in the end, i left. because i realised that we both wanted different things. i wanted the Technicolor, pickett-fenced family life while M, well M just wanted me. me and nothing else. no plans, no moving on. just me, my scars, my jagged edges, my sorrow.
was that not enough, you ask.
it was. and it was not. i liked being the centre of M's attention, i liked the times we had spent together, exploring the depths of just how much you could want a person. and discovering that love did not come into that equation. like M always said in that matter-of-fact way that those words were always spoken, without remorse or sarcasm or delight, 'what's love got to do with anything?'
but M preferred only these ugly and sad versions of me, those cold, cold days when the world was too much for me. i only received terms of endearment when i was sad, when i was chasing a deadline, when there was a funeral. M treated me differently when i was not sad; we would still see each other but i was dispensable. there was no 'darling,' or kisses on my forehead, or just a hug out of the blue at the traffic light, at the bakery, at the water fountain. sometimes i caught M watching me when i was not in a bad state, and it occurred to me that M was just waiting, and bidding time for the next occasion that I could be offered consolation and needed someone just to hold me together. M didn't want to know about my future plans, my interest in glass sculpture, or anything more than what had upset me.
sometimes i think that M fed on my sadness, or any other people's sadness, whosoever close by at any particular time, and simply in need, desperate for consolation and attention; a hug, a kiss, a whole day spent indoors.
so i left and M just nodded at my decision that last day we were together. there was a look of familiar understanding, as if lovers leaving was a country of which M was native. i closed the door behind me and did not look back, because every limb on my body wanted to do exactly that; we, my limbs and i had grown addicted to M's attention and consolation that we had forgotten who we were, however better we could have been.
i moved to a different city, married Lisa, bought a house, ticked all the boxes i had drawn up in my head. and i was not wrong about what i wanted. i didn't miss M and we never met again. i heard that M went on to the regional branch of her office, i heard a lot of things and never bothered to check or asked for definite answers because i didn't need them. but sometimes by chance, i saw people who had known me and M when we were together; M's friends, my colleagues. sometimes i said hello first, sometimes they saw me across a restaurant and came to my table for an exchange of how-are-you's. and i enjoyed these moments, because these people were the only links i had to M without me having to ask for or about her. i was contented with this kind of proxy links, i was reminded of many good things -M's arm across my back, the way M gave me sudden hugs that were always at the right time, the sound of my voice on the phone frantically telling her that my distant dad had died, the sound that M's keys made as they were placed on the shoe cupboard by the door - and i didn't want more than that, as much as M didn't want more of me other than my sadness. i'd carry these memories and perhaps see traces of M and me in places we had been but i'd not relive it. i'd let it fade away.
because if i saw the very person of M again, i might want to be the centre of M's universe all over again, arms tangled, legs criss-crossing, skin to skin but never moving closer. and that frightened me.