too late for long goodbyes

take one intense emotion you've experienced and give it to a fictional character. 

you are standing in front of me, eyes cast heavily towards the floor, magnetized to your shuffling feet. we stand juxtaposed in the frozen food aisle in whole foods, a ridiculous still life of domestic repose as i clutch a box of amy's organic tofu scramble in my hands and your head turns away from me with studied aversion. an angular blonde woman in a tracksuit passes us on her trajectory towards soy ice cream products, stares with careful concealed curiosity. and when i finally find my voice, it is alien in my throat. a struggling, stillborn thing that escapes with deadened finality.

are you leaving me?

your response comes slowly and hesitantly, and you never once look up. you have obliviously cut and polished them to hurt, honing them with years of practiced lies and neglect.

you have never loved me, not even for a minute.

as the frozen dinner thaws and wilts in my unfeeling hands, you tell me that we are moving in different directions, that you no longer feel the same way about me, that you have met someone at your new job and he took you out for drinks last friday. and i think to myself dazedly, struggling to recall with genuine curiosity what i was doing that night while you texted me haphazard apologies for working late yet again.

i was booking a hotel room for our anniversary, i realize silently with dawning wonderment. to celebrate our ninth year together.

i'm sorry, you say pointlessly, your fingers wrapping endlessly around your ponytail. the part of me that has known and loved you since my earliest college days recognizes that you are nervous. that you have failed to prepare for this moment. and so bizarrely, with the deftness of the blind and desperate, you have chosen this moment in time to sever our relationship with naked truth. your engagement ring gleams mockingly, caught in the cross-section of overhead fluorescent lights, reminding me of every step paved towards the ten thousand dollar promise on your finger.

the numb, fetal pain in my throat claws southward into my chest, a pleural wave of panic and nausea. there is a physiological threat of overflow, a frantic pressure building behind my eyes that is hot and stinging. i am lightheaded in this moment, still clutching onto this defrosting boxed dinner as if it is a life preserver. as if i can regain my footing, step back in time.

back to nine minutes ago, when i opened the frosted freezer doors and asked what do you want for dinner, honey?

back to nine days ago, when i woke up with my arms around you, my face in familar repose against your soft, raspberry-scented hair. and you turned in my arms, eyes still closed, lips finding mine with the practiced ease of lovers with intrinsic muscle memory.

back to nine months ago, when i knelt down against hard rock and wet grass in the park where we first kissed, beneath the clearest night sky i had ever seen in nashville. i remember the words nearly catching in my throat, the feeling of my pants sodden against my knees, as i looked up and said i want to spend the rest of my life loving you.

back to nine years ago, when i first saw you in our introductory english class, arriving late in jeans so tight that multiple rows of otherwise sleepy freshmen swiveled in their seats to gape. and you slung your lean, long-limbed frame into the farthest corner of the lecture hall. and i was lining up my pencils in descending order from longest to shortest, then again by color. and we locked eyes for just a moment then, but it set my chest on fire, bathing me in nervousness and excitement.

that same chest is heaving now, holding in the dizzying feeling of titanic pressure that threatens to collapse it completely, as you say, you have no bearing on my life.

as i hold this frozen box pointlessly, and something inside of me finally breaks loose.

as the other grocery shoppers avert their eyes with embarrassment, or gaze openly with awkward curiosity, or hurry past completely oblivious.

as you back away with uncomfortable avoidance, your eyes desperate for any contact point that is not me, this broken man, this savage stranger.

as i am crying in the frozen food aisle of whole foods, hands shaking with cold and pain and heartbreak.