Imagine how much earning potential there would be if some people paid rent for the amount of space they take up in your head.
It began when I stopped answering his messages, stopped calling him back when I saw he had phoned. It wasn’t that he didn’t bring color to my life in a way that I certainly enjoyed and maybe even needed; it wasn’t that at all. In fact, for the longest time, I didn’t know what it was. I was joyful to see him, and I missed him when I was away. Actually, there was not a negative thing to name in our relationship. It was a beautiful, gracious, and jovial connection; and it was more than love really. It was likely once in a lifetime. And I knew if it ever ended, it would destroy everything I had. It would shatter me. I would be nothing. And right now, I was everything. While the stone in me continued to roll along, and I went about my writing just as I always had, sometimes he accompanied me, others not. He had his own work, after all, and he was bloody brilliant in it and for it.
I came to the conclusion that, as heartbreaking as it would be, I would need to walk away on my own terms; tell him goodbye before anything had the chance to start slowly dismantling, decaying, turning to rubbish before my eyes. I just wouldn’t be able to stand it, should it come to that.
At this point, I had given him another year of my life. A year, for me, was a partial eternity. Finally, to reach a point of clarity, I booked myself a trip to Athens, and had cried myself swollen among the ruins. I sat in a place where no bumbling tourist would ever stumble into the mess that I was, but from where I sat, I had the most heartbreaking view of what I thought could become of my life if I kept things as they were: ruins of a civilization that had once been the most functional and mighty in the world.
After hours of sobbing, sniffling, and overall abuse and soul-scourging, I had emptied myself of all water within my body, and had replenished myself with ouzo and various other strong local drinks. I therefore spent many hours within the peace of a black-out, lived off of ibuprofen, and flew back to Berlin several days later.
Three worse for the gin, which I had drunk at a bar close to our place, I clambered into the apartment and had practically fallen into Marius like a boulder plowing its way down a steep slope.
“I’m sorry,” I had said. “I’m just so fucking sorry.”
I looked into his eyes, hoping he would grasp my meaning. He just smiled and kissed my forehead, complementing me on my deepened skin tone and remarking how glad he was to have me home.
“Marius.” I was shaking my head.
There was an unnatural rushing in my ears.
He stopped. The world stopped. My heart stopped.
And I don’t think it began again until I had closed the door behind me one final time, hailed a cab from the main street behind the apartment, and boarded the plane to London. Then it began again, excrutiatingly slowly, but there it was.
To sever the connection of two souls is more than science can ever explain. Its more than open-heart surgery, more than pulling the plug on a life-support machine, and more than having your worst nightmare realized. It feels like all of that, but is really so much more. The finality of the good-bye is a razor sharp blazing knife ripping through the flesh. Its the stolen breath that refuses to return for what seems like hours. Its the rain that drowns you when the tears refuse to come. Its the emptiness that will never be filled.
It is all that I am.
He cried before my eyes, asking me why, demanding answers that my thick and slow tongue couldn’t produce. “You’re not even giving it a chance Mira,” he had repeated over and over again. “I just don’t understand. We’re so much more than you’re letting us be.” He was right of course. How could I ever tell him that though? How could I tell him that I would rather sacrifice a part of my soul then risk its utter destruction? In a thousand and one ways, I was a coward.
A bloody fucking coward.
He became angry and stood up, wiping his face and nose. “That’s why you haven’t been, I don’t know, writing me when you’re away, or calling me. That’s why you’ve been absent. You were planning this; you just hadn’t found it pertinent to let me in on it.”
I said nothing. In a way, he was right again.
“You’ve been it Mira. For the last long bit of time in my life, it was you. Even when I didn’t even fucking realize it. I’ve been wanting nothing more for so many years. And there you were one day. And now, you can’t fucking risk it anymore?” He was shaking his head and covering his face with his hands.
“Holy Christ,” he whispered. He was breathing audibly, looking out through the wall of windows where, outside, the sunshine mocked me.
An ambulance rolled by on the main street. The door downstairs slammed shut. Dust fell and was heard by no one.
A strange parallel sense of calm settled over the room as he turned back to face me. “I won’t try to change your mind. That would not be right. And frankly, I never want to have to convince you to be with me. Your choice is your own, and I want no part in it.” He paused for what seemed like hours. “I just wish I could understand. I’d give anything to have a glimpse into that mind of yours. You kill me Mira. Truly, you kill me.”
