A blue tinge of light catches my eye as I sift through the contents of my purse: coins sliding and shifting between my fingers, keys jingling, a cap of a cherry chapstick popping off. I spy the illuminated screen with cracks like branches. Your name pops up. Shit, shit, shit.
“It’s 12:05,” you snap.
The words greet me harshly before I can muster up a weak “hello.” I hold it gingerly to my ear, waiting. I push my way out of the overheated New Year’s party. The screen door hisses to a close behind me with a final bang of protest as it latches. The cold air whips my bangs across my hot forehead.
“I know I was going to call you it’s just-” It‘s just that I can’t deal with this.
“That you don’t care” you state calmly.
“I do care! I counted down the ball drop on TV then-” I was going to call you. God forgive the five minutes I took to use the bathroom.
“Then you didn’t give a fuck to call me.”
You don’t understand.
“Some girlfriend you are,” you continue.
You won’t even let me get a word in.
I followed you down the hall way and into my dorm room to get ready for bed. The warm fall had finally started to crisp over, frost covering any surface its greedy fingers could find. We stayed in my apartment drinking whiskey, avoiding the chill of the wind swirling up dead leaves. We we’re playfully talking about politics towards the end of the night. But I must have said too much, been reiterating some point that bothered you. I followed you into my room, mindlessly continuing to chat. You whipped around, your chest heaves as you let out a breath, struggling to remain in control. Your face was flushed and you swung around, fine blond hair catching the fluorescent lighting.
“Can’t you just shut the fuck up.” Your words hit me. I felt deflated. Felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Shaking you turned around and punched a wall, angry red marks blossoming across your knuckles. Purple and blue bruises sprouting up among the blotchy red. You kept yelling. You came towards me, trying to talk. Scared I shoved you back. Away, away, away from me.
“I’m not this kind of girl. I’m not a girl that can put up with this kind of shit, Tim.” Tears streamed down my face and my hands shook. Uncontrollably. My breaths came out in short desperate gasps and strands of hair that had fallen loose stuck to my wet face.
It was like hitting a switch. Like you had shut off your personality for a two minute expanse and lost all control. It was like looking into the eyes of a hollow person; someone that isn’t there. The ever present dimples that punctuate that straight, kind, smile you have- they fell away. And your eyes. Your eyes. Your pupils had reduced to the size of pin points. A blank green expanse of iris, glaring me down. The usual light behind them hadn’t even flickered before it went out. It was just gone. The caring and happy person I knew evaporated. Wiping away the joy you had given me, the dates we’d had, the time we’d spent together- all seemed to vanish in that moment.
Something changed in me too. I was weary. But I gave you another chance. The good had so far weighed out all the bad. Everyone deserves another chance.
“Just, please calm down.” We’d fought yesterday about my New Year’s plans. I’d wanted to see the best friends I hadn’t seen in months. You had mentioned it would just be you and the guys staying in. You’d wanted me to be with you that night.
“No, you ditched me, and now you didn’t even call me at midnight,” your voice is rising over the phone, “you ruined my night, my holiday. You’re ruining the beginning of a new fucking year, Katy.”
I’ve spent months walking on egg shells. Not trying to evoke this anger. Nothing works.
“You have nothing to say?” your voice drops suddenly, more menacing.
The screen door hisses again and I see my friend Diane in the light from the porch. After yesterday’s fight I’d finally told her about your anger issues. Lamented about how I wouldn’t always state my mind, in case it would make you mad. I’d told her how hard you always tried to make it up to me, showering me in compliments and pulling that happy mask back over your face.
A cycle. It starts: Anger. You’re so beautiful. Cutting words. We should plan a trip together. I don’t think it will end. Diane strides toward me.
“Just hang up, Kate. Don’t deal with it right now.” She says, reaching for the phone.
“Is that Diane? Tell her to shut the fuck up and let you talk.” You’re yelling now. Fear creeps it’s icy fingers up my back, choking me. Even though you’re miles and miles away.
“Stop, she’s my best friend. Don’t-” my hands shake.
“You know what Katy? Fuck you. Just fuck you,” The cold air whips my skirt around my legs, but my face is hot. “I really mean nothing to you do I? Why would you ruin a night like this for me?”
“I can’t do this.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t do this.”
“But- just wait.” I can’t be in this kind of relationship- instability, uncertainty.
“I’m done.” I hang up.
But you didn’t get it. You didn’t understand why I had a right to break up with you. Being afraid of your significant other wasn’t a valid reason. You asked me why I wanted to throw all that we had away. It wasn’t throwing it away. It was learning to put myself first. You were sorry. Then mad. Then pleading. And mad again. That endless cycle. I don’t know if you get it yet. But I do.