Summary: A raw conversation between former lovers and reflections from one. First person.
Warnings: This story contains non-graphic depictions of heterosexuality (male/female romantic relationships). If this makes you feel uncomfortable, or find it religiously or morally offensive, please skip this story.
Disclaimer: The lyrics at the top are from I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain, by Tim Buckely
Dedication: For Aly, and for my father. Both faces I see sometimes if I look hard enough in the mirror.
I never asked to be your mountain
I never asked to fly
Remember when you came to me
And told me of his lies
You didn't understand my love
You don't know why I try
And the rain was falling on that day
And damn the reason why
"I can't do this anymore, Robbie," you say, in such a sure tone that it makes me wonder if you ever could. Your voice is quiet, the way it gets when I don't know what the hell you're feeling. "I'm not able to do this. It's too much."
I shake my head. "This is a dream." My mind wanders for a second. If this were a dream… what kind would it be?
"It's not a dream," you say, the apathetic part of your voice sounding gentler.
"It is," I reply, my fingers playing with the zippers on my black, motorcycle jacket. "This whole thing has been a dream. Every moment of it. You loving me. It was a dream." I stop. I think we've had this conversation before. I was sixteen then, so were you. I blink, realizing how much of it I put to age. "And this part now? It's a dream too."
I'm not sixteen anymore. I'm a man now.
My stomach jumps inside of me, and I run my fingers up and down the smooth roughness of my jeans. Jeans always got me that way. Smoothly rough. Like me.
"It's not a dream," you say again… colder this time, though perhaps I'm mishearing. I do that a lot. Your voice is so quiet. "I just… I just can't do this."
I want to tell you it's a dream again… but I don't. You wouldn't believe me anyway. But it is a dream. A very sad, melancholy dream, almost in black and white. And if you could understand it was a dream, you might understand everything. My hopes and my plans, all in one word. You were a dream.
But dreams aren't real. And all dreams must end.
I grip my jeans again. This isn't like me, you know that. I don't cry. I don't. I'm stoic. That's the right word. I could feel every emotion on Earth inside me and you'd never know. Because that's the way I am. But that's not true. Because you made me feel every emotion on Earth, and I showed it the whole way through.
"You can't do what anymore, Manda?" I ask the question stupidly. I already know its answer. You can't do this- this is us. You and me. Every goddamn feeling between us.
"Is that question rhetoric?" You cock your head. A car driving by honks at us. I don't know why. He doesn't know us. I don't know him. You don't know him. Nor me. Nor do I know you. Not really. I give him the finger for no reason other than it seems right to do.
"Us." I lean against the wall, my hands still clenched in fists. I realize that I've been crying this whole time- but I knew that before. And I'm vaguely aware of it now. It happens like in another place, as though I'm not here with you.
"There is no us," you reply, bring me back to w hat's real and here and now. "There's never been an us, Rob."
"There's always been an us," I tell you, my voice growing far too ragged with far too many tears. "There always will be. Forever. I never thought that was a true word before now, but it is. Forever. There will always be something between us. Something making us an us."
You shake your head. It's almost a melancholy move, but it isn't really. You don't really seem to care. But that's a lie. You do care, I can see it in your eyes, hear it in your voice. But you're tired. "There is no us."
"Why?" I ask back bitterly. "Was it just a dream, Mandy?" You look over at me. You don't respond. I sigh a bit. There's so much that needs to be said. So much I need to tell you. So much I can't find the words to say. "It was a dream," I whisper, answering it for myself.
"Stop saying that," you order. Your apathy is wearing thin. Mine hasn't begun yet. You warned me about this. About how apathetic you could get. I don't get that- I don't. I don't see how you can be apathetic when you love someone.
"Do you wish it hadn't happened this way?" I ask, in what could almost be called an even tone, if not for the crying. "Do you wish it hadn't happened at all?"
"I don't know," you say. "I can't do this. I don't know. You don't know. So we're fucked. I can't do this."
"Can't or won't?"