Leaving the truth of his words to hang in the air and finally reach me, he went into the kitchen. He came back with a generous glass of clear liquid, a solitary ice cube bobbing on the surface. “It will be my curse to love you for the rest of my natural life. But someday, I will find peace from it.” He paused. “I think,” he paused again and looked into his glass, “I think I can handle your honesty, and I’ll be a better person for it. Somehow. Someday. But, God and Jesus in Heaven, this hurts. It fucking kills.” He shook his head once, and sighed. Then, very gently, he set the glass onto the counter and took deliberate steps towards me until we were an intimate distance apart. He was looking at the floor. “I’ll miss you. And your perfect friendship. And I’ll only ever want happiness for you.” He leaned in and kissed my cheek so very gently. I think I could’ve died on the spot, if it wasn’t for my unnatural willpower to stay on my feet. Then, he laid his hand gently on my cheek and smiled smally, blue eyes melting into mine.
By the time I came to myself, the glass had disappeared from the counter, there was a small ‘click’ from somewhere behind me, and he was gone. Forever and a day, he was gone.
As is known in psychology when one is in shock, I went through the next few hours in a mechanical state, packing my things, addressing boxes, and loading my suitcases. My mind told me I was leaving a hotel after a trip had come to an end.
What a metaphor; this trip spanning over a decade was now over. What would come of my life now that this chapter had ended, this presence had left me? I zipped the bag shut. I helped myself to a glass of vodka and was still drinking industriously when the shipping service had come to collect my things. I practically had to close one eye to see the line for my signature on the receipt.
It took me days to recover, weeks really. I had known that he would likely never in this lifetime want another thing to do with me after all of this, but I hadn’t been able to calculate the damage that it would inflict upon me after it had come to pass. I was having a monster of a time coping. And that’s an understatement.
“I’ve been in London for three weeks, Mum. I’ve been….out. With people I haven’t seen in years, drinking, dancing, smoking. Trying to forget my fucking miserable life for a just one moment. I’ve been staying with friends, couch surfing, getting a hotel room, whatever I can to avoid being alone in my flat. I can’t do it; I can’t face it yet. I’ve completely obliterated my sense of peace. And I’ve lost someone who was worth more than his weight in gold to me. I highly doubt I will find anyone who understands me like he does. Did. Oh God.” She put her head in her hands. I thought she might cry, but instead, she looked up at me with zombie eyes. “I look like walking hell because I haven’t slept in weeks. I haven’t written anything at all. I tried yesterday, and it was absolutely the most miserable writing anyone could have ever produced. Like in the history of writing, though.” She swallowed and shook her head. “I don’t even feel like a person anymore. I feel—“ She breathed out her nose. “I feel horrible. I feel like I betrayed him. I did betray him. I treated him in a way that he never ever deserved. He was always honest with me; always kind, always an ear for me to speak into. I was such an arse.”
She was so full of her own misery, I didn’t feel compelled to inject any more.
“I mean, I think I’ll come back from it. God, I can only hope. But I know for a fact that there will come many a day where I’ll want to speak with him, to share with him like we always did. I’ll want to see his smile, and never will be able to.”
There was the shimmer of tears in her eyes now.
“He was so clear about his wish for things. He gave me his final goodbye. And he’ll move on. I know he will. He’s such a brilliant human being. My favorite person to ever exist.”
The tears fell now, landing thick and heavy against the light color of her jeans.
“God, he will move on, and he’ll find peace. I hope I am able to do the same.” She looked down, and the tears fell freely. I reached out a hand and clasped hers.
“Mira, you’re a writer. And a brilliant one at that. If nothing else, at some point you’ll find catharsis through that.”
And, against my nature, I stood up, straightened my trousers, and walked to the cabinet. Pulling out the bottle of bourbon and two glasses, I settled back in to have a drink with my daughter; my complicated, beautiful, sometimes idiotic and entirely nonsensical, artistic free-spirit of a daughter.
