Author's Note: Hello, all. The song referenced in this piece is Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie. I don't own that, but I love to admire it's beauty.
I sighed as the radio station went from music to commercial. I swear, they only played about two songs before they advertised for Wal-Mart or Walgreens. I reached for the scan button, clicking it just as the stoplight changed to green.
"And so I thought I would wait for him to call me…" my friend Natasha said from the passenger seat, but I was only half listening to her story. Mostly because we already analyzed her situation, repeatedly over the past few days. We decided that, yes, she should wait for the cute waiter to call her, especially since they only spoke about four days ago.
But as girls are wont to do, we couldn't stop over-analyzing.
"Do you think that I should call him instead?" Natasha asked, but then continued before I could answer. "I just think that's more forward than I'm capable of being…"
Commercial. Commercial. Static. Commercial.
I seriously could not believe how every radio station went to advertisements at the same time. I like to have some background music going in the car. That way, there's something to fill any silences and there's something to crank up if everyone knows the words and wants to sing along. Or you can start singing along unintentionally, without even realizing it, which I think is one of the coolest things in the world.
Finally, the scan button came across a station playing some sort of music. It was slow, not exactly what I was going for, but I would take anything other than commercials at that point.
It was quietly instrumental in the beginning, with a gorgeous piano. In fact, the song sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place it until I heard the voice start singing.
I would recognize his voice anywhere. I'd listened to it for years. Three years of friendship and two years of dating, actually. I'd listened to his voice in his garage, in his bedroom, at battle of the bands, at local concerts. I'd even listened to it when it first appeared on the radio.
But as my hand hovered over the scan button, I realized that I might not listen to it anymore.
It was a big internal debate – did I listen to my ex-boyfriend sing? It was a new song, one I'd never closely listened to, and it could be about anything, I realized. It could be about a new girl. It could be about sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll.
I felt sick as I heard him start to sing, and my heart was telling me to stay on the station, to listen to his voice and get it where I could. In the car, on the radio, I could make it look like I didn't realize that he was singing. If Natasha brought it up, I could just say, "Oh, is that Ryan's band? I didn't realize. I was so into your story."
The only time I could actually listen to his voice on purpose was when I was alone in my apartment, when I put in one of his CDs and listened and cried. Or when I listened to his voicemail, the only one I had left on my phone. It was about ten seconds long and said next to nothing, just asked me if I wanted strawberries and to call him back, but I loved listening to it. So much more than I should have.
My brain was telling me to change the station. Change it and not look back. Because it would have been one thing if I actually hadn't realized that it was Ryan on the radio, but it was another thing to know the entire time. I could already feel pressure in my eyes, and my throat was doing a weird choking thing.
I had to change it. I wouldn't be able to last if I heard him sing any more than I already had.
Unfortunately, I waited too long because the next thing I knew, Natasha stopped her thoughts and said, "Hey, is that Ryan?" Then she turned up the volume and if I had any doubts before, I knew right then, without question, that my ex-boyfriend was singing.
I was driving on autopilot at this point. I was pretty sure I actually drove past our destination, but I couldn't even think clearly beyond the song that was playing on the radio.
It was beautiful and it was haunting. It was honest, too, and the lump in my throat grew as I realized how Ryan it was.
Natasha and I drove in silence, both of us focusing on the lyrics. I didn't catch every word, probably because of the blood pounding in my ears, but I understood the gist – a distance, separating the singer and someone else. A distance that was painful and seemed like it couldn't be overcome.
The song was bringing up bad memories – so much pain – and I couldn't even stop the tears from filling my eyes. When the car started to swerve because I couldn't see and also probably because I was shaking, Natasha cried, "Oh, whoa, okay, pull over!"
I practically slammed us into other cars in the parking lot of some business, maybe a restaurant or something, but all I could focus on was holding back the tears. I managed to make it through the second verse, but when I heard Ryan's voice sing that he needed me (or whoever he was singing to) so much closer, I lost it.
