prompt response: second chances comments: this is actually only the first half of this piece, but it stands well enough alone and actually fits within the word count :) ----
written by: rhetoric
word count: 479
prompt response: second chances
comments: this is actually only the first half of this piece, but it stands well enough alone and actually fits within the word count :)
There was once a chance that I didn’t take. Not exactly a first chance, or even a second; more like a twelfth or thirteenth. He looked back at me from the subway window, his mouth partly open with his panicked breathing; his eyes distantly hopeful, nearly black with all the words he was holding back behind his teeth.
“Come with me. Help me get through this.” The bland, mustard yellow of the lights silhouetted him, created shadows beneath his eyes and sharper angles in his face. I felt every inch of that slow subway train start, every centimeter tearing further along the seams of my steadfast decision. My judgment call suddenly seemed very, very stupid. Rushed. Unfettered by emotion or fantasy, sure; but empty and cold because of that. At my side, my fingers twitched with the urge to touch him, to reach out to him pleadingly.
Don’t leave me. I could taste the copper thunder in my mouth, I said, “I can’t.” The silence in my head was louder than the rumblings of the engines.
“But I need you,” he crooned.
My desperation, my unannounced remorse, remained my own. I stood enduringly in place. The hustle of the subway moved around me, streaks of color and movement that my eyes never flickered to. Shouts and bursts of laughter erupted from all directions. I wanted to cry out, I wanted to open my mouth and scream with as much force and passion as I had buried deep in my chest throughout my life. I felt every rational decision build up inside of me. Each time, the suppressed emotions engorged on themselves, beneath my skin they simmered into a deadly pressure. A pressurized can just waiting to burst; waiting for flame or puncture, waiting for the chance to release everything. I watched him in the window until the subway train was gone.
The truth was, even though I could barely swallow the silent admonition of it, I simply could not handle his failings anymore. Seven years prior, I’d have gotten on that train with him. I’d have run off to wherever he was taking us, I’d have gotten a meaningless little job and paid the rent while he struggled to find work and spent all of my spare money on crack or booze. But seven years before had just been the beginning; seven years earlier I hadn’t wasted almost a decade chasing him around the continent and watching him throw his life away.
I’ve never gone back to the subway. I’m too afraid I’ll see him there, peering out at me from behind one of the dirty windows. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, sweat pouring from my hairline and my heartbeat so frantic it feels like it’s clawing it’s way through my throat, awakened by some haunting memory of his tired eyes and stuttering promises.