"Does that mean you want this?" I bite my lip. I already know the answer- the answer will always be that she doesn't know.
"I don't know."
"But the answer's not no." I shrug. "It's not yes. There is no answer." There used to be answers. Simple answers to simple questions like that. We used to know- maybe we still do, we just don't want to admit it. I mean… it'd be so easy, wouldn't it? You either want something or you don't. There's no in between. There shouldn't be.
"No. There isn't an answer." You blink and look away. "I don't have an answer for this."
"Why do we call it that?" I ask loudly, suddenly. "Why do we say 'this' and 'it'?" I shake my head. "This isn't it or this or that or whatever fucken neutral pronoun we want to attach. This is you and me. This is us."
"What does that matter?" you ask. As if you honestly don't understand what I'm trying to say here.
"Because it's easy to say this isn't worth it… but what you mean…" My voice catches in my throat. "What you mean, baby, is that I'm not worth it."
You stop. You just stop. It's like the Earth has stopped with you, and the things happening around us, I'm now completely unaware of them. You breathe, softly and evenly.
"Maybe…" You don't look at me. "Maybe you're not."
I don't wince. I don't frown. I don't grimace. I ignore the pain in my stomach. You know, until this all started, I didn't realize that things people said… that they could physically hurt. That your gut could wrench in such painful ways. No, I didn't understand that at all. I do now though. But I don't show it… it's more an act of will than anything else. "Maybe I'm not."
"I mean, what's worth it anyway? I think there's only one person I can say for sure is worth it in my life. Just one."
"And it's not me."
"I don't know if you are or aren't."
"No." I shake my head. Slowly, I look at you. My God, does it hurt to look at you. "You do know. You always know. You just can't admit it."
"I don't know," you say angrily. As if… how dare I question your judgment. How dare I have my opinion on you.
How dare I act like I know you.
Well, you see, I do know you. I know everything about you. You just never wanted that to happen. I know your secrets, the things you didn't want me to find out. I know them all. I know how you betrayed me. I know you told her everything about me. How you spilled out everything I ever trusted you with. I know your hatred and I think I might even know your love. I know that contented little "hm" noise you make when we're talking. I miss it. I know what you say, how you act. The things you can do. I know how you think. I know what you are.
And you think I want to change you.
But I don't.
But I do want better for you.
Once, back when I was more idealistic and a lot less cynical, I'd had this fantasy that I could take you away from it all and show you something better. Something worth believing in. Something worth living for. Something that would dull the pain and show you there's still some good in this world. Something that you think would have changed you, but it wouldn't have. It might have set you free, so I suppose that's the same thing. But it wouldn't have been changing. That girl was always in you, I saw her even before I knew I loved you. It's the reason I stayed so long.
Looking back, I wanted to show you something worth being free for.
Looking back, I wanted to show you love.
I hope someday you'll let me.
Though it'd have been nice if you'd let me show it to you when I still thought it was something worth feeling.
I used to think maybe all love was was just two people who just needed each other at the same time. Two people who by chance happened to be lonely at the same time and reaching for something. It would have made sense, I think. That all love is is just… desperation.
But it's not.
It's the emotion inside you that drives everything you do. You don't just randomly happen to start feeling it for someone at any given moment, it's always inside you, from the second you're born. It's there and it's real and you can have it and feel it anytime you want. And it's powerful and weakening, and it's cold and it's warm, and it's sacred and sacrilegious, and in the end, it damns you.
But once you let it out, you really are damned. You can't ever stop feeling it again, no matter how hard you try. No matter how much you think you've suppressed it. It's still there. It's still real. It's still inside you.
Some things that happen are forever.
But that's what love is… and to look love in the face, and know it for what it is. To love it for what it is. To live life with it. To know it. And to love it.
"Look… I've changed. I'm not the girl you fell in love with. I'm different now." You look at me, a fresh ferocity in your eyes. "I've changed."
"So have I." I shrug. "I'm not the man you knew. But what doesn't change is the fact I love you."