From a distance, they looked like two lovers on holiday. They breakfasted on the veranda together, held hands as they strolled along the beach, and when they looked at each other, well, then it seemed set in stone. It wasn’t just desire in their eyes; it was a deep and intense understanding and admiration of the other. It was only in the moments when they were alone, preparing themselves for bed or the start of a new day that the small elephant sat back down in the corner of the room. Marius would watch Mira combing out her hair after a shower and longed to slip the towel from its precarious position above her breasts. But he didn’t. He still wasn’t sure if that would be what she wanted, too. And she would watch him slide his body into a t-shirt and a pair of pants, admiring the musculature that vanished beneath the cloth. She liked the careful yet carefree way he tidied his hair and face each morning, and found nothing imperfect about his physique. But they both felt as if they were dancing in a dream, and at anytime, the song would end. The perfect blue of the ocean, the caressing warmth of the early spring, and the endless supply of food and drink seemed to perpetuate the illusion. The question was simple if not terribly impossible to answer: where should they go from here? Both of them felt that, at this age, they should know how to answer, and therefore both kept their lips sealed tightly shut.
“When we get back to Berlin, do you think you’ll stay?” He asked one night as they sat on the balcony. Her head rested on his chest and he held her close. She raised her head and looked back at him. “Of course you’ll travel for your writing, but will you stay, with me?” He asked, very quietly, fearing the possibilities of her response. She laid her head back down and he exhaled. “I’d be rather happy to stay with you,” she answered slowly. He waited for more but nothing else came. All that was left to fill the silence were the crashing waves washing over the nearby shore.
When they arrived back in Berlin, they stood in the living room of Marius’ apartment; Mira looked down at her phone, Marius looked at her, waiting. Finally, she looked up. “Do you think I should send my stuff up from London then?” she asked. He thought he caught an anxious look in her eyes. “I think that’s a great idea, yes,” he replied simply, hoping she would relax. She nodded once. “Right. I’ll get on with it then.”
While she telephoned with a shipping service, Marius prepared a tray of snacks complete with a bottle of sparkling Rose. He set it all gently down on the coffee table and began flicking through his work email account which had been abandoned for five days while they had been in Spain. He poured himself a glass of wine and busied himself with drinking industriously and scrolling systematically. “It’ll arrive tomorrow afternoon,” she said, bringing him back from cyber land. “That’s great news. I’ll make space in the closet for you,” he said, smiling over at her.
“Erm, yea, or I could I just, you know, stuff it all in the guest bedroom closet.”
“Mira, I’m happy to make all the space you need. Don’t you want to share space with me?”
She felt a bit ridiculous and began to blush. “I, yes, I do. I just, well. I don’t exactly fucking know how to really. It just feels so odd to…move into your flat again. Obviously it’s not the same one as before. But, still.”
“Alright. Fair enough. I understand. But, this time, we’re much older and much wiser. And hopefully you won’t leave me for the beauty of Switzerland or anywhere else.” He took her hand gently and smiled. She leaned her forehead against his, breathing deeply. He smelled wonderful. Comforting. “I can’t believe this Marius. Sometimes I still just can’t. I mean, what if it really should be Lila here all along?” she murmured, speaking to the floor.
“Mira, I didn’t leave Lila because we didn’t make a good match. We did. But I’ve loved you since I told you the first time a million years ago. After awhile I didn’t realize it anymore, but it was always there.”
She was quiet, examining the lines on the palms of her hands, before laughing a little. “I’m too old for this shit,” she commented, looking up to meet his eyes with hers. He smiled and squeezed her hand.
She took up a book and he seated himself at the piano, beginning to plunk around, tinkering with a new melody. As usual when he played, she found herself unable to concentrate on anything else but the music lofting from the mechanism that was the grand piano. She looked round the spacious room and frowned slightly. She would need to mark out a place of her own; somewhere where she could spread out and do some proper work. She couldn’t imagine sharing a workspace with Marius. In fact, it was difficult for her to get her head around the concept of sharing any type of space with anyone after so many years of solitary accommodation. But, the longer she sat, taking in the music as it filled every molecule in the room with the purest sound, she realized that there was likely no better atmosphere to share with another human. This peace, this comfort; she would remain as long as it did. For surely, she thought, this would be a wonderful soundtrack to write to everyday. Surely, indeed.
