I hear the cab pull up outside of the apartment and brace myself. I shouldn’t be so nervous, and yet I am. I’m terrified. I’m leaving everything I’ve ever known, a life that’s been filled with love and sadness and anger and optimism and happiness.
A life that’s broken my heart too many times to count.
“You don’t have to do this,” he says to me.
I shoulder my bag, pursing my lips as I make my way to the door. This man has been by my side for twelve years now. Truly, I grew up in this relationship with him, fought with and for him and drove myself crazy for his love. I’ve walked away so many times, come back so many times, and he’s done the same – promising me each time was the last time.
But it never is.
“I do,” I finally say as I reach the door. My hand turns the knob. I hear the same creak I’ve heard since I moved in here one late summer day after ending my marriage to another man – a man who was, for all intents and purposes, perfect on paper. But he wasn’t the one for me.
And neither is the man in front of me, I’m realizing.
“I have to do this for me,” I continue. “I have to leave, Jake, because if I don’t you’re just going to do it again and again and again. And my heart can’t take it anymore.”
“I said I was sorry, Simo—”
He stops when he sees my eyes – hardened and cold and sad eyes that he’s looked into for the last twelve years off and on. He’s seen them when they’re happy, and when they’re devastated. And I’m guessing now, he’s seeing them determined and resolute for the first time.
Because it’s time for me to go. I’ve overstayed my welcome in this relationship by eleven years, promised myself that each time was the last time. But it’s never been the last time, and I’ve continued to come back, to allow him to hurt me.
What’s the saying, though? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a thousand times, and apparently I’m a glutton for punishment.
“You’ve given me everything,” Jake says. “You gave me happiness, and light, and it scares the hell out of me sometimes how wrapped up in you I am. So I got scared, and now…”
“And now it’s over, Jake,” I reply. “Because you’ve given me no reason to stay in this relationship.”
“I love you,” he tells me.
“I’m sure you do, in your own way,” I respond. “But at this point, I’ve got a million reasons to leave, and that’s enough for me.”
“What if we—”
I hold up my hand, knowing where he’s going with this, knowing that he’s got a solution for this like going away together or getting married. But the truth is, he would have married me a long time ago if he really wanted. But he didn’t, and now it’s too late.
“Take care of yourself, okay?” I tell him, kissing his cheek quickly. “My mom and stepdad will be by to get my things.” All I have on me is the bag on my shoulder. It should last me long enough until my mom ships my other things to me – wherever I am.
His jaw ticks, and I know he’s trying to keep himself in check. Crying has never been this man’s forte. Showing any sort of emotion, really, is a hard line for him. But I see it. He knows this is it. I’m off to wherever the winds take me, letting a map guide me as I make my way through the world – alone, certainly, but I’m good company, and my heart needs a rest from all of this.
The sun shines outside as I make my way to the cab, ticket in hand. My heart is in a million pieces, and my head isn’t sure where it’s at, really. I’m so blinded by my love for him, and yet I know that love is what led me to this very moment.
“Good-bye, Simi.” His words echo into the early morning. No one on our street is awake but the two of us. I kind of prefer it that way. Our neighbors have been privy to entirely too many arguments, peeking through their curtains as I’ve walked out time and time again. They don’t need to see the moment that I walk out for good. It’s not for them. It’s for me.
I open the door to my cab, turning once more to see him. He’s just as beautiful as the day we met, all lean muscle and crystal clear blue eyes, and freckles that no one else can see but me. I know him, truly, inside and out – and vice versa.
“Bye,” I tell him, my voice barely above a whisper. But he heard me. He always does – when I’ve left with every intention of staying away he’s heard me, and when I’ve come crawling back he’s heard me. This time, though, he hears the permanence.
I close the car door, leaning back against my seat. “JFK,” I tell the driver. He nods, and the car speeds away into the early New York morning. I don’t know how I’ll get over this, but I know I will. Leaving is killing me, but I can’t stop now. I have to get out of here. It’s breaking my heart to leave, but the same can be said of my relationship with Jake.
And at least this way, I have a say in how my heart gets broken.