I'm used to change. Really. One of the few times I say my father looking at me in a doting way, I swelled with pride. He clasped his hand on my shoulder and introduced me to his colleagues. This is Robert… This is my precious, honorable son.
I wonder sometimes if my father suspected back then the man I might become. I'm a good man.
"I've changed," you repeat and I can hear it in your voice. How you want to shake me and scream, don't you see that? Don't you get that? I've changed.
Funny thing is, I do get it.
You can't know how much I get that you've changed… I see it in you every second of every day. Maybe you don't get how much I see and hear. I remember everything. Every move you make. Every word you say. I remember every time you've lied… but I also remember everything else.
And I love you for it.
"I know you've changed," I say evenly. Perhaps the problem is that I've changed too. Or perhaps it's that just because I know you've changed doesn't mean… it doesn't mean I've forgotten the past.
And never again.
"Yeah, well, you sure don't act like you know." You sigh again, this time it's soft. The air of apathy is still very much alive in your voice, and I don't understand it any more than when if first surfaced.
After all, you love me. You say you do. You love me so much.
Or you just think you do.
"Well, I do know."
"Then why won't you let me forget. Why can't you let me forget?' You run your fingers through your hair and lean against the nearest building.
I look at you and lean against my hand on the building. It's a strong building. Red brick, built long before you or I were born. And it's never fallen. But my hands feel the cracks on the stones and it reminds me of my soul.
Because I built myself like this building. Strong and proud, with a firm cornerstone. Brick by brick by fucken brick.
I don't know why I built myself this way, but I did. I did it because I had to be strong. I needed to be. There were things that I was supposed to have in life that I didn't think I had and I had to pretend I did.
Honor. Integrity. Endurance. Pride. Strength. Duty. Selflessness.
This is my precious, honorable son.
I used to be so afraid of becoming my father.
But you… you soothed my fears. When I was with you… my god, I didn't worry about the man I might become. I didn't care anymore. Why would it matter? You were in love with me.
My. Precious. Honorable. Son.
If it wasn't for you, I'd never have fought my demons.
And I sure as all hell wouldn't have beaten them.
Because these… these are the stories that nobody hears. But I told them to you.
The funny thing was… you still didn't hear them.
"I've changed. I want to forget how I was. You won't accept that. You don't think I've changed."
I blink. "Have you been listening to a word I've said?"
"Of course I have."
But you haven't. You've never heard a goddamn word I ever said. You never let them sink in. You never got it.
I'm fucken in love with you.
"Then why won't you let me forget?" you whisper. "Why can't you forget?"
"I can't forget," I say cautiously. "I remember every word-"
"That I've ever said," you interrupt. "I know. I remember."
"And I always will." It's my turn to sigh again and I do, pressing my fingertips into the wall, feeling its cracks.
The strong bricks have long ago cracked. Just like the stones of my own soul, that I had thought impenetrable.
I bite my lip and pull the hands over my face, pricking them with stubble… I need to shave. "Just because I don't forget doesn't mean I still think it's you."
You look at me. You always do this. It was always the way you looked at me that got to me. Whether you were looking at me in disgust, or sometimes happily, as though to say to your friends, this is my clever, handsome boyfriend, there was always something about the way you looked at me. This is my strong, sweet boyfriend.
This is Rob. This is who I think he is. This is mine. My boyfriend.
This who I think he is. This is my son, Robert. My precious and honorable son.
"You know…" I sigh. "I know you've changed. I see it in you everyday. And I never asked for this. I never asked to be your lover."
"Yes, you did." Your disagreement is instant, as though you know exactly what I mean. You don't.
I shake my head. Oh if you could only look at me the way you did before, I'd agree to everything you have to say. Just to be your lover.
"I never asked to be your lover." My voice is gentle, but firm. "I asked to be your friend. And I told you I could be your lover. I told you I was in love with you." I look away. "But I never asked to be your lover."
"I never asked you to be mine." Your eyes gaze at me, clear gray slates. "Not once."
