I sat up, almost alone and completely confused, wrapping my cold lips around the cigarette I had bummed from a stranger I knew I would never want to see again. At least in my mind, despite how long I had known him, I wouldn’t see him like this again. It was almost like my daydreams and pleasant nightmares, except this time my conscience would be present. I knew it was wrong yet went against the grain and everything inside of me that wanted to get rid of this silly longing for a man that I knew was not mine to have. For years, I tried everything that I could even begin to think of, yet and still I was stuck with this wound, this pain, this black hole that sucked the life out of everything that I could even begin to relate to this man. For years, I waited for others, took different routes, faked conversations and faked my own emotions for the sake of ethics. For years, I knew that I was crazy and avoided that crazy at all costs. This man, with whom I had known for years as nothing more than a mere infatuation, had approached me as something more than that.
It was nothing like I had imagined, yet everything I could ever want. A corner store love story, yet it had a sour taste. The approach of a man that felt unattainable in my eyes, not only because he had been taken before, but because of many other things I cannot for the life of me figure out why. Because if we’re being honest, if that were it I shouldn’t have any remorse for doing what I did, but I do. He saw me struggling to grab something from the back of the fridge and was quite eager to assist. Once the realization of who the other was washed over us, the conversation carried on for hours at several locations, once he had bought some Marlboro Lights and I bought a bottle of juice.
Strolls that could have stretched more than twice the distance from the farthest star consumed the day and evening for us, and it seemed like nothing had changed. He still drooled from the side of his mouth as he passionately spoke about politically charged musicians that shared the same southern woes as he did. I still twiddled my thumbs while marveling at the passion he held for someone that didn’t even know him. And though it may have appeared that nothing changed, aspects of our own lives that we never feared would change began to surface. His wife had a miscarriage and left him for the sake of having her own family with someone else. I had lost my friends, had an estranged relationship with my family and flunked out of college. We were both vulnerable, yet had no one to project that onto. It was a wreck waiting to happen and for a moment, we were both inviting the bittersweet relief that it would bring to us.
Alcohol had soon ventured into the mix and suddenly, there was a dimly lit motel room that we were the center of. The air was moldy, but the dead and numb brain cells inside of me couldn’t care less about that. The roach motel with blood stained carpet and a ticking a/c unit felt like something out a dream that had suddenly turned grim with regret and laced with ambiguity. He pushed me onto the bed and whispered something into my ear, yet I couldn’t focus on his voice. I was too lost in my own thoughts to be enthralled by his lustful, empty words. Such words that could once make me shiver ever so softly with excitement became hulled with much room to make a mess. But all I did was let him push my limp, drunken body onto the bed as he had his way with me, doing what most people mistake for making love. I didn’t care to ask if he had a condom and I knew I didn’t. But God knows he didn’t make it that far without noticing my silence. We stopped and stared at the dusty ceiling fan that slowly cooked the roaches inside of its bulb when turned on. I sat in the silence, reaching for a cigarette from the night stand as I fed the pain that dwelled in my chest for much longer than needed. Even as something that resembled an adult, I couldn’t manage to grasp what could have happened, more or less what did happen. I was much older than when the infatuation began, having only realized that it should have been only that, if not much less.
Two hours in silence turned into three, three cigarettes turned into twelve, and yet we were both still awake, with only momentary glances to spare for one another. I slowly moved towards the sloppily discarded clothing, already home to a few insects. He grabbed my wrist and pulled me down, finally speaking on behalf of his heart. He spoke softly of verses that only made our wounds gape even wider with years of hidden heartache and regret. The tears could not have been more painful to shed, burning from the duct in my eyelids to wherever they fell on my lap. He spoke of his hidden love as I spoke of my hidden infatuation. I refused to look at him, our eyes swollen and hands shaking from all the fear and pain that was let out of their cages. I pulled my hand from his and began to gather my clothes. He watched with a heart that spilled onto the bed, leaving him completely and utterly empty. To this day, I’m not sure if I could call what I did an act of saving myself from feeding my infatuation for him or an act of saving myself from feeding into my love for him. Most couldn’t tell the difference, and neither could I. The torture of teasing myself with a fantasy that shouldn’t have existed would fester in my eternal being for all of existence. I left that motel room with the taste of metal in the back of my throat. Everything felt cold after that night. Every man that I had been with felt suffocating to me. I couldn’t settle for anyone else except for him, but God knows he held nothing but trouble.
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