I tried to be quiet about my sobs, not wanting to interrupt the song, but it didn't seem to matter. There was beautiful instrumentation, but no singing for me to cry over. It was like Ryan knew I would hear this song, knew I would shatter, and gave me somewhere to break.
To be honest, I hoped that he also needed this part of the song to recover as well. Because as much as I couldn't believe that this song was about me, I could believe that it was about me. We'd been broken up for months but I was nowhere near over our breakup. We'd spent two long years dating.
There was no way Ryan could have moved on already.
When Ryan started singing again, I managed to quiet my hiccups. Natasha had reached over and started to rub my back, which helped in calming me down, but I just wanted to lose it the more I heard Ryan singing that he needed me so much closer.
Because, God help me, I really hoped me needed me closer.
I needed him so much closer.
It was like he was inviting me when he started to sing "So come on, come on," over and over again. It was like he was begging me to talk to him, to see him.
I took deep breaths, trying to calm myself, as the song faded out. When the next song came on, a poppy tune in stark contrast to Ryan's, Natasha turned the volume completely down. The silence was so sudden and intense that my ears started to ring.
Neither one of us said anything for a few moments before I sighed.
"That was about me."
Natasha didn't respond right away. Finally, I glanced over at her. She was looked at me, her face crumpled in concern, and she nodded.
"Yep. I'd say it was."
Three days later, I stood at the front door of The Hampshire, Ryan O'Neill's apartment building. I took a deep breath, willing myself not to run away. I'd already made it this far, and it took me three days to talk myself up to this point. I couldn't turn back now.
I needed him so much closer.
I repeated this in my head, over and over, hearing the song in my head as ammunition. Since I first heard it on the radio, I'd downloaded it and listened to it repeatedly. I learned the lyrics and even tried to learn it on the guitar.
I just had to understand it.
I buzzed his apartment before I could completely overanalyze whether what I was doing was the right thing. I waited a few moments, expecting the intercom to crackle, asking who was there, but all that happened was that the door buzzed open.
I pulled it, a little surprised that Ryan had unlocked the door without question. But I wasn't about to frown on whatever was making this trip the slightest bit easier.
Because I was about to get so much closer.
I walked to the elevator in the lobby and was happy to see that an elevator was immediately available. I hopped on and pressed Ryan's floor, my heart slamming in my chest. I was taking short, little breaths, as if I had run here instead of driven, and I couldn't stop moving my hands.
Or they may have been shaking. Whatever.
When the elevator pinged on his floor, my heart started to slam and I could feel my neck getting hot. I waited so long before getting off, frozen before the open doors, that I had to stick my arm out to make sure that the doors didn't close on me.
I managed to force myself off of and start down the hallway toward Ryan's room. My legs felt like lead. My heart pounded in my ears. And then before I knew it, I was at his door.
I counted to three internally and then raised my hand to do three quick raps. I hoped that I would have some time to stop the shaking in my arms from the exertion of knocking, but I could hear footsteps almost immediately.
I could feel my pulse in my neck jutting out.
The door started to open and my vision started to get starry as I heard a voice say, "Took you long enough to get up here. Why don't you just remember-"
The voice cut off and stared at me. Then, "Katie?"
That was the last thing I heard before I fell to the floor in a heap.
I didn't like to think of it as swooning. Or passing out from amazement. It was over-excitement. It was over-expectation.
It was expecting to see Ryan and seeing his best friend Gavin instead.
When I came back to consciousness, seriously only a few moments after I fell to the ground, Gavin was in the process of half-carrying me to the couch, one of my arms over his shoulder and my body leaning heavily onto his. He lowered me onto the couch, even placing a pillow under my head, ignoring my cries that I was fine.
"I saw you pass out," he scoffed.
He got me a water bottle from the kitchen, and, now that I had it, I had to admit that I hadn't had any water that day. Or the day before, either. And I had been too nervous to do any significant eating. It was no wonder that I had passed out, really.
When Gavin heard my stomach growl, he grabbed a granola bar from the kitchen and then sat down on the portion of the couch not taken up by my body.
