Written several years ago for a friend who was broken and thought no one could possibly understand his emotions much less put voice to them himself.
Happiness in a Fool’s Paradise
He dropped onto the bed heavily, the mattress springs pricking into his bare skin before bouncing back with his weight. He brushed away the watery remains of his shower, the warm liquid pooling beside his head and fading into the down pillows. He closed his eyes to try and block out the images that assaulted his mind like an 8 mm filmstrip that any religion would find objectionable, much less his own. He waited expectantly for the anger to come, willing it to come and prevent the flood of memories that were tearing into his soul. He wanted to hate that he’d ever loved her, that he’d wasted so many years on something that was apparently never meant to be. He pleaded for any God who was listening to stir the wind through his open windows and carry away the lingering scent of her floral perfume that only served to remind him of the touches they’d shared under the cover of darkness. His mind told him to hate her with every fiber of his being…his heart told him to hold on and never let go. The inner struggle he couldn’t prevent caused his stomach to tie in knots and his body to sink into an utter exhaustion that he’d never thought possible. To find a balance between his warring emotions seemed an impossible task.
It wasn’t that he was perfect. Far from it. It wasn’t that everything that had gone wrong over the years had been all her fault. There truly was no one to blame. But he held tight to the knowledge that he was the one willing to try whilst she was the one so eager to let things remain as is. It was what gave him the ability to sleep at night, what provided him the strength to look in the mirror and know, when it finally ended, he would be able to truthfully say, he had tried everything he possibly knew to do.
His eyes drifted to the hazy red glow of his alarm clock, the time hovering near 3 am. Had it been daylight, his emotions would have been in check. Calm, controlled, collected, hidden and unseen save for a small handful of people that he trusted enough to reveal his turmoil. He reached to the nightstand, pulling the half chilled bottle of Southern Comfort to his chest, letting it balance on the crest of his sternum, where her palm used to rest in the hours after sex. They had had great times here – soft and sensual, loving and tender, wild and insatiable, times when he couldn’t distinguish where his body ended and hers began. Intelligent and inquisitive mind that he had, even when fogged with alcohol he couldn’t help but try and decipher why his memories of her seemed shrouded in their sexual escapades. It had infuriated her, his seemingly constant desire for time with her. Perhaps that had been his failure – he had been unable to make her realize that sex wasn’t just sex, it was his expression of happiness, true joy at the ability to be so consumed with her that nothing less than being a part of her would suffice.
He had begged for her to understand that for so long. He’d prayed for her to comprehend how a simple, meaningful touch at the right moment could have changed everything. Until the day came that he realized there would never again be a right moment again. It wasn’t an epiphany, it wasn’t a sudden dawning of conscious thought that fell upon him like rain, fogging his intelligence and making him oblivious to her attempts to reconcile the things that had gone so wrong. He knew she was making an effort with him, realized she was offering him what he had once been willing to sell his soul for. He knew…he just no longer cared.
Her touches had been so emotional, so seemingly heart felt, that it had taken everything he had to pull away. If things had only been different…if she’d given him one single indication that his happiness meant anything to her, he would have gladly stayed in bed with her the whole day and shown her that life was meant to be lived. Why did it seem like everyone he knew took it for granted?
But it hadn’t happened that way. He knew there was something not exactly devious in her behavior but perhaps more obligatory in her actions. It was possibly his fault; he may have conditioned her over the years to believe that sex made everything better again. Even today he doubted he could ever explain why he knew her actions were self-serving rather than about wanting to be part of him. It had been nothing he’d seen in her eyes. He had, in fact, been unable to discern any emotion from her in quite sometime. Her caresses had been the same as always – warm, silky and welcoming. Nothing had seemed out of place and the perfection of it all was what had broken him. No one knew her better than he did. He knew the moments that could take her breath away, he knew how to make her smile under the most devastating of circumstances and he knew the person reaching out to him was not the person he’d fallen in love with.
He tipped the bottle to his lips, the now warm liquid causing him to grimace. Sliding on his boxers, he padded barefoot through the hallway towards the kitchen, content with the silence filling the house. Crystal glasses, leftover from well-meaning friends that had visited the night before caught his attention. Grabbing the one closest to him, he dumped the licorice colored whiskey and its opaque layer of melted ice into the sink. A wave of frosty vapor rushed over him as he opened the freezer and the frigid air met with the Texas summer heat. He dropped a piece of ice into his glass, a soft tinkling sound echoing through the kitchen as he dredged it in Comfort and stirred it absently.
Tipping the chilled glass to his lips, he grimaced as the pale liquid slid down his throat. He had never been one to like whiskey, even in his younger days, but it did have the affect he was looking for. Memories haunted his daily existence but at night his heart physically ached with guilt over the responsibilities he had been unable to fulfill. It had been days since he’d slept and since his revelry, he knew he had to get rest before he began lashing out at everyone within firing range. Determined to drink himself into oblivion if that’s what it took to stop hurting the people he cared about most, he forced himself to take another drink then leaned back to prop his legs on the table. He smirked to himself, thinking of what his mother might say if she witnessed his filthy bare feet resting on the hand carved table that had served as their wedding gift. Out of pure spite, he shook his glass causing drips of fluid to fade into the woodwork in watermarks no amount of scrubbing would ever remove. Fitting, he thought, that he should be toasting her memory at the location they’d last been together. Had it really only been two weeks ago?
The week had taken its toll on both of them and despite their emotional disconnect, a few too many glasses of wine had made them forget their apathetic approach to one another. Unlike others he had been with, he only moved when she breathed…a hypnotic action that seemed to draw her deeper into him and provide the connection he so desperately craved. Managing serene control over himself as they moved against the polished wood, he thought of only touching her more deeply than anyone else had ever managed, clinging to the hope she would finally understand. He could hear her suck in a breath as he let his fingers trail down her abdomen to crook her leg up toward him as the scent and warmth of her began to envelope him. Even in his frazzled state, he could sense his perception becoming more acute—the wooden creak of the table underneath them; the tips of her manicured fingers pressing gently into the back of his neck; a river of chilled air seeping across them from somewhere high up above; the thump of his heart pressing into her flesh; the medicinal stench of the bleached kitchen being overtaken by the smell of mint shampoo and salty sweat; the slight tickle of her hair as it swayed against his cheek with their movements; the tremble in his already exhausted muscles as he tried to hold on long enough to get them where they needed to go. He shifted his position, moving his arms underneath her shoulders to cradle her head in his hands. He had no energy to kiss her but dropped his face in her shoulder, his labored breathing hovering at the hollow of her throat as he used his new position to entwine them so deeply it tinged on painful.
“Breathe,” he had ordered quietly, his command veiled with a tinge of concern.
He cursed aloud for letting the memories carry him away again and, angrily, he took a swig of the whiskey straight from the bottle. It was always like this when he drank. The first few drinks made him melancholy and reflective but after a few more, he knew the whiskey would begin to drown all thought. The idea of having nothing streaming through his mind made him reach for the bottle again.