“I really love you. I love you. Always will," The Great Houdini says to me somewhere around 2am when I am not nearly as defensive as we started this conversation.
I knew this was coming, the way you see a car speeding in your direction. For the last two hours of this conversation I have been living in that moment when you see headlights barreling towards you and you are too terrified to save yourself. I don’t realize until I’m hit that I was tensing up, and the impact hurts even more than I ever imagined it would.
“Do you leave everyone you love?”
And it seems he is prepared for this too, handling my anger, my indignation, my outright cruelty smoothly, like it’s nothing, much like he used to. The shit makes me furious. In a white hot, foolhardy way that I try to be as unfamiliar with as possible.
“You made me so happy. You’re amazing. Without all my bullshit we’d still be together. Probably married. But I’m glad you’re happy and living your life. I’m just being honest. I just wanted you to know I’m not a monster.”
Happy? Is that what I have been all this time?
My stomach feels like I’m falling, like I have been hurtled through a windshield. Everything is quiet and still and I feel suspended in the air, in this moment, unable to right myself, catch myself or steel myself for when I hit bottom.
“I just wanted you to know that you meant the world to me. We weren’t fake. And this wasn’t your fault.”
My head snaps back like I’ve hit pavement, all of my organs feeling shifted and out of place, every inch of me aching with the effort of holding myself together so I don’t break apart on impact. I am laying there, my back flat, tears in my hair, unable to move from this spot. Paralyzed by this type of emotional injury.
I think of all the things I should have done. To deal better, to prepare better for this moment I always knew was coming, having driven up and down this highway too many times to not realize I was becoming too comfortable, overestimating my familiarity with this stretch of terrain. I should have wrestled with this a long time ago, and all the issues therein. And maybe then whatever finality I’d reached could have held me, anchored me like a seatbelt, to this moment so that I didn’t have to feel this way. Terrified. Shocked. Lying here gravely wounded.
“I hope you can forgive me one day,”
“I’m trying to.”
I really am.