"Thanks, Gav," I said around a mouthful of granola, and he smiled. Gav and I went way back. He was Ryan's best friend and Gavin and I had quickly hit it off. In the months since Ryan and I had separated, Gav still kept in regular contact with me. In fact, he was a big reason that I managed to make it through a very rough, very ugly three and a half week period of time.
He watched me eat for a moment before he smiled. I expected him to grill me about why I was there, but he just smiled and said, "I've missed you."
My heart swelled, partly with love, partly with flattery, and partly with the fact that I missed him too. While we'd talked over the past few months, and while he was crucial to me for a short time, we hadn't been able to see each other, at least not nearly as much as we used to. Even Skye dates had become short lived, moved around by changing schedules and the presence of ex-boyfriends who also needed comforted through a break up.
"I've missed you too," I answered. Gavin nodded and I knew that he understood.
"So why are you here?" He pressed, and I shouldn't have been surprised. Start with some love and honestly, then get into the meat.
I shrugged, and then winced when my head very clearly didn't like the movement. It felt like my brain rolled around in my head. "I thought that this was Ryan's place."
Gavin gave me a long look. "It is," he confirmed. "So… why are you here?"
"If it's his place, why did you answer the door?" I persisted, not totally sure that I was buying what was going on.
"He ran out to get some food and he forgot his keys. I was here so he wanted to know if I would let him in when he got back."
Well, that explained the letting me right up without question thing.
"But don't try to change the subject," Gavin said, catching my eyes.
My neck flushed. Busted.
I linked my hands and fidgeted. I couldn't hold Gavin's gaze and I instead stared down at my fingers, as if they had some magical answer for me.
Gavin showed no sign of talking, determined to wait out my reluctance. And he had the right move, of course, because I just couldn't handle the silence.
"I heard the song," I finally said, and it was all that I could think to say. Really, it was why I was there. It was why I had almost crashed my car. It was why I had called off of work yesterday, so that I could sit at home and cry and think and cry some more.
There was a beat of silence. Then another. One more for good measure. "You heard the song?" Gavin asked.
I risked a glance up at him. He was staring straight at me.
"I heard the song," I confirmed with a sharp nod.
"Well," Gavin said. We sat in silence for a couple seconds before everything that I had been thinking spilled out.
"Was it about me? Why did he write it? Does he miss me? Does he want me back? Am I pathetic for being here? What does the song mean? Tell me he wrote it for me."
At some point during my firing squad questions, I got on my knees and moved over to kneel beside Gavin on the couch. He looked uncomfortable with my questions and when I finally finished, he shrugged.
"Look, I can't say anything about that stuff," he told me. "You're going to have to ask Ryan those things," he finished awkwardly.
My organs started to do weird things. My heart fell and my stomach rose and a huge lump formed in my throat. Gavin's answer didn't seem promising at all.
Before I even realized what I was doing, I shook my head and stood up, searching around for my purse and wallet. "No, no," I muttered, repeatedly. "No, no. No. No. It's okay, no. I think I'm just going to go…'
Seriously, where was my wallet?
Gavin grabbed my arm. "Katie, you're already here," he said, and I nodded, distracted, and patted his hand.
"I know, but, no, it's – no. I'm just gonna…"
I was turning in circles searching for my stuff and Gavin still hadn't let go of my arm. I heard him take a breath to say something when the buzzer to the door suddenly rang. The two of us froze – well, I actually jumped and then froze, and Gavin was a lot calmer than that. We paused, waiting, as if we hadn't actually heard the buzzer. When it came again, longer and more insistently, Gavin moved into action, pressing the button to let the person in.
To let Ryan in.
"Well," Gav said, moving toward the door, "since you're here, now's your chance to ask."
Ryan was wrestling with bags when he walked into the door. "Dude, I bought strawberries again," he grumbled. "I know that we don't eat them but I do it without thinking." He kicked the door shut and tried to mangle his keys into his hand.