I awoke, discombobulated and otherwise confused. Lulled to sleep by the perpetual hum of voices and airplane noises around me, I had fallen asleep before we had even pulled away from the gate. I don’t know what it is, but something about traveling by plane, and the leading up to it, brings me to such a height of boredom and exhaustion that all I can do is close my eyes and slip away. This time, I didn’t even bother with headphones; my last night in New York City had robbed me of enough sleep to make the need easy to fill. I glanced around, blinking. The woman sitting to my left certainly wasn’t the guy that had been sitting there when I had fallen asleep. I straightened up and smoothed my pants a little, placing the bowler hat onto my knee. I cleared my throat slightly, wishing for nothing more than a glass of water. I allowed myself a glance in my seat mate’s direction again and decided that I was lucky to have a pretty young woman to share the cramped quarters of the airplane with. I looked out the window, hoping to muster up something clever to say. She was reading, but fuck it, maybe she was up for talking. “You’re not the guy that was sitting her before,” I said, smiling. “No, he opted to be next to his family,” she replied, looking up. I asked her how long we had been flying; she replied about three hours. I smiled at her again. “I’m sorry, you’re reading. I didn’t mean to disturb you.” And then, she smiled at me, and I was suddenly very much wide awake.
She didn’t seem like the type of girl who needed anyone to show her around a strange city. Still, I offered, and to my luck, she called me the next morning, asking if I would spare some time for a tour. I picked her up from the five star hotel where she was staying and took her to brunch. After that, I showed her around the neighborhood where I was living. Though it wasn’t much yet, anyone could see that it would be something very soon. With her sharp eye, I realized she would not have a problem recognizing potential. I brought her to the studio. My partners eyed her with looks of approval, and threw me smirks behind her back. Luckily, her German was rudimental enough so that she did not understand their bawdy remarks. They thought she was an easy fling, and thereby the perfect woman. I thought she was the most electrifying, inspiring thing that could’ve dropped into my life at the moment, and I already was shaping her up to be my finest muse in my subconscious. I took her back to my apartment, a modest one-bedroom, and cooked her spaghetti bolognese, serving a bottle of wine costing a whole seven Euro, which happened to be the most expensive one I kept in-house. Afterwards, I served her beer from a plastic bottle, hiding this fact by pouring it into a pint glass, and we sat on the mini-balcony, talking and smoking. She spent the night in my bed, and the next morning I kissed her over coffee and croissants.
On the day she was meant to fly away from Berlin, and out of my life, we found ourselves sprawled naked on the living room rug, surrounded by wine bottles and take-away pizza boxes. After hours of much debate and many tears, we had decided that she would stay with me and we would see what we could make of this. I had been forewarned that she would continue to travel, and I had promised her I would be working long days at the studio. Both seemed like fair compromises to make. I realized I finally had a reason to come home again after work.
She had some boxes from her place in London delivered, and asked me very nicely if she could please hang some artwork on the walls. When I came home, the place had been marked with the artful touch of someone who knew how very little it took to turn a space into a home. From where I was standing, both literally and figuratively, everything looked very promising. I wouldn’t expose myself to her yet, but I knew that I was already in love with her.
If I were to dig deep enough inside myself, and rifle through the part of my memory that housed the things I refused to think of, I suppose I could conjure up the day that she left for Switzerland. All I can readily say is that the weather matched my emotions precisely; it was rainy, cold, and otherwise dour and shitty. The year preceding it had been one of long-distance video calls and lonely nights. I accused her of traveling too much, and she told me I was both working and drinking too much. All of it was true. And instead of putting things into perspective and working them out, we both chose to cling to our careers that had placed us on an upward trajectory faster than either of us could’ve anticipated. Her technological devices had become her constant companions, while I spent most of my time with strangers who handed me contracts and film manuscripts. I had become the composer I had always wanted to be, and she was by now a well-known writer. With all of that to sleep with, it seemed we no longer needed each other. And although I couldn’t actually believe how fucking stubborn I was being, I would never admit to her that I was rotting on the inside without her.
And then, she disappeared. Into the mist, into a train car, into the milieu of another country, and most certainly eventually into the arms of another man.
If I had been a workaholic before, I became a machine that required neither sleep nor food, and ran mostly on alcohol and unbridled passion for the success of my music. For months after she had gone, I couldn’t bare to be alone in the apartment. Some nights, I even slept on the couch in the studio. I was perpetuating a schedule that involved early mornings, long days, and too many drinks with my colleagues who also kept the same, single schedule as I did.
Eventually though, I slipped back into being human again, and found my apartment to be solace from the otherwise turbid world outside. Mira and I kept up no correspondence, but it was not difficult for me to keep tabs on her life. I would sometimes, rather often actually, find myself scrolling through her blog, staring in awe as pictures of her face, her body, the scenery of beautiful places rolled across the screen. I never left any trace of being there, fearing that she may have an adverse reaction should I leave a comment. Of course this was ridiculous; not only because, by that time she had millions of followers, but also because we hadn’t parted with any bad blood between us to speak of.
