Life's defining moments. Sara and Charlie come to the same unwanted conclusion in their own separate and yet similar ways.
As Sara entered the room, he was sitting in the dark by himself. She studied him silently from across the room as he rocked back and forth incessantly in her grandmothers old rocking chair by the large moonlit window. His arms were folded across his chest and he was gazing intently with furrowed brow, head tilted upward, apparently focused on the brilliant full moon. She didn’t blame him, it was captivating, mesmerizing even. When he didn’t notice her presence after almost a full dreadful minute, she cleared her throat. “You know, I’m leaving now.”
As he slowly turned to look at her, what she noticed first is that he hadn’t shaved in several days even though she’d just bought him a new razor. Coarse dark stubble ran along his chin and upper lip, creating shadows on his angular face. She studied these new lines for a moment, and then met his reproachful gaze. She no longer recognized the person looking back at her; he had changed somehow; or maybe it was the eyes that were seeing him that had changed. Either way, it didn’t matter. “I told you I was”.
He jumped up suddenly, moving towards her, letting the rocking chair snap back and hit the wall, hands clenched at his sides. He pointed at her and said, “You’re the one who made me do it”. He was angry, which she had expected. At one point, her reaction would have been to placate him and control the situation before it escalated into the usual, ‘Charlie always gets the shitty end of the stick’ routine. In this moment, however, all she could concentrate on was the sound of the rocking chair still reverberating off the wall from the force of its launch backward. This, of all things, made her angry.
“Yes, Charlie, I put a gun to your head and said, ‘kindly snort this cocaine right now or I’m pulling the trigger’”. She giggled then, so tired of all his guilt trips and woe-is-me bullshit. She laughed at her own foolish decision making that had allowed her to come to this moment in the first place. Sara was a firm believer in taking responsibility for her own choices in life, and expected others to do the same. If she hadn’t known it before he’d said those words to her, she knew it now; it was over.
Sara turned to leave, and he reached out to grab her arm. She saw this peripherally, and whirled around to face him, causing Charlie to recoil clumsily in the moonlit room. Tripping over the king size bed which jutted out behind him, he landed on the floor with a thud, crying out in surprise as he fell.
As Sara stood over Charlie, a memory of him flashed before her mind; it was Charlie’s face, positioned above her in bed, so close their noses were touching. It was a Saturday morning after they had been out celebrating Charlie’s graduation from university, and had forgotten to close the blinds before crashing sometime in the wee hours of the morning. Around 6 am, the warmth and brightness of the sun gently awoke them from their slumber and as Charlie rolled on top of Sara, he pulled the wrinkled yellow sheet over his head, creating a tent through which the sunlight softly illuminated their skin. He tenderly placed a kiss on her dry-morning-after lips as she traced the line of his jaw. Looking up into his startling green eyes she believed what she saw in them to be true. There was such thing as one’s perfect soul mate, and she had found hers, and he, his.
Then, almost as instantaneously, another memory flashed before her eyes; Charlie, this morning, sitting in their tiny bathroom sniffing the white stuff from the bathroom counter through a five dollar bill. His back was to her, and when he turned to face her she saw how his eyes had changed. These eyes were not the bright, intelligent eyes she gazed into that glorious morning under the sheet. No, these were the dark hollowed out eyes of a man who had lost his place in this world. His eyes spoke more truth to her in that moment than his mouth had spoken lies. And a person could be told a lot of lies over the course of a year and a half; she knew that to be an undeniable truth.
Pain shot through Sara’s stomach, sending pressure to her chest that sat like a hot and heavy stone in her heart. She felt it pounding and heard it with such intense ferocity it was almost all she could focus on. It’s rhythmic beating reminded her of how the rocking chair was banging against the wall earlier, no doubt causing a scuffed wall, if not dents or chips in the paint, She was suddenly angry, red hot angry at Charlie who for some reason could no longer hold down a job for longer than two months. Charlie who was once clean cut, active and well toned had become lanky, scruffy and lazy. For the last 12 months he had strapped to her back an emotional burden; his addiction to cocaine, and it had come close to crippling her emotionally at times. She struggled with feelings of pity, fruitless hope, and desperation for far too long; her own, and his. He had stolen from her all of their shining moments together and tarnished them with the darker ones that will forever trail those happier times like a relentless ghost.