I could barely breath as I watched him walk in. He looked good. Still looked good, even after a few months of us being apart. Especially after a few months of us being apart. The longer that it took for him to look up and notice me, the harder my heart started to pound and the more difficult it became to breathe. I could even feel sweat building up on my forehead and my knees beginning to tremble.
Gavin had moved into the kitchen but called out in answer to Ryan, casually, as if there was nothing strange going on in the room.
"Don't worry about it." I heard some sort of pots banging around. What, had he decided that now was a good time to make an omelet or something? "We'll find some sort of use for them."
Gavin said something else, but I didn't hear it, because as soon as the banging started, Ryan had looked up to see what the commotion was. And when he looked up, he saw me.
I saw him.
My heart paused for what felt like two entire seconds before it began to do that painful thudding against my chest. I was completely frozen, and honestly, it looked like Ryan was too. He was paused in an awkward position, half walking and leaning forward, groceries still hanging from their bags, threatening to topple.
When a jar of spaghetti sauce finally rolled out, I jumped and Ryan's eyes followed it to the ground. He moved into action, snatching it up and moving past me toward the kitchen. I stayed, frozen, looking at the door.
I considered running out. But I could hear Ryan and Gavin's conversation – Ryan was never good at whispering, it was why I refused to sit beside him in movie theaters – and Ryan wanted to know if Gavin had seen me too or if he was imagining me.
I had to stay. Because I had to know.
I needed him so much closer. And this was the only way to do that.
It was only a few seconds before Ryan walked out of the kitchen, bagless, and I heard all the noises in the kitchen stop. Ryan didn't say anything, and the two of us looked at each other in silence, before Gavin barreled through the living room and, without a word, walked out the door and slammed it shut.
We were alone.
Logically, I thought that the next best step would be to sit, but when I gestured to the couch, Ryan just shook his head and looked confused.
Well, I was just as confused.
"Why-," he cut himself off, clearing his throat. "Why are you here?"
I tried to swallow, but my throat was so dry and my vision felt cloudy. I opened and closed my mouth twice before I was able to come up with something to say.
"I heard your song."
Ryan blinked. "What song?"
I don't know what I expected. Maybe for his face to crumple, for him to begin to cry and tell me that he missed me, and that the lyrics were written with the hope that I would hear it on the radio and come back to him for us to get back together.
Instead, he asked me what song I was talking about.
I guess it wasn't on his mind the same way that it was on mine.
I don't know if my face showed how disappointed I was that Ryan didn't know exactly what I was talking about, or if he was maybe just still good at reading me, but he re-explained his position.
"No, Kate, it's just – I'm working on a lot of songs right now, I have no idea what's out or… what you've heard…"
That still didn't make it any better. Clearly, that song wasn't any more special to him that any of the other songs. I started to pout at the ground.
"Katie," Ryan said, and his voice was soft. He was suddenly a lot closer to me, and we both sat down on the couch. We weren't touching, not quite, but we were close enough to touch if we wanted. Close enough to feel body heat.
Close enough to remember what we had been.
"The song with the instruments. And the part where you sing… 'I need you so much closer,'" I managed to grind out.
I couldn't take it anymore. I had to know.
"'I need you so much closer,'" I repeated, and I turned my body to face his. "Was that about me? Was it about us?" I paused for a few seconds, waiting to see if he would jump in, but when he wasn't chomping at the bit, I pressed forward. "Because I miss you." Without even realizing it, I had to do one of those body shuttering sobs, where you try to stop yourself from crying uncontrollably.
"I miss you so much, Ryan. I need you so much closer. This is tearing me up, it's ridiculous!" I yelled the last bit, trying my hardest to keep the tears down, but one, and then two, quickly followed by three, four, and five, dripped out.
Ryan didn't say anything. He ignored my crying. Before, he would wipe my tears, even though it bothered me because I hated anyone's hands on my face, but he would ignore my grumblings and wipe them, then pull me close and kiss my hair.
Now, remembering that as he stared at me, watching the tears fall, it only made me cry harder.
"Was that about us?" I sobbed, covering my face with my hands and taking a moment to let completely loose.