After too many glasses of wine one night, at least five years since I had last seen her in person, and shortly after I had moved into a newly renovated loft, I found myself glued to the large-screened computer in my office, ogling the divine perfection of her bikini-clad body as she frolicked about in photos of Sardinia, parts of me beginning to stir and rise that had no business doing so. The blood rushed to my head as I moved down the page, discovering the men with which she had spent time recently. I felt myself becoming belligerently jealous, and swiped a pile of papers angrily from my desk in one fluid flurry of rage. Fuming, I sat back in my chair and wiped my face. Chalking it up to too much wine, I shut the computer down and trudged to my bedroom, falling into a sweat-soaked sleep, and awakening feeling like I had been run down by a city street car.
Thereafter, I disallowed myself from getting involved with her online empire. I mean, at some point I needed to move on. Moving into my new place was a great start, and now I needed to keep going that direction. I was otherwise comfortably adjusted to life in my mid-thirties; I owned a considerably fashionable piece of property in the same neighborhood that I had first lived in when I came to study in Berlin almost eleven years ago. Both my business and my personal music career were thriving, and I had become a known personality on several radio stations, and a sought-after guest speaker for courses at the university. No longer forced to buy beer in plastic bottles, I now bought an assortment of German brews and imports, as well as very expensive bottles of wine to impress the guests I was hosting on a weekly basis.
Finally, I was starting to feel at home again in my own life, happy-hearted with all that I had and become.
It was at a Friday night dinner party hosted at my place where I met Lila; a lovely, if not a little brusque art galley director who had come with one of the musicians we were currently contracting with. She was thin, very tall, with minor swells to mark breasts, hips, and ass. The red dress she wore flowed loosely around her toned frame, and her blonde hair covered everything the dress did not—until she swept it into a loose ponytail after we opened the sixth bottle of Sekt post-dinner. Her cheeks had taken the rosy coloration of one who has drunk plenty of wine, and I couldn’t help but give most of my attention to her, eventually breaking away from the rest of the group for a smoke break on the balcony.
“Nice place,” she commented, gesturing to the glass windows separating us from the living room. I lit the end of her cigarette. “Thank you,” I replied, smiling.
“I can’t believe this neighborhood. It’s really made something of itself, eh?” she mused, looking out over the tops of the surrounding buildings. I nodded. She wasn’t the most easy individual to converse with, but she always, I found, knew exactly what she wanted and knew how to speak her mind, and that is what I found most desirable about her.
We eased into a relationship at about the same speed two glaciers in the Arctic move toward each other, eventually meeting in the middle with a gentle bump of acknowledgement. We saw very little of each other at first because of our incredibly opposite schedules. While I worked during the day and into the evenings, most of her events started at night, making her unavailable for dinner or even a drink somewhere. Usually I would hang around the gallery, nursing a glass of whatever the artist had chosen to serve, grabbing bits of conversation with her where I could before heading home and tucking myself in for the night. It gave us little chance to grow tired of each other, and since we didn’t live together, seeing each other remained something of a novelty.
As time went on, she came to me each night, offering me the comforts of her body, and when she didn’t, I missed her and wondered why she had chosen to go home. Occasionally, I would spend the night at her apartment one neighborhood over from mine. She lived above the gallery, and I could never figure out how she managed to ever distance herself from her work. But that was part of her bravado: compartmentalizing and effortlessly fine-tuning her attentions with precision. We went on like this for years; happy, satisfied, sometimes argumentative and out of touch, but in love enough to move through life in unison.
“I got an email from Mira,” I told Lila over a rushed breakfast one morning. She paused with stirring her tea to raise a skeptical, perfectly-crafted eyebrow at me. “Oh really? Is she coming to Berlin?” she replied, resuming her stirring. I wiped my mouth. “Yea, she is,” was all I said, waiting for the precarious silence to pass. She knew all about Mira, for Mira was a part of my life I could never keep secret. “Looking forward to meeting her,” she said, pushing back from the table. “I must go. I’m late already.” She kissed my hair briefly before flinging a scarf around her neck and slipping into her trench coat. “See you later,” she said before pulling on a pair of rain boots and heading out into the downpour. I sat in silence, mulling over the potential situations that could arise. But nothing, absolutely and most certainly nothing came to mind other than the child-like excitement that rose up every time I imagined seeing Mira again after all these years.
