8 min read

The Damage Is Done

I began to understand this enigma that I never had the chance to solve.

She was a strange girl, and I loved her for it.

Sometimes, she would feel deeply. Her emotions were raw, unearthed from the caverns of her soul. Her eyes showed empathy as if she was there with me in my story. I’d forget that she was a listener and not a character in my narrative. She would ask questions that were insightful, leaving me speechless, stammering and scrambling to gather my words so I can give her a semblance of articulacy.

And in rare moments, she would regale me with stories of her life. These were precious, ephemeral moments that I tried to hold on to—like a lunar eclipse. I felt her sadness. Every exhale, every blank look into the distance, each pensive thought that derailed her monologue was an invitation for an embrace. I would hold her as she surrendered to me. We would fall asleep in that position, and I always imagined that if I were to die at this moment, I wouldn’t mind at all.

In the morning, she would shower and wash away remnants of last night’s confessions. With a turbaned towel and her cotton underwear, she would emerge as herself again; the bright, excitable woman that brought me to my knees months ago. 

One evening, as I laid out a checkered picnic blanket on the grass, she found herself mesmerized by an injured bird.

“What is that?” she asked.

I glanced at her, and then at her line of sight, and turned my attention back towards straightening the blanket of its kinks.

“I don’t know. Some bird.”

“Can you get it for me?”

I took out plastic champagne glasses from my backpack and then the bottle of champagne. “Seems a bit too hard to reach. Why do you want it?”

She held her gaze at the bird. “I think he’s injured.”

I sat down on the blanket and poured into her glass. “It’ll be fine.”

“What if he needs our help?” She sat beside me and took a sip of her drink. “I think he broke a wing.”

“It’ll sort itself out,” I said.

She snuggled up to me; her eyes fixed on the bird flapping its wings. “What if it doesn’t and he’ll never fly again?”

I shrugged. “That’s just how it is.”

Seemingly satisfied, she closed her eyes and went to sleep. I sat there and swirled my drink around the glass. The bird was too high, and I couldn’t climb a tree like that. Not in these shoes. 

I looked down at her, grazing my thumb across her temples. It was at this moment, as I saw her chest rise and fall, her fingers losing its grip on the glass, that I decided I wanted to marry her.

When she appeared in the doorway with her bags and told me that she was leaving me, I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t.

I begged, literally begged her to stay, but her eyes were rid of the empathy I was so used to. She looked at me like a stray cat that had overstayed his welcome. I was on the floor, holding on to her hands, pressing them against my cheeks as I mumbled a string of apologies. Everything I had ever done, every mistake, played like a View-Master.

Click. You forgot to pick her up after work.

Click. You couldn’t make it to her recital.

Click. You bought her roses instead of her favorite hydrangeas.

Click. You accidentally stepped on her glasses.

Click. Click. Click. Click.

But she didn’t say a word. Shaking her hands out of my sweaty grip, she grabbed her bags and left my house. I was on the floor, my face twisted and wet, as I watched her walk out the door without a goodbye. She didn’t even look back.

I sat there until the sun no longer filtered through the windows. I was in darkness.

It was a surprise to me that she was ever unhappy. If she wanted me to fly, I would have jumped off a tower. If she wanted me to swim, I would wade through the Pacific Ocean. I would break if it meant she would stay.

She was my dream until she became my nightmare. Days after, I would wake up in cold sweats. Sometimes I could still smell her next to me, and no matter how many times I washed the bedsheets and sprayed cologne over her lingering scent, I could never erase her from my life. She was in the songs on the radio, the food that I ate, the movies I watched. She was no longer a part of my life, but at the same time, she was in every single part of it. 

It took months for me to find her again. I had to, for my sake.

I drove to her recital and watched as she got into her car. She was still beautiful, so beautiful that it hurt. I followed her to the highway and into the driveway of a two-storey house. This wasn’t her home; I knew she lived out west. My heart pounded. She was with someone else. It made sense; she left me for another man.

A wave of relief swept over me. All this time I thought it was me, that I was boring or not quite funny enough. I had picked apart all my flaws and held it up to the light, examining it with such rigor that I ended up hating myself. I rested my hands on the steering wheel and turned off the radio. She got out of the car and walked slowly to the front door, hesitant.

After a few knocks, the door swung open and a disheveled man greeted her. They exchanged a few words, and I saw him disappear into the house. Seconds later, he reappeared with her bag. She snatched it out of his hand and walked towards her car. The man ran after her, barefoot and in stained pajamas. He fell to his knees, kissing her feet and hugging her legs as she walked away from the crying mess of a man. Her car reversed and disappeared.

I could hear my own breathing, heavy with shock and confusion. The silence in the car made a high pitched ringing in my ears that was deafening. I watched the man on his driveway, his face buried in his hands as he sobbed.

This girl was a tornado, destroying everyone in her path. But as my anger boiled, so did my sympathy. I began to understand this enigma that I never had the chance to solve. She was broken, and she didn’t know how to fix herself. 

The sky had started to gradate into a fiery orange and the streetlights were waking up from their slumber. I stepped on the gas and drove away, saying a silent goodbye to the shattered man outside.

I sat at home looking through old pictures of us over a cold beer. All this time, she had left a trail of bleeding hearts everywhere she went, crushing the hopes of men that dared to fall for her. She thought she was a tattered cloth, waiting to be knitted into a tapestry, but how wrong she was. She had relied on men to stitch her into the woman she once was, but when she learned that we weren’t the emotional sartorialist that she expected us to be, she would hunt for someone who could. But it was precisely her present self, torn in all the wrong places, that gave the most warmth. 

She didn’t need to find hands to fix her, she just needed someone to leave her broken and love her for it.

I should’ve told her that she was enough. I hope that one day someone will.