Shadows of Love
By Cirroco DeSade
I find her in the dark.
The first thing I notice when the doors part is the absolute absence of light. In the few years that I have been here, I have become accustomed to the ever-present lighting. The engineers cannot design a console that will not eventually explode, however somehow there is always light, or back up light. I actually hesitate in the doorway even though I am sure that she is here. I had just asked the computer for her location and status only moments before I arrived.
She is alone in here, somewhere in the shadows.
I had begun worrying about her after the accident. I had never worried about her before.
Her husband had only been dead a day when she miscarried. An accident had robbed her of her husband and her child and all of her friends were at her side. Sometimes it seemed she was overwhelmed by the emotions. She had so many people who were there to comfort her, asking her about her well being, so I hesitated to join. A few words when I believed she might be willing to receive them were my only attempts to comfort her. After that, I let the others `handle her.'
I watched her though, from a distance.
Almost a month after the accident I finally approached her. She was in her office. I submitted to her schematics for a major sensor upgrade, a request I was never expecting to go anywhere. I was trying to goad her into one of our old arguments. I needed her to react.
At the time, I did not want to realize why I needed to see her passion so badly. I thought that I was truly only looking out for her in the best way I could. I had seen how she would cringe when someone asked her how she was feeling. While all the others treated her with kid gloves, I gave her an outlet for the bottled rage. I must admit that she surprised me; she held her agitation much longer than I thought she would. I pulled on my greatest arrogant look and challenged her knowledge. It wasn't a challenge I believed; simply what was needed. Her level of intelligence, her accuracy and the speed in which she argued her thoughts was incredible.
As we debated, I invaded her space. I cannot explain what prompted me to do it, I only knew I felt it was not yet enough. She had not let go yet, somehow I knew this and I knew I had to continue. She grew angry as I stepped near her and after a few sentences tried to push me away. I refused to yield. I do not entirely understand why, but I simply let her hands lay there while she yelled loudly at me. She cursed me, called me many names but still I refused to move. Eventually her strength and cunning overruled my balance and as I was off-balance, she pushed me. We both ended up heading to the floor; I did want her hurt so I took her down on top of me.
When she landed, she growled out more curses at me. I surprised her by asking her if she felt better. She froze then, not noticing she was still lying on me. In fact, she relaxed and stared me in the eyes.
"Damn you," she said, with no venom. It was as matter of fact as if she had just said `excuse me' instead of cursing me. Then I saw the tears filling her eyes. She lowered her forehead into the crook of my neck and I felt hot tears roll over my skin. I wrapped my arms around her loosely thinking maybe she would want the comfort. Her muffled voice reached my ears. "Damnit, why now? Why? And damn him for being right."
Before I could question her curious statements, she was pushing away from me and fleeing the room.
It is a curious feeling, lying on the floor while trying to think; especially here amidst all the bright sterility; the clean and organized beauty of her domain. I'm torn between my own nascent love for her and my desire to flee back into what I've always known: safely staying away from all emotional attachments. Maybe months ago I would have just left. Yet, these months since the accident I am less and less in control of my heart. Seeing her sorrow has left me almost as sorrowful. Before I would have gone away, hid in my own domain, avoided her until she was once again collected. Now I know I must follow her.
I find her sitting against the back wall. She doesn't react as I walk up to her. She doesn't speak when I sit in front of her. I have had to learn patience over the last few years and I test it now. An unknowable amount of time passes as we sit here in silence. Finally, she breaks the harsh quiet.
"He's gone," she remarks rather plainly. In an odd monotone she finishes with "and I miss him."
I don't speak. I don't know what to say.
"I loved him."
It's an unnecessary announcement, delivered with no passion; just an inescapable fact.
I cringe and I am ashamed that it actually hurts me a little to hear her say that.
"Nobody doubts that." I say.
It is a safe statement. I wait for her to continue. It takes several minutes before she speaks again.