I felt like a canary in a cage as I waited at the restaurant designated to be our meeting spot. I was early in the hopes of snagging a good table big enough for three. I had already sipped my way through a vodka tonic, and my nerves were only slightly calmed. I noticed how I kept wiping my palms on the thigh of my jeans.
When I saw her, my brain went dead for a second, and then the banging and clanging and fireworks display of nerve synapses began. And I wondered directly thereafter if inviting Lila to join us had been a mistake. There was no time to ponder it, Mira had landed in my arms, and it felt like she had never even left them at all. “My God, you look wonderful,” I said, stepping back to admire the silhouette she presented me with in a black fitted dress as she slipped out of a red wool coat. “You look well yourself,” she replied, smiling. “The shorter hair suits you,” she added. I laughed. “Well, I’m not nearly as young as I used to be,” I said, giving her a smile. She laid her hands on the table, leaning in slightly. “Its so good to see you Marius. Thanks for meeting me.” Something in the way her mouth turned up at the corner, the crinkles near her eyes danced, and how her eyes spoke made me shift in my chair. In my pants, things we stirring as well and I cleared my throat. “You know I’m always glad to see you Mira.”
Lila arrived an hour later, joining us for after-dinner drinks. I was grateful for her treatment of Mira; I had feared she may treat her with cold detachment, but was sighing internally with relief when she slipped into the art of casual conversation with her right away. Mira was the type of person that nearly everyone could feel comfortable with. As beautiful as she was, women could not speak a word against her, out of jealousy or anything else, because she simply glowed with good-will and kindness. This, it seemed, had also put any of Lila’s concerns to rest.
I didn’t realize that I had been holding my breath for so long until I sighed a gust of wind in relief when Mira told us that she would stay in Berlin awhile. “Would you mind if I asked Mira to stay here?” I asked Lila one night as we prepared dinner. She continued her chopping of the onions. “No,” she replied simply. I studied the side of her face, looking for signs that may offer contradiction to her answer. I found none. As I went to bed that night, I was convinced that she was truly okay with it; she had never made time for go-around games in which she wouldn’t say exactly what she meant to. As I closed my eyes and waited for sleep to come, I imagined what it would be like to co-habit with someone who, even after all these years, brought me the same abundance of happiness.
Things between Lila and me were silently falling apart. She knew something I didn’t; something I wouldn’t admit aloud to the question that she never asked. She fucking knew, but waited for me to confront myself with the truth: that I was in love with my past. The past who had become the present. And who I wanted to be the future as well. When Mira came back to the loft one evening after her day out with Lila, I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that Lila had told her off about our relationship. Not that there was anything more than a friendship. But Lila had finally had enough, and went first to Mira to accost her because of my feelings. I was still uncertain that the feelings I had were actually mutual. But I understood why Lila had decided to come clean—she feared I would never move on from the limbo I had placed myself in, would never decide to chose one over the other, and if I did choose Lila, that I would never stop loving Mira. She had outed my cowardice, and now I felt as if I were naked on stage at the opera house.
“I feel horrible about all this,” Mira said, her face just as downcast as her eyes. I started at the sound of her voice which had snapped me out of focus for the composition I had been going over. “You have no reason for that,” I replied, feeling my own sense of guilt creep slowly back in. “I dunno, I mean, if I had never come to Berlin, you guys would’ve gone on happily. I feel like I’ve absolutely desecrated the sense of peace your lives had.” She sighed and flipped the page of the magazine she had open on her lap. “That is nonsense, Mira. Maybe we would’ve stayed together, but it would have been less of a love than what I feel for you.” She looked over at me and I could tell this was really weighing on her. I moved from my chair to crouch down in front of where she was perched on the edge of the couch. “These things happen, Mira. Who fucking knows why, but its certainly not the end of the world. Its a beginning. Lila will move on. She is still beautiful and brilliant and highly desirable. There wouldn’t be a thing you or I could do to change any of that.” She maintained eye contact with me as I spoke softly to her, trying my best to give her comfort in her grief. She had been careful to avoid any physical contact with me. Only once had she let me hold her hand while we stood on the balcony and I smoked my last cigarette for the day. And once she had laid her head on my shoulder while we rested on the couch. Mostly though, she still felt as if I were not hers to touch. Not until I spoke with Lila.