"But you did." I take your hand, but you yank it away right away. "You asked me to be it. You asked me with your eyes."
"And can't I say your eyes asked me?" you shoot back right away. I sigh.
I feel my heart sinking slowly, and I reach up to dry my eyes with the sleeve of my jacket. My sweet, handsome, strong, clever boyfriend. I'm not strong. I'm not clever. I'm not very handsome, and I don't know if I was very sweet.
And I know now I was never really your boyfriend.
"It wasn't supposed to turn out like this, was it?" I ask, looking at you. Your eyes lock into mine… you're a gray slate, clear of emotion. And mine… well, I know they're telling you everything. I never could keep it all inside. I'd have exploded if I had and taken everything around me out.
"Turn out like what?" I've never heard her tone go that cold that fast.
"I wasn't supposed to fall in love with you," I say, my gaze looking at her face but for the first time in all the time I've known her not taking it in. "You weren't supposed to fall in love with me. It wasn't supposed to turn out this way. I mean, I can't think of a worse match than me and you. All our friends would laugh. Rob and Manda, they'd say, yeah right." I kick the ground hard, scuffing the toe of my boots.
"After all," I continue. "I'm not the kind of guy you go for." I shrug. "I'm different."
"No, you aren't," you spit bitterly. "You hurt me in the end. Just like they did."
"Anyone can hurt anyone, whether they want to or not." I shake my head. "But I'm not the kind of man you're supposed to love. Too… I don't know. Too soft. Too strange. Or maybe too normal." The bitterest smile I think I've ever had comes over my face. "Too Catholic."
You heave a sigh of frustration and shut your eyes again, trying to block me out. "Here we go again," you say softly, a tone of annoyance lacing through your words. "I was tired of being what you wanted me to be, Rob."
"And I was tired of being told what a bad person I was." My response is every bit as matter of fact as I will always be. "You were the one who made it an issue. I asked you very nicely to stop bashing my religion around me, and you wouldn't. You made it an issue."
"And you lectured me like I was a five-year-old girl in need of assistance from the wonderful, tolerant, patient Rob." I can see through the apathy for the first time. I can see how angry you are.
"And you depicted me as an acolyte of hate. Every time I called you a bigot- which may I add, you are, it was in retaliation to you saying my religion hates me. Hates people. Is the cause of suffering."
You clench your fists immediately, and I see the anger reeling in your mind. "Everyone I ever met was like that. Every Catholic in my life hates people. Hates gays. Is prejudiced. That's the way life is where I grew up. I've never met an accepting Catholic."
"Yeah?" I ask roughly, my eyes looking away. "Then what the fuck was I, Manda?"
"You know I don't include you in that!" You grit your teeth. "But I will not be who you want me to be."
"So what? You don't include the good guys so you can hate the bad guys with generalizations. And I didn't know I wasn't included. I, Manda…" I point to my chest. "Am a Catholic. And a good man. And I love you. Not for who I would want you to be, because that would be boring, but for who you are."
"Even you can't believe that anymore, Rob." You run your fingers through your hair, tired, apathetic, angry hidden again.
"I believe it because it's true. I'm a scientist, Manda. A political scientist, yes, but I still believe in objectivity and the scientific method. And logic. And there are times when I can't ignore the facts anymore. When they pile up and build and then they're just… there. And you have to face the truth. And yeah, you don't believe what you used to believe." I reach for your hand again. And for a second time, you yank it away. "I didn't believe I loved you for so long. But eventually it piled up until I couldn't keep lying about it."
"You're objective about your love for me?" you say and you snort at the ludicrous idea of it.
"Hey, it's amazing what the scientific method can do," I shoot back dryly. "I'm as objective as you are apathetic."
"Rob…" your voice cracks and I'd be lying if I said it didn't tear right through me, the way it always did. I want to cave for a second, and get on my knees, begging your forgiveness. Telling you everything I ever knew was wrong and that I can change- I could change, baby. I was wrong.. You were right.
But I can't do that.
