“I need to talk to you,” she eventually said.
“What is it?  Are you okay?”  All of a sudden, I was awake and processing the words which I’d heard repeated so often but only in total darkness.

From there she struggled to say the words.  She said them in spite of herself.  She said them in spite of what she believed to be her best interests.  She didn’t say them by accident but she would have loved it if she had that as an apology to herself upon the inevitable eventuality of needing to retract this glaring breach of sound judgement.

I knew it was difficult for her.  Things had been much easier with him – a law student who understood the familiar daily challenges with which she was faced.  He had a more certain future than me and experienced far less social anxiety.  His emotional baggage fit in a carry-on whereas mine required porterage.  The only safe wager would have been on him as the person with whom she could live the life about which she had dreamed.

But she had never loved him…
Or maybe she did…
No, she thought not.  And though she had tried to detach herself from that fact as she did so very easily with so many other things, she couldn’t do it this time.

“Geoff, I have still have feelings for you.”
“When can I see you?” I asked.  Nevermind an ocean.

She hadn’t admitted she loved me.  She hadn’t committed to anything.  But she had said the words which I so desperately longed to hear.

Time elapsed.  It didn’t matter how much; I was there with her.  A church bell chimed just outside our window and I held her tightly in the white cloud of her bed.  Layer upon layer of high thread-count sheets and puffy blankets and us somewhere in between.  Above us was the sign I had bought her long ago:  SAY IT LOUD THAT I LOVE YOU.

Each time the church bell was struck, the volume increased.  For the first several chimes, I drank her in just as she once had me.

But the seventh chime hung in the air.  And when it faded, so did she.  Off on the wind once again.  I was on the top bunk in an otherwise empty room.  She had left just as swiftly and unexpectedly as she had arrived.

But sometimes we can bargain with our dreams.  I pleaded with her to return and she was there until the bell clanged again.  We repeated a pattern wherein I begged her to return to me each time a chime faded across the valley until after a few quarter turns she was nowhere to be found.

And so there I was: still 900km from a half-exemption of all of my sins and an ocean away from a girl who could only visit me during the hours when church bells hang silently.  Suddenly the beauty of the previous day was just white noise.  My chest collapsed once more.  My first steps across the town square were accompanied by wrenching emptiness, anger, fear, and doubt.  One foot in front of the other and going absolutely nowhere.

Maybe this was healthy, I thought.  If there were a twelve-step process or a nine-step process or a rough outline from Delilah on evening radio, surely this had to be one of those necessary steps toward healing.  But I wanted signs of progress and all I had was the all-too-familiar pain.  Detox is supposed to burn but this was still disease.

Dumped Man Walking -- Excerpt 3: Nevermind an Ocean