“Well, this is all bollocksed up,” I muttered to the burnt slice of bread peeking out from the silver top of the toaster. I stood in a pair of his clean knickers that I had nabbed from the laundry basket on his bed and a black tank top, puzzling over how to rid the smell of burnt toast from the apartment. It was almost alarming how comfortable, and moreover at home, I suddenly felt. Before I could make a move, I heard the lock turn and the door open. “Oh fuck, burnt toast. My favorite,” he said, coming into the kitchen and giving me a smile. “I know,” I replied, grimacing. “Sorry for the smell.” I walked over to the balcony door and gave it a pull; the glass slid open easily with a rumble along the track. “Are those my shorts?” he asked as I came back into the kitchen. “Erm, ya, sorry,” I said, shrugging awkwardly. He smiled, relaxed as always. “It’s ok. They look good on you.” He reached for a bag of what I knew was bakery contraband. “Thought we’d have a proper breakfast,” he said, bringing the bag to the table and fetching a few plates, knives, and miscellaneous breakfast elements from the fridge. “I thought you’d be in the studio by now,” I remarked, scooping coffee into the french press and setting the kettle to boil. “I was there already. I’ll need to go back.” He checked his watch. “I don’t have much time actually. I didn’t want to work on an empty stomach, though,” he added, winking at me. “Of course,” I replied as we sat down. “And I wanted to see you, of course,” he said, very seriously. I smiled and shrugged a shoulder. We had slept separately last night, but there had been an undeniable gravitational shift to pull us towards any surface we could get into a supine position upon. A lion’s heart had enabled us to resist. That, and the feeling that I would’ve been making love to a man who technically still belonged to the lingering energy of Lila.
I cleared my throat of bread crumbs, sipped a tangy bit of coffee, and wiped at the corners of my mouth. “So, I, uhm, well I’ve been in Berlin for awhile now, and I was thinking I should probably do another travel piece rather soon, and I was going to book a trip, four days I think, to Spain, Costa del Sol, and I thought perhaps, maybe, you’d like to join me?” I offered, reaching defensively for the butter knife and smearing a hefty glob onto the soft white bun. “You know we can go as friends or something,” I added, shaking my head, hoping to make the situation less forward. I had never asked a man to accompany me on a writing trip. Ever. The words sounded more foreign to me than the language I had produced them in. “Mira, I don’t look at you as a friend, and I suppose I never have,” he replied factually. He went on. “I’d very much like to have a holiday. I think I’ve been on two or three since the studio opened. I’ll need to speak with Lila to get this all—settled first, and then I’d be free to join you.” We let that bit about him speaking with Lila sink over us before he spoke again. “Are you sure you want company? I didn’t think you much liked travel companions when you are writing,” he said, a knowing gleam in his eye. Sometimes, I somehow forgot how well he did know me. “Aaahh, yea, that’s still true, but I thought, I dunno, it could be an interesting change,” I replied, laying my palms face up on the table. “Indeed,” he said, cutting into another roll. Indeed.
He departed without ceremony or display of affection. We were in a precarious state of limbo that demanded us respect both Lila and our newly rekindled emotions. A large part of me was wishing that he would come to Spain with me that very weekend, getting things straight with Lila so that we could finally figure ourselves out without that uncomfortable presence hanging about in the background. Another part of me, though, wished him to decline the trip, from which I would then never return, sending my regards via courier who would also collect the rest of my belongings from his apartment and send them on to London while I drowned my sorrow in Tinto de Veranos and the waves of the Atlantic all along the Spanish coast until I made it to the shores of the Mediterranean on the Costa de la Luz. “Oh fuck off,” I told myself, “Give him a chance.” “Its a fucking mistake,” the other side of reason argued. “You’re fast approaching middle age, and now is not the time to fling shit at the wall and see what sticks.” I closed my eyes against the late morning sun flooding the balcony, and tried to focus my attention on the emails I was sending to various editors and employers. Instead, I opened a new tab, punched in the URL of my blog and logged in. After several clicks, I hit ‘post’ on a raging impulse, and uploaded to the homepage was a selfie of Marius and I, taken that very morning on the very place where I was now sitting to bask in the summer sun. We’d see what my readers would think of that. God knew that what the readers wanted, they always ended up getting. One way or another.