Actually, a few moments. Long enough for Ryan to leave the couch and return with a water bottle and a box of tissues. I took some time to piece myself back together and, in all of that, Ryan still hadn't said anything.
He wasn't emotionless. His neck was flushed and his forehead was wrinkled. I could see a little bit of sweat outlining his hairline and his jaw looked clenched. Tight.
I waited for him to speak. I said everything that I had to say.
"I didn't write that song after we broke up," Ryan announced. I waited for more. And waited.
But that was all.
I looked at him, hoping he would expand on what the hell that meant.
"Songs take months to write, produce, cut, promote. It takes forever for them to decide if it's good enough to be a single and if it can get airplay." He shook his head. "It's impossible for me to have written it in the last few months."
My vision went in and out. So, essentially, it was impossible for that song to be about our breakup. It was impossible for it to be about the two of us.
Well. That answered all of my questions.
I took a long pull from the water bottle before setting it on the table and pulling myself up from the ground. I moved to the door and was about to open it when Ryan said, "It's about us."
That made me pause.
"I wrote it before we broke up."
I didn't know what to make of that, but it sounded more promising than his other explanation.
It sounded like there could at least be a chance for us to get so much closer.
But I couldn't turn around. I couldn't face him, risking the chance of feeling rejected again. Or maybe actually being rejected. I wasn't sure what was going on. So I faced the door, just looking at it.
"What does that mean?" I asked. More like demanded, my voice coming out a lot stronger and a lot more intense than I intended.
"I wrote that song before we broke up," he repeated and I shook my head, unsatisfied.
"No, that doesn't make any sense. I know that song." And this was where I admitted that I'd listened to and analyzed the song ever since I'd heard it. "'I need you so much closer,'" I repeated for the third time. "'The distance is quite simply much too far for me to row. It seems farther than ever before,'" I chanted, but Ryan shook his head the entire time.
"It's about our breakup," I insisted.
Ryan looked at me. "No, it's not."
It was so ironic. In most situations, an artist wrote a song and the listener could interpret it however they wanted. In this situation, I wanted the song so desperately to be about what I thought it was about, but the artist was telling me it wasn't. And there was nothing I could do to counter it.
He was the one who wrote the song.
I was really struggling to hold back the tears. And stop my heart from shattering. "Then what's it about?" I demanded.
"You're missing a lot of lyrics," he told me. "'Making islands where no islands should go?' 'I though it less like a lake and more like a moat?' 'So come on?'"
Ryan looked at me like he was waiting for some sort of light bulb to go off in my head, but I couldn't give him what he wanted. I didn't understand. I couldn't even pretend to.
"I needed more of you while we were still together," he said. "I needed you to… be there. And you weren't."
My face flushed and my already unstable emotions reared up in anger. "I was there! I was there every step of the way!" I cried, but Ryan cut into my rant with his own yells.
"No, you weren't, Kate. I don't know what the hell happened at the end, but-" he cut off, looking away from me. "You weren't there, especially when I needed you most."
I moved across the room, pacing, keeping busy. I had to move or I would have lost my mind. "What are you talking about?"
Ryan jumped up from the couch, pacing on the opposite end of the room from me. "I need you to tell me. We were fine the entire time that we were dating and then as soon as things get shitty, you start to pull away."
His brother. My mom. I knew exactly what Ryan was talking about, but I couldn't handle talking about it, still. Some people handled life changes better than others. Some people wanted to cry and talk about things and go boxing to let out frustration. Other people wanted to pretend it never happened, because that made it easier to accept and to move along.
I was among the latter.
My outrage was visible and Ryan made sure to cut in the moment that I raised my arm to preach.
"It hurts, I get it. It fucking sucked to have your mom get cancer. But I was trying to be there for you. I was trying to talk to you and see how you were doing. But you wouldn't talk."
He'd never gotten angry at me about this before. I knew that it had always bothered him that he had to drag me to see my mother in the hospital, that he had to force me to make an appointment to get a mammogram, that he had to beg me for ten words on how I felt about my mother's chemo.
