After the Before

He took a long time to unbelieve the lies he’d built for himself during the years of standing in her corner. No reason to rush through this sort of thing, he thought, having before applied the same care to peeling off bandages; undertaken with enough patience, the hurt would wash over his skin a little at a time instead of all at once.

“I can’t love that man.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“Which would hurt less?”
“Neither.”
“Then both.”

He edited resurfacing memories to pass the nights, not knowing whether the changes he made took him toward or away from the truth of what happened.

“You happened to me, you bastard, and you fucking knew it, and you did nothing to stop it.”

Had he known it? The bed was too soft, so he sat at the kitchen table or lay on the living room floor, scattering himself among the boxes she’d left. He was grateful that he at least didn’t have to look at the indents they would have left in the carpet, but was without a clue as to what he should do with them.

_____

A tenuous calm was all she could maintain anymore, having realized early on in their flirtation that once they found a reason to island themselves, all bets and clothes would be off. It took weeks, mustering courage enough to meet his eyes for longer than she could hold her breath.

Among the things she wanted to say to him were

I worry far too much these days about what you’re thinking.

Or

I want to sit close enough that I notice those things about you
which you could never help hoping someone would notice someday.

Or maybe

Turn it up. I love this song.

When she finally said something, it was not nearly as casual as she wanted it to be.

“I have such rapturous notions where you are¬†concerned,
which suppress my appetite for sleep.”

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