I know you don’t watch me walk away. I know you don’t press your forehead against the double glass to keep me in your sight. There is no straining for that one last look, no time suspended in the final unblinking stare. You don’t stay with me until I am just another city glow fading in to night.
Tonight I have said I don’t want to do this anymore. I have said it in the way a liar can tell a single truth, sudden and surprising. You are asleep, or nearly asleep when I whisper it across the back of your head.
I don’t want to do this anymore. This – laying in your arms in yet another bed of tangled sheets. This staccato relationship, our little parody where the only authentic act is how you fall asleep straight after we fuck. And I know what comes next. I can feel the separation as keenly as if you have already peeled your body from mine, already slid back in to that second skin, the crisp white shirt and pressed pants, so deftly shucked hours before. I feel you walking out the door, even as your breath warms my breast and your hand remains heavy between my legs. And I decide that tonight I will be the one to go.
I have held on to you so long that my hands clench around you, still. My fingertips try to press in to you one last time, to roll across your skin in a final and heroic effort to prove my identity. But you barely stir, as one finger then the next has to release its grip.
I move to the edge of the bed and I tell you I am leaving. I say other things too, they tumble from a wine-thick tongue, but in time to come I will only ever remember this. How I say I am leaving and you mumble I’ll see you soon, and how with your eyes still closed you miss the way I shake my head, no.
I know you don’t get up after I close the door behind me. I know you don’t move to the window to watch me tremble into the night. You are not looking down to see me stumble through cracks of concrete in the heels you removed so carefully over dinner, and you don’t watch as I recede to a grey as cobbled as the street below. With no neon flash of text to say goodnight, no vibrating phone to accompany me home, I know you are already sound asleep.
It is my 35th birthday and I will not cry. One wobbly foot in front of the other on this midnight street, I walk away.
Image by Joanne Piechota
Author’s update – November 2012: Jo recently created a visual essay inspired by the above piece; for more information on I know you don’t watch me walk away (imagined) click here.