But Ryan had never, ever yelled at me for it.
"And I needed you, Kate." He turned and pointed at me, accusing me. "I needed you to tell me that it would be okay when my sister got sick. I needed you to go with me to visit her in the hospital. I needed you to-" he broke off, taking a deep breath and pressing a finger against each of his eyes. "I needed you so much closer."
I had yelled at him. For all the times that he had never gotten angry, I had gotten angry enough for the both of us. Even for a third person. I would yell and scream because none of it could have been real.
It was just sick. My mom with breast cancer; his sister with meningitis. Both at the same time. The chances were just unbelievable.
"It was hard for me, Ryan," I ground out, but Ryan's eyes were lit and his gaze was overpowering.
"It was hard for you?" He scoffed ."Yeah, Kate, I'm well aware that it was hard for you. It was also hard for me."
"My mom had breast cancer!" Seriously, how hard was that for him to understand? Fine, I had trouble being there for him. I couldn't even be there for myself.
He threw his hands in the air. "My sister had meningitis." He caught my eye. "Have you seriously thought about what it was like to think that my younger sister was going to have brain damage? I make music for a living, and she's never going to be able to hear it again!"
The granola bar in my stomach was not staying down. I could feel it moving around in my stomach. "You're sister's not deaf," I tried, but Ryan was having none of it.
"Yeah, she only lost seventy percent of her hearing," he said. "So much better."
"She's still functional-"
"Yeah, she only has learning disabilities that put her three years behind. So much better."
I didn't have anything to say to that.
"And," Ryan continued. "She doesn't understand why you don't come around anymore. Try explaining that to a brain-damaged girl who thinks that everything bad that happens is her fault."
The granola bar churned. I almost doubled over with the guilt of it all. After Ryan and I… I just couldn't visit once we'd broken up. I loved Briana, and I knew that she loved me, but stopping all contact with his family seemed like the cleaner cut, the easiest way to deal with things.
"Meanwhile, your mom is still functional. She's healing and she's about to be considered cancer free."
I wished he would stop. His gaze was heavy and I felt guilty under it. I suddenly realized that he was letting out all of the anger that hadn't come out in his solemn song. His song had just sounded sad, so sad, but where there was sadness, there was usually anger. Now, Ryan was dealing with all that he hadn't wanted to deal with.
Really, he and I were both dealing with all that we hadn't wanted to focus on at the end. Instead, we were facing what we had thrown to the side, what we had tried to ignore, and then ultimately decided could be fixed with a breakup instead.
We were so wrong.
We needed each other so much closer.
I nodded, miserable. He was right. But he cut me out of his life, too. As far as I knew, he hadn't had any contact with my mom. He hadn't spoken with any of my siblings. We weren't facebook friends anymore (he took care of that one) and we didn't follow each other on twitter (I took care of blocking him there). My best guess as to how he knew about my mom was that he spoke with Gavin, who I'd been updating on everything since the breakup.
Really, it was crazy how I had managed to stay close to Gavin without having any contact with Ryan. They were best friends, for goodness' sake.
I glanced behind me and sat down on a chair. I faced him and waited for him to also give up and sit down. As soon as he was back on the couch, I shrugged.
"So where are we at?"
Ryan scrunched his face and mirrored my shrug.
I licked my lips. My fingers twisted into a pretzel in my lap. "How's your sister?"
He didn't answer right away, but finally said, "Bad."
It wasn't exactly the answer that I wanted to hear.
"The meningitis is completely gone, but her hearing aids aren't as easy to use as you'd think and trying to rehab her…" he trailed off. "It just sucks."
I couldn't think of anything to say. Honestly, I wished that I hadn't asked about it. About her.
"And she still always asks for you." Ryan wasn't letting up, and I couldn't tell if he was trying to make me feel guilty or not. My guess was yes.
Well, two could play at that.
"What do you say?"
"Of course I tell her that it's my fault." He raised his eyebrows. "What else am I going to do, let her believe that she's the one who drove you away?"