"I wasn't in love with him." She says softly and finally I can hear a hitch in her breathing, even if her voice is still steady.
I am happy for the dark, so she cannot see my shock. This time I remain silent, waiting.
"But I did love him, you know? And it hurts that he's gone. There is an empty spot there."
I hear her shifting positions. As the silence stretches, I slide over next to her, bring myself to a seated position right beside her, but I remain relaxed with my legs extended before me. I hold my hands in my lap, trying to not feel the ache of wanting to touch her, comfort her right now.
"I keep doing things like he was still there. When I got home the other night I made his favorite meal. I didn't even notice myself doing it. It wasn't until I was about to call him to tell him to hurry up that I noticed what I had done." Her voice is quiet, softer than I've ever heard before. I hear a deep inhalation before she continues. "He's not here, but he's everywhere I look. Really he left very few possessions, he only had a few things," she says then barks out a half hearted laugh, "toys really, like the TV." The sorrow creeps back into her voice, very subtly but I could feel it. "But, almost everything I touch in my home has some memory of him if I think about it."
Sitting here, I try to imagine what it would feel like to share so much with someone I loved. I cannot but I yearn for the opportunity to feel that close to someone. Yet, I wonder if the sorrow of loss is so great, could the feelings of such a union truly be worth it?
"But I wasn't in love with him. And he knew it."
I can say nothing. My limited knowledge in the realities of emotional loss leaves me mute, but it doesn't seem to bother her.
"We had been talking about getting a divorce," she speaks then pauses on intake of breath. A sigh before she finishes her sentence, "and then we found out I was pregnant."
I hear her shifting around. She blows her nose and I suppose she probably wipes her eyes, I cannot tell. I desire to hold her in my arms, dry her eyes myself.
"Neither of us wanted our child to grow up a child of divorce. He knew how I felt about my father leaving. I knew how he felt about his always-absent father. So we decided to try harder, stick it out. It seemed to be the honorable thing to do." She laughs. "It didn't matter anymore that I had feelings for someone else. He knew it. Actually, one day, he told me who it was that I really loved. He knew I'd never love him the way he loved me but somehow he still wanted to stay with me."
My world spins away from its axis. A maelstrom of emotions almost overwhelms me even as I try to continue listening to her. I have to be a true friend, hear her. I cannot let my acute ache distract me. She loves yet another person. Nobody could have predicted how much such knowledge could affect me.
"You can't imagine what it's like knowing he died wishing I could love him like he loved me. Knowing that I had just told him it wouldn't ever be that way and that I was sorry for whatever it was worth."
The minute stretches on with only the sound of her heavy breathing breaking the silent darkness. I know she's crying but I don't know what to do. Should I touch her?
"Actually we weren't talking to each other when the accident happened. He had gotten upset and asked if we could just not talk. I told him I didn't care if we ever talked again."
A laugh that is really more of a small wail escapes her then.
"A few minutes later, all the alarms went off. We didn't even have time to react. The next thing I remember is waking up in surgery."
A long silence stretched between us. I felt so lost, wanting to comfort her and not knowing how. I finally tried to simply touch her. Like a blade through my heart, I felt it when she pulled away. All the others she would let touch her, hold her, and comfort her. Now, when it is I, she lunges to her feet and I close my eyes as if to block out the pain that lingers out here in the dark between us.
"Don't. Don't touch me. I couldn't take it if you were good to me. Can't you understand? Don't you see?"
She is sobbing now. I don't know what I did to elicit this response, but I'd go back in time and erase every error I've ever made if it meant she did not hurt like this. I hear her shuffling footsteps echoing in the dark cold room. I can hear she is retreating for the door.
I do not understand. I do not see.
The doors hiss open and in the blinding light of the corridor, she is a silhouette of sorrow with arms wrapped around herself and back bowed. I can just tell she is facing me.
"It was you we fought over," she declares sadly.
She moves away and the doors close, leaving me alone again: in his shadow, in the dark.
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