Because it's not all true. And I'm not saying I wasn't wrong- God knows, I was wrong about a lot of things. But not everything. And I won't take blame for your mistakes.
That wouldn't be right, the same way not owning my part would be wrong. It wouldn't be the honorable thing to do.
My precious, honorable son.
I used to be afraid that one day I'd wake up and see my father in the mirror. That I'd see his face staring back at me. And I do, you know. I see him when I look in the mirror.
But it's not the only thing I see.
I see that the man that I wanted to be.
I see my mother's eyes, and my grandfather's smile. I see my father's mouth and nose and hair. But I look down and see the large, harsh laborer's hands my farmer grandfather had, and delicate skin my grandmother has.
And sometimes, if I look close enough…
I can see you in me. Inside of me.
"You're not going to let me fix this, are you, Manda?" I ask finally, and there's so much more I still need to say.
You're quiet at first. "I need," you say finally. "I need time."
"I can give you time," I answered immediately. The time you never gave me. One week. That was all you ever gave me. But what did it matter? You'd predetermined the outcome. You always had. You never heard one word I said.
But then again, we played this game a lot, you know.
And that was back when I was selfless. I'm not selfless anymore. You told me… right when we started talking, you threatened to break me. The fact of the matter was… and it had to be said… I'd never let you break me again. I honestly believe, if it came down to you or me, I don't know if I'd save you and break myself. I'd break you before I'd ever let you break me.
"I can't… we can't see each other, for a while. You can email me and stuff, maybe chat once in a while, but I can't see you for a while." The guidelines are set quickly, before I even comprehend them, I accept them. I'll always be accepting your guidelines.
It reminds me of how it felt to be selfless.
"I understand," I say weakly.
"I really loved you, Floyd," you say softly. Floyd. Only you could get away with calling me that. My given name. Floyd Robert Marx. Your causal use of it reminds me of the intimacy we once shared.
"I know," I confirm, even though I don't really know if you ever did. How can you be apathetic about love? If you love someone, how can stop fighting? "I'm in love with you."
"I just wish you hadn't tried to change me," you say finally, getting ready to start walking away again. "I wish you'd have given me the chance."
"I wish you'd have given me a chance," I reply, just coolly, but I stop myself from going any further. "Write me a letter someday, Amanda."
"A letter?" you repeat, dumbfounded. "I don't even think I even have your address anymore."
"Then don't send it. But write it and call me and let me know you did." I shrug. "Just so you can say what you wanted. Write me a letter someday."
You look at me and I hope you leave before I start crying again. I've held myself together for the last five minutes, and I already feel bad enough for having cried in front of you at the start. I'd hate to do it again.
"Okay," you agree. "Good bye, Rob." You turn to walk away.
"I love you, Manda," I say one more time, watching you shrink in the distance. And I fight the urge to run after you- to make this work- to make you understand. Because I loved you. And I'll let you go.
I smile, wishing you'd turn around and run back to me and I'd catch you in my arms and kiss you and everything would be okay.
Instead I just start walking the opposite way, back to my motorcycle and the abandoned street corner and away from you.
I thought when it happened- when you walked away again- I thought I'd hate you, blame me, and curse us. But I don't.
In fact, I love you. And I don't want to live without you again. I'm scared to. But all things of beauty must die someday. And to keep you around, that'd be selfish.
I look at my reflection in the chrome of the motorcycle, a few tears dripping down onto it.
This is my precious, honorable son.
This is my clever, sweet, strong boyfriend.
Honor. Integrity. Endurance. Pride. Strength. Duty. Selflessness.
Looking back at my warped reflection in the bike, I see my face again. And I see you in me, and I see my father, and my mother, and all those who have crossed my path…
When I was young, when I was 15, like I was when I met you, I looked in the mirror and saw the man I might become.
And now I see the man I have become.
He is honorable. He is precious. He is clever, and kind, and handsome. He knows duty and pride. And he has endured. He has his strength and his integrity. He is sweet. He is the man I have become.
But most of all, he is good.
But he's not selfless anymore.