It didn't sound like an admission of Ryan's own guilt. In fact, it sounded like he blamed me. He won at the guilt game again.
"How's your mom?" he asked, and my stomach clenched.
"She's good," I admitted. And she was. She got healthier by the day. She was cancer free. I was cancer free (checked and confirmed, thanks to Ryan's influence).
My life got better and Ryan's life got worse. Really, with all this latent anger and unfair ways that our lives were turning out, was it any wonder that we weren't together anymore?
Eventually in rough, awkward conversations, you get to a point where it's just too much and you can't take the loligagging anymore. We were at that point, clearly, because Ryan finally blurted out,
"Why are you here?"
His tone was harsh and I blanched. Focusing on the coffee table between us, I said, "I heard your song."
I could see Ryan nod in my peripheral vision. "Right. And we already covered the fact that the song was written well before we broke up. Anything else?"
"I miss you!" It came out without any of my control. All of the sudden, the words left my lips and my eyes widened. It wasn't that I had been trying to consciously stop them, but I wasn't even aware that I had been actively thinking them. But once I said it, I knew they were true. I missed Ryan so much.
He didn't say anything and my heart started to do another weird pounding, but this time it wasn't in excitement or fear. It was total, miserable heart break. I could feel my body starting to shut down, close down from all of the excitement of the day and face the realities of what Ryan was telling me.
He didn't want me anymore.
Tears started to build up behind my eyes and I took two deep breaths, slowly, so that they didn't come out as sobs. I managed to squeeze out, "Do you miss me?"
I chanced a look at his face and a few tears fell from my eyes when he spread his hands in front of him. "What do you want me to say, Katie?"
I shook my head, out of words. What did he think I wanted him to say? I couldn't tell him what to say. I knew what I wanted but I also knew that I couldn't force him to give it to me.
This pain was worse than the first time, our first break up. That break up was raw and fast and ugly. This one… it wasn't even technically a "second" breakup, but it felt like it. It was measured and it was brutally honest. It was quiet. I could hear my ragged breathing and I could hear Ryan's heavy breathing as well. His was also staggered and he pinched his eyes again.
My hands started shaking and I stood up to leave. This was torture and it was unnecessary; we'd already gone through a breakup the first time. This second meeting made it clear that the damage was clearly worse than I'd expected. And Ryan had made it crystal clear that the song he'd written as not about our breakup. It wasn't even about me in a positive way, really.
It was a song of blame, not of want.
I was about to open the door and walk out when I felt a hand on my arm. Ryan's hand. I could recognize that hand anywhere; I'd held it for years.
He turned me around and held onto my hand, but didn't touch any other part of my body.
"Stop. Just… don't leave." He licked his lips and glanced around the room before looking at me again.
He didn't say anything else. His face was flushed and it looked like he wanted to say something, but nothing was coming to mind. More tears fell down my face, and I gave up trying to hold them back. I was having trouble breathing; my chest felt like it had caved in.
"Just let me go, Ryan," I whispered.
He didn't let go of my arm and just held tighter when I began to lightly move it.
"You made it perfectly clear what you think," I said, and my voice was still quiet. Luckily, the room was completely silent, aside from my spastic breathing and Ryan's heavy breaths.
"You didn't give me a chance to say anything," he protested.
I scoffed. "You stayed silent."
"Give me a minute to think, Kate, my God."
But what was there to think about? I stayed silent so that he could have a moment, and hopefully also realize how displeased I was with how this was all panning out (every second it, really, back to the past several months).
"Okay," he said, and grabbed my face so that I would have to look at him. "Look. I just… I miss you."
I stared at him. A few more pathetic tears slipped out of my eyes. I had no other reaction, partly because Ryan had a loose grip on my face and the feel of this situation reminded me so much of when we were together that I was blindsided and frozen.
But I also had no reaction because, what was I supposed to do with that information?
"I did write that song about you, you know?" he continued and I rolled my eyes, the one motion that I could comfortably make.
"Yeah, before we broke up, when our relationship already sucked." I nodded. "You