The air around closed in, a stiff gray sheet sharp at the edges and yet curiously blunt like the end of a butter knife.
I move through it and feel like I’m getting nowhere after a restless night, pushing and pulling against this fabric of non-reality I feel enclosing me.
My girlfriend had the same chill as the air, and infinitely more distance, even through we sat in her car with the heater on high.
We stare out into a vacant street where the street lamps struggle to illuminate the world, shrouded in gray and uncertainty.
It is the wrong kind of day to ask for a commitment I already know isn’t possible, as if I have become part of this stiff gray that makes her future less certain, with anything I say only adding to the gray that way the car fumes huffing and puffing add to the gray that surrounds us.
She is not angry, only confused, confusion we could not cure despite the long ride back from
West Jersey where the fog was less thick, but no less
She needs to move on to the next phase of her life, she says, grad school if not in Colorado then some where equally remote, not just in distance, but in thought process.
And I struggle a bit like Othello, not over other human being, but over a concept and a condition I have no control over, and feel a bit like Lear in not knowing if I am a fool.
We have come full circle, and yet have not landed quite where we started, but rather like some in some perverted universe, we have turned everything inside out, and twisted this grayness into something that binds us, and we struggle to untangle its ends so that we might make sense of it.
I’m not 17 anymore and so I cannot flee this moment the way I did back then when I ran to join the army as if it was the French Foreign Legion. She was the one who has to move on.
And so with that said, I crawled home, a slug laden with salt tears, weaving through the gray until I set my key in the lock of my door, and once inside, felt stronger if not stronger, safer, if not safe, rooted but not settled – startled awake later to a gray dawn by her knock on the window, shattered when she asked if I minded us seeing other people.
I couldn’t breathe – the gray closing in so firmly around me, as to fill me up and leave me speechless – all my clever metaphors draining from me the way the blood must have drained from my face.
And lying beside her, inside her, feeling her shape around my shape, I wondered if I would feel anything like this again, thinking that this moment would have to endure through time vivid down, but clouded over time into a gray memory I would struggle to maintain as real. Salt mingling on our faces as we wrestled again in imitation of love also fading into gray.
We’re caught here. We’re locked in this binding mess with no way to break free, love binding us like a twisted sheet while other desires yank us away.
I watched her rise early, dress, and leave, and listened to the clatter of her shoes down the alleyway, her last smile lingering in the gray mist that filled this previously safe place so that no place was safe, and now I sit here looking at the cracked paint of my cold water flat, thinking only of gray.