constructed sand castle. Sand, the result of what a lifetime of weathering and erosion can do. Even to rocks. Does nothing last forever?
You normally love salmon, yet you are choking on those words you promised yourself you’d finally utter to me.
You can still drink wine, though. I’ve never seen you drink as much at dinner before. Courage, lad.
You were always one to prepare yourself, though. Did you compose your little breakup speech on your laptop? Did you research the best ways to set boundaries and consciously uncouple with the former love of your life to whom you’ve made all sorts of promises? Did you practice your pregnant pauses in the mirror, setting your mouth in a thin empathetic line?
Your prophylactic compassion sickens me, especially when the cleft in your chin is still so hopelessly attractive.
What I wouldn’t give to trace its crease in your handsome face one last time.
In ten years, I will finally stop crying over you.
For now? I roll my eyes in self-disgust to check my tears. You don’t deserve them.
Over the past ten years I’ve wept an ocean over you and your fickleness towards me. I smile an award-winning smile, carefree and charming. I am overly polite to the waiter, the staff at the restaurant, the busboy in this public place where you’ve chosen to crush me. To invalidate what we are. What we are until you say those unforgivable words.
My napkin is on my lap. I sit up straight—no elbows on the table!—and I use the correct fork to eat my salad.
How can anything bad happen to this well-behaved young lady?
It feels we’ve been dining for years at this table. The waiter is attentive but slow, methodical, embarrassed to interrupt our dark mood. He feels as uncomfortable at our table as we do. The food is delicious, but the kitchen is taking its sweet time getting out the entrees. There is nothing to do but look at each other, at the other patrons, out the window.
Our silences are long. Seemingly long enough for the Earth to orbit the sun.
We used to talk over each other, recounting our day, cracking jokes to make each other laugh, telling half-forgotten childhood stories that reveal so much.
There’s nothing to say now.
I’ve done an excellent job at avoiding your piercing gaze. You are looking at me like the dead raccoon we passed by the side of the road this evening.
You don’t get to pity me.
After seemingly weeks of awkwardness, you finally make small talk about nothing. Work. The copier that constantly jams. The secretary who takes the last cup of coffee and doesn’t feel the need to make a fresh pot.
Your narratives do not have a throughline. They meander until they die on your lips.
It’s fine. I’m not even listening.
Endless days at our table. I’m tired of waiting for you to summon up the courage to murder what we have. Flames of unchecked anger and self-preservation begin to smolder. I’m not taking your bait. You will get no help from me.
Your clumsy questions attempt to rip open the other side of this new bizarre world where you and I are no longer an us.
Are you happy? You ask this question twice. Aren’t you exhausted trying to make this work?
The earth rotates on its axis while we pretend to eat.
Of course we want to see the dessert menu, but we will not order anything.
Aside from your few leading questions, you remain quiet.
I hate the shrill tone to my voice, trying to entertain you with stories that you no longer want to hear, telling you about people you no longer want to know, attempting to make plans just as you are about to end us.
I suddenly realize I need to remember to breathe.
The clock speeds up. We are soon to be dissevered.
What clichéd breakup line will you use on me? Dutiful woman that I am, one who has devoted so much of her life to your general happiness and well being.
There aren’t many lines to choose from. All are predictable. All hide the key fact that you simply do not want me in your life anymore.
What will you say? For God’s sake, just pick one:
We are just on two different paths right now.
I really need to work on myself.
This isn’t going the way I thought it would.
We’re here now. I can feel the crescendo of the moment, your eyes flashing, daring yourself to be bold. Say the words. At this point, I plead: Just end it. Just say the words.
I’m looking at you like an injured woodland creature, begging you to put me down.
At this moment I feel like a child at the beach, looking at a sand castle I’d spent all day building, carefully picking out shells for windows, artfully digging the moat for ocean waves to gently fill. But it’s time to go away. What to do with this lovely structure? Give it to the sea to dissolve or jump in the middle of it, savoring its destruction?
I look you square in the eye, steeling myself for this awesome, glorious blow, a level of heartbreak and pain that will impact almost every decision I make for the rest of my life.
Rock being crushed to sand, I uncross my arms and rest my hands on the table, palms facing up.
I’m ready now.
You know I love you, but . . .