His chest was heaving by the time he reached the top of the hill. His lungs burned and it felt like his chest would implode for the tightness. The cool evening breeze helped a little,blowing across the think film of sweat he had worked up, but only a little. He sat on the steps of the old church and rested his back on the rough wall, not caring weather or not the fibers of his shirt caught. He inhaled long and slow, trying to let out the tension, trying to breath her out and inhale the comfort of this old place.
The irony of it was that he wasn’t a religious man. He hated the ceremony and theater of the church. All the pulpit perchers and one day Christians, chanting sons and litanies in that dead drone to a God they barely could fathom, for the sake of fashionable conviction. He shook his head and chuckled. Why did she always drive him back here. To sit on the steps of the old Moravian church, to look over the distant city lights. Pondering the last horrible thing she had said, and building his strength, just in case this was the night she decided not to come home.
“I hate you.” she had said quietly, tears running down her dusky cheeks. “Why do you have to be so cruel?” she had asked. Pleading with the pretty iridescent eyes he had fallen into. He wasn’t sure is he was ever going to climb out of them again. It had been 10 years since those days, and since then he had learned her in ways even he didn’t understand. He had unfolded her in his mind, and found the secret places where she kept her pain, all be it, not very well hidden.
You see he had needed to learn her, for moments such as this. When he found her yet again with that needle in her arm. Trying to escape her demons, with whatever it was she had managed to score. When his heart broke all over again, because he knew there was nothing he could do to help her.
For what felt like a life time, he had begged and pleaded with her, reasoned with and shouted at her. Trying to figure out, what he had done wrong, where he had gone wrong, what he wasn’t giving her, what she wanted from him to make her whole. Each time she would rage against him, she would shout and scream that it wasn’t for him or about him, that she was a woman and that he had no right to tell her to stop, no right to try to save her from herself. But the morning would always bring her back, the morning would bring an apology. A detox, some cold turkey and a few months peace.
Until the next time, when some strung out friend would show up and their door, of he would find her passed out in some nook, face slack and eyes glassy. Looking for all the world, like she had lifted a delicate hand to knock on death’s door. His little song bird bride, the voice that could lift the lives of many, if only she would use it to sing. Instead of this.
He placed his hand over his aching heart, as if to try keep his heart from breaking any further. He remembered the morning he had finally looked across the sheets and realized. It really wasn’t about him. No matter how much love and affection and resources, and faith his had in his Dahlia, it wasn’t about him. In her mind he was just furniture on the stage of her life, and she in her narcissism, was the only actor of worth.
She knew it hurt to watch her consume herself, to beat him down with the distance her habits created, but she didn’t care. She was too far gone in her self imposed martyrdom. Just too selfish, and too stuck in the idea that she was nothing. In that moment of recognition, he realized that she wasn’t going to be in his life forever, eventually her vices would overtake her, and then he would still have to carry on. For the things he had built himself despite her, for the daughter she would leave behind. So he had stopped, the pleading and crying. Reserving his tears for a time when they were better deserved.
That is how he had gotten to this place, how he had weathered her tears, catching her again this last time. He had just sighed, and sat heavily in front of her, and stared on as she commenced the act. Chest aching, just from looking at her. How could he explain that he had lost his fight, his will to save them? How did he tell her, the mother of his child and his whole heart, that he knew he wasn’t reason enough for her salvation and that his soul was in shreds? How did he tell her that he didn’t know anymore who she was, or even if he wanted her, and all that kept him present of a now bitter love, for a woman who had created her own failure just to wallow in?
She had left crying, and now he sat on the old church steps, watching the city lights, praying to a God he didn’t believe in to please not let it all end so soon.