This is the sixth instalment in a series. My lord, the damn thing’s nearly over. If you have a huge amount of time on your hands and you haven’t already read through them, then read the five preceding instalments:
• Richard, Part 1: The Beginning
• Richard, Part 2: The Painful Beginning of the Middle
• Richard, Part 3: The Painful Middle Part of the Middle, Despite the Hot Lesbian Action
• Richard, Part 4: Me and Starcat and Richard Make Three, or the End of the Middle
• Richard, Part 5: The Beginning of the End
Breaking off my engagement with Richard was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. There was not a single part of me that felt any differently about him than the day we had met, and knowing that every single reason for my having to leave him was absolutely my fault only compounded the pain it caused me. He was loving, wanted to be my best friend, he cared for me through my elongated schizoid episode, was an excellent cook, and forgave me when I most needed forgiveness. Aside from being way too young to even think about getting married, which I was unaware of at the time, I had no real reason apart from my own transgressions to walk away from him.
The worst thing about breaking it off was not my own turmoil about it but the fact that he would not know all the reasons why I had to do it. I was too chickenshit to tell him everything I had done, but I also didn’t want him to have to carry around the amount of anger that knowing would have caused. I was terribly conflicted about which would be worse, his anger or his confusion about why I would do this. I chose the former and decided that I would explain the breakup in terms of my youth and immaturity. Writing that now, it sounds so hollow. I tried convincing myself that I was doing the best thing for all concerned while concocting yet more lies and half-truths in order to cover my own ass. Don’t get me wrong, though. I did honestly want what was best for Richard in the end, which was to finally be done with me and move on.
I called him earlier on the chosen day, and we agreed to meet up at a party later that night. When we met up, I asked him to go for a walk with me. I couldn’t do it on home ground at his or my place, for some reason. My heart was lub-dubbing so heavily that it felt like it was filling my throat, so we made it less than two blocks before I stopped him and told him that we needed to talk. I had to get it over with. I had to get away from him. Knowing what I was about to do and why I found myself there doing it was actually becoming physically painful, so I pulled the letter from my coat pocket and gave it to him.
Yes, I gave him a freaking letter. I knew that I would never find the words at the appropriate moment otherwise.
He got through about half of it before looking up and asking what’s this? I motioned for him to keep reading. When he had read all of it, I asked him if he wanted me to stay and talk, which he naturally didn’t want, so I crossed the street as if to head home. I didn’t head home, though. I stood and watched Richard from the dark across the road. He was standing under the inside-out yellow sign above a vacant hobby shop, partially obscured by the volume of soft sleet falling through the halogen glow of a streetlight. He read and reread my dear john letter, and the paper lowered in his hands with the changing slope of his thin shoulders beneath his coat. He looked up high at one of the streetlights and then down again at the letter before crumpling it up and jamming it down into the pocket of his old, lined jean jacket. Turning first one way and then the other, it took him a moment to orient his legs in the direction of home, and it was at that moment that I remember wishing that I could run to him and put my arms under his coat and pull him near in a way that would make him forget the last twenty minutes. Maybe I, too, could forget, and we could walk away together and plan a pitcher of beer and maybe babies, but I was under the bell jar across the street. I could not break my frozen posture. This was the way things were.
Later, even though I had told myself I would never marry, I made myself promise that I could not marry anyone else without having first sought Richard’s forgiveness. I knew that I would always doubt my strength in a long-term relationship without that. Seven-and-a-half years after that night, Richard and I had still never spoken, and it was my last evening in Cosmopolis before leaving town to get married to the Fiery One and move to Cityville. Batty and I were out having a couple of pints when Richard walked into the pub. He hadn’t lived in Cosmopolis for years and was supposed to be at the coast, but there he was with a couple of friends. I had to look him over several times to believe that it was really him in front of me on that particular night. Richard’s friends decided to go to another pub, but he chose to stay and sit with Batty and me. We chatted for a couple of hours about what we and our mutual acquaintances were up to and what our plans were. No heavy topics were broached, but there was no need. His willingness to finally sit and speak with me after all those years of silence told me of his ability to let it go. He took the time to sit with me, even smiling a few times, and it was during my last couple of free hours before my marriage began. The closure I wanted but never expected to find found me.
Every once in a while, the Universe does throw you a bone.
– T. S. Eliot, 1917
The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimneypots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.
The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.
With the other masquerades
That times resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.
You tossed a blanket from the bed
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed's edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.
His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o'clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.
I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.
Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.
A must-read: “Steps in Overcoming Masturbation”.
Waxy.org takes you places.
I always like finding decently interesting news sites like this one.