Across the Room
Room twists and spins, melting, dissolving, finally resolving into nothingness when I see you with him. Closing my eyes, I remember how to breathe and the room refocuses, refocusing into the clearest of crystal clarity, but only just where I see you with him, holding him. Only just where I see you touching him with fingertips just as tender, just as caring, just as knowing as when you touch me, as when you hold me. Just as tender, just as caring as when you, only you, know me.
Everywhere else, everyone else dissolves, white-clothed tables bathed in golden candlelight, the other slow-dancing couples that surround the couple that is you and him. All else pales to sheerest gray. Shimmering all around me. Everywhere else, everyone else loses all relevance except where you are, except who you are, with him. What is real is where you are. Only where you are dancing, sweet slow dancing with him. What is real is who you are. Only who you are when held, when gently held in his arms. Closing my eyes for a second, for only a second, I fear what I've never understood. Why? Why him? Why anyone? Please tell me why you need anyone but me.
At my side Jonathan asks, You alright? I nod. At my side Marcus asks, You wanna leave? I remind, Marky, we just got here. They lead me away from the door and to the bar. Our friends at my side. Ours. I straddle a barstool, order a drink, turning away from the soft smile of our bartender, away from his questioning eyes as he glances toward you. I follow his glance. His glance toward you, toward you with him. And I watch.
Watch as tender fingertips, your fingertips, stroke a stray brown curl behind his ear, drift easy across his cheek, and the room quiets, all sound, music, murmuring voices, all silences into nothingness. Except for my heart which pounds a deafening beat only I hear. Closing my eyes for a second, only for a second, I remember how to breathe. Taking, downing my Manhattan, savoring the slight slow burn of whiskey down my throat, I slide my now empty glass across the bar and I turn away.
Our bartender asks, Another? I nod. Jonathan asks, Sure you’re alright? I nod. Marcus asks, Sure you want to stay? I nod. Fortified, I turn back again, back toward you. Standing, I move toward you until Jonathan says, Charlie? and I hesitate, but only for a second. I close my eyes, but only for a second. I smile to him but still, I walk toward you.
Then, watching you cup his cheek in your palm, then, watching you caress your thumb down his throat, I stop. Ducking your head, you search his eyes and the space widens immeasurably between us, becomes infinite, impassable. Paralyzed with abrupt understanding, with mind-fucking understanding that swallows me whole, I stop.
All lies. You said nothing really matters to you but me. All lies. That your love is given only to me. All lies. That the others mean nothing to you. Lies. Lies. Lies. Truth is, when I see you smile at him. Truth is, when I see you kiss him. We are nothing but lies. Fear smelling hot with rage washes over me, pulses through me, pounds into me. Fuck you. Fuck you and all your fucking lies.
Leaning into you, your arms accepting surrounding defining him as a part of you, he finds a place where I am supposed to be, where I am meant to be. His head on your shoulder, you move with him slow and easy to some far away rhythm when his eyes find mine. And from across the room his slight smile slaps me nearly blind. Closing my eyes for a second, only for a second, I can't quite remember how to breathe.
Claiming you as his, moving even further into you, melting even more into you, he shields you from me, shields you from even knowing that I’m there as a hundred a thousand a million eyes, all golden candle-lit, are on us. So many eyes all bathed in a golden candlelight on us. Watching me. Watching you. Watching, just waiting so patiently to see what we'll do. Even as, with each new kiss he dusts over your face, along your throat, the pain grows, demanding of me, why? Why do I deal with this shit? Why do I put up with this shit? Why? Because I no longer know how to live without you. Half my life, so many years I've lived at your side that I no longer know how to be without you.
Coming up behind me, Marcus says, Charlie, let’s go, but I shake my head. Why? Why do I make myself stay? as pain needed? as punishment deserved? as anguish required? Don’t know. I don’t know.
Seeing me, when you finally see me, you hesitate. Your eyes flick to Marcus beside me, to Jonathan beside me, then back to me, your eyes now reflecting confusion at the pain you see in mine, the anger in theirs. Before coming to me, you hesitate, taking, squeezing his hand. His hand. Fuck you. Fuck. You. Stepping back, stepping away from you, from him, putting distance, even more distance, even more fucking distance between me and you, between me and him. And I wait, confused at the confusion I see in your eyes.
You say, Thought I left you home.
I say, Jonathan and Marcus called, wanted to go out. Wouldn't have come, Jason, if I’d know you were here? Closing my eyes for a second, only for a second, I remember how to breathe. I say, You never come here.
You say, Well, apparently you do. How long...?
I glance to him, then back to you, I say, Yeah, been here awhile. I watch as you close your eyes, take a deep breath. Knowing, you open your eyes understanding. So, I say, Listen, not a problem, ya know? No big deal. But you’re looking at him. At him. Have to go. Have to. Have to get thefuck away. I say, We’ll just be going, No big deal anyway, right? Plenty of other bars in this town. I never would have--
Stop. You say, Charlie, stop. Just. Stop.
So I do. Even if my shaking doesn’t. Even if the room still shimmers gray. Even if I can only just remember how to breathe. Even as I know, even as I have always known, I will only ever love you. So, I stop. What else?
Talking to you, holding on to you, he tries to wipe away the veil of darkness he sees in your eyes so, I turn away, retreat to the place where I know you aren't. With Jonathan. With Marcus. We back away. Walk with me. They walk with me to the door. They walk with me away. Away from you. We just walk the thefuck away from you.
Then, you call out to me, Baby? Scared, you almost, maybe do, sound scared.
And again I stop. I glance back at you. Their hundred their thousand their million of candle-]lit eyes are on us. I say, See you tomorrow, Jason. Yeah? I say inside me, See, see? I won’t let you down. I ask, You’ll be home tomorrow?
You say, I’ll be home tonight.
I say, Hey, like I said, no biggie, right? Tomorrow's--`
Tonight. You step towards me, towards me, and you say, Tonight.
And I want to touch you. I want to breathe in your breath, your scent. I want to tell you that you are mine. I want to feel the sweat of your skin on me, your hands touching, calming me. I want to know the grip of your fingers in my hair holding, claiming me. I need the sweet taste of your mouth on mine reminding me, don’t ever let me forget, why I’m alive. But I can’t. I can’t. I can’t step towards you. Now you Stepping back, away, I say, Later. And I walk through the door away from you. I walk out to the street, Jonathan beside me, Marcus beside me, andfacing the darkness of my night, I leave you behind. Facing my darkness, I remember now how to really breathe. Tonight. You said, Tonight. Taking Marcus's hand, taking Jonathan's hand, we walk into the night. Leaving you behind.
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