Clinging

“I can’t do this anymore.”

We were used to shouting at each other. Angry clashes and passionate reconciliation had always been our pattern, but then a simple, calm statement ended everything. I couldn’t even summon a response, just stared blankly, searching her face for some sort of explanation.

She shook her head. “Things were supposed to be different here.” I could hear a deep, searing pain in her voice. “You said they would be different.”

“I thought they were.”

She didn’t respond for a long time, just stood in the doorway. Finally she said, “My sister’s downstairs. She’ll give me a ride. The apartment is yours now.” A pause. “Goodbye.”

She must have shut the door, but I did not, could not watch her go. At some point, night fell.

At some point, I smashed a lamp and toppled a bookshelf. At some point, I ran out of liquor. “This is your fault,” I said at last.

A thin voice replied, “No.”

“We left everything to get away from you. You weren’t supposed to be here.”

“You . . .” the voice creaked, “brought me.”

“Leave me alone,” I pleaded.

“I . . . can’t.” And I sat in the darkness, clinging fiercely to my anger.

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Ducks

Today, a duck reminded me of how the world ended.

I never thought it would be possible for me to forget a single detail of the meteor you sent hurtling into my life. The words you spoke were a life-smothering cataclysm. Blindsided, all I could do was stare straight ahead at the pond, where a family of ducks swam in slow, uneven circles.

I still remember the ducks with perfect clarity, but find I can no longer remember your words. Though I endlessly retraced every syllable, every pause, every shift in intonation, turning the crater into a canyon, I now recall only muffled echoes. The chasms I carved were just scribbling in the sand, and the pain that bored so deeply into my heart is now cold, inert, and surprisingly small.

There are still scars, of course. A few of the joys we shared have fossilized within me, brittle monuments of a different life. Occasionally, one of them turns up. Occasionally, a duck reminds me of incomprehensible sorrow. But life has returned, new and varied and beautiful. The world spins on. And it turns out that the moment I thought was the end of everything was only a fleeting shudder.

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Photo by Bence Balla-Schottner on Unsplash

Story by Gregory M. Fox