Charlie sat in the dark with his thoughts racing. He didn’t want any lights on; the lights would distract him from his racing thoughts. The moon was big tonight, bright, and brilliant even. Glowing orange as if it were on fire. He almost wished it were on fire, some sort of freakish natural disaster might delay what Charlie considered to be the INEVITABLE. This word had been growing roots in his subconscious thought lately. He knew what he had to do to avoid the INEVITABLE, but the alternative just seemed so much easer, so much more appealing, and it had been working for him so far, so why not keep at it? Sometimes old habits are hard to break, and besides, when you got right down to it he was really only hurting himself, if anybody, right?
“You know I’m leaving now”
Charlie felt his jaw let go and he stopped rocking, turning to face Sara as he did. He felt her undeniable scrutiny from across the shadowed room, and immediately Charlie was uneasy. He saw something in her face that he could not recognize. Usually after one of their blow-ups, she would come back eyes puffy, tissue in hand; waiting for Charlie to tell her everything was going to be ok. And he would, of course, never fully knowing if it ever would be or not. If he hadn’t picked it up in the way her eyes shone in the moonlight, or in the set line of her jaw as she gazed across the room at him, there was no mistaking the finality of her tone when she said, “I told you I was”. Charlie swallowed a lump in his throat.
Earlier today when Sara caught him in the bathroom getting high after she had come back looking for her keys, she had freaked out. She screamed at him to get out and pack his bags and all the usual bullshit, pulling at her long red ponytail as she did. At the time all Charlie could concentrate on was the sound of his heart beating irregularly in his chest, jumping and jiving as if it were trying to keep in tune with his erratic thoughts.
Meanwhile, the numbness had begun to take over, both physically and emotionally, and he felt more than a little angry at Sara for turning his high around on him. What was supposed to be relaxing afternoon at home had suddenly turned into a full out war just because he felt like getting a little high on his day off; From the job she had nagged him relentlessly to get. As if taking phone calls from complete idiots who thought they were Bill Fucking Gates just because they knew how to write an email was anybody’s dream job. She should be grateful, he thought. I’m only doing it for her after all.
Now, Charlie was angry again, and he practically leapt out of the chair towards Sara before he was even aware he had done it. ‘You’re the one who made me do it’. He said these words, and even before she laughed at him, he knew it was not exactly the approach he should be taking. But no longer able to control himself, he took the only approach he felt might work in his favor; good old fashioned guilt.
“Yes, Charlie, I put a gun to your head and said, ‘kindly snort this cocaine right now or I’m pulling the trigger’”.
Laughing. The bitch was laughing at him, and now she was turning to walk away from him. Things were spiraling out of control, Charlie knew, and as a testament to this he reached out to grab her and pull her back, something he had never done before. All of a sudden, Sara whirled around to face him forcing him to take a step back. His heel slammed against the metal bed frame, causing him to flail and land not so gracefully with a large thud and a cry of not only pain but of sheer surprise.
As Charlie sat on the floor, overwhelmed, he looked up at Sara, searching for her eyes in the room that was almost dark, but not quite. As he met her gaze, he instantly had an overwhelming memory of the two of them, shacked up together after partying all night long and celebrating his release from college and into the real world. Charlie binge drank as usual, leading the pack in a wild and crazy night that ended up with just the two of them back at their apartment rolling around in bed until the wee hours of the morning. The sun was beating down on them and giving Charlie the biggest headache of his life. He pulled the sheet along with him as he rolled on top of Sara, hoping it would filter some of that harsh light. What he wasn’t prepared for was how beautiful Sara’s soft skin glowed under that pale yellow sheet, blue eyes staring up into his. He couldn’t help but kiss her full on the lips even though he knew she was opposed to the habitual sharing of morning breath. In the moment that she kissed him back, Charlie knew Sara was his, and had never in his life had felt such love, and fear all rolled into one.
Sara forces her eyes away from Charlie’s and exits the room. She swallows the lump in her throat that has been there for years, knowing that although he may have been her perfect soul mate in the world she once knew, that world had moved on, and there was no place for a man like Charlie in this one.
Now, Charlie realizes, as Sara turns to walk out of the room, it is actually this moment, in which he has never before felt such an all encompassing love, or overwhelming fear all rolled into one.