The tissue I used to wipe my tears is a damp and twisted Q and my face is streaked with tears and black mascara. I’m crying; little sobs escape my lips like hiccups. It’s pathetic.
He’s gone. Like, really, really gone.
He cried and his voice was a whisper as I convulsed on the other end of the couch not even an hour ago.
“The thing is,” I said immediately losing control once we sat down, “this isn’t working for me.”
“What isn’t?” he asked.
“Our friendship. It’s too painful.”
I told him everything. Everything I’ve written here over the past several months, how hard I’d fought to make our friendship ok, how painful it was to see him change and grow without me, how difficult it was to realize that our breakup friendship wasn’t all that different from our dating one, how it felt on his birthday, how it felt last night, everything.
The pain was overwhelming and my cries tumbled out of me. His face crumpled and his voice evaporated. He stood and walked to the kitchen sink, emptied his water glass.
“What are you doing?” I asked between sobs.
“I’m leaving. You don’t want to be friends with me anymore.”
I wouldn’t let him leave. “How would it have felt to you if I had gotten up and just left you that morning you told me how you felt? That you didn’t want to be with me anymore?” Tears streamed down my face. “You don’t leave now. You stay.”
And he did.
And then he cried more and we cried together, apart. Again. All over again.
He said he understood and wants to support me in any way he can, but it sucks — God, how it sucks. I balled like I’d just seen my dog run over and wondered aloud why he couldn’t just want me back. It was a weak moment for me.
“Hy,” he said not unkindly, “you have to get over that.”
My sobs stopped as I processed my last hope being dashed against the rocks like a bottle of nothing. I lifted my face from my hands, took a breath, and looked at him.
His eyes were filled with tears and bright red. I held his gaze until we broke it together. I know he loves me, but not the way I need. Not the way I want.
We agreed he wouldn’t contact me and I wouldn’t contact him until and unless I felt I was fully recovered. When I can imagine him with another woman and not want to vomit will be my Litmus test of recovery. I have little hope that will happen inside a year or two at the least. Maybe never. I don’t know.
He said he had no idea how I’d been feeling, but felt badly about it nonetheless. “I’ve been fearing this moment forever,” he said. “but now it’s finally here and I know I’ll be ok, but it’s terrible.” The last few words were but a whisper again. My feelings for him and his fears of me ending our friendship don’t appear to have a connection in his mind.
“I knew that this would be harder on you, Hy. I’m TN-Bot 3000, remember? I don’t feel things.”
I felt sad. Like the Tin Man with no heart, The Neighbor knows there’s something missing from his make-up. I wanted so badly to close the distance between us and hold his hand as he admitted his hollowness, but I remained rooted to my cushion.
I told him that he could contact me under two conditions. One, if he wanted to get back together and try again — he chuckled. I smirked — and two, “In case of an emergency,” he filled in for me.
“Yes, absolutely and always.”
“I also reserve the right to call you and you can hang up in my face,” he added.
I shrugged noncommittally.
At some point short of an hour it became obvious I had nothing else to say. “I’m going to go now,” he announced softly. I nodded assent. “One last hug goodbye?” he asked.
He put his shoes on and turned to me with open arms. I was already crying again when I walked towards him and wrapped my arms around him. His chin rested on my shoulder and his arms held me close. I could feel him shudder as he cried and I could hear his whimpers, too. “TN,” I said choking on tears, “this is awful. I’m so sorry.”
He squeezed me and said, “I know. I’m sorry, too.”
We broke apart and he handed me the cat who was attempting to escape. “Thanks,” I said and then he slipped out into the night and past my welcome mat.
“Bye, TN,” I said gently behind him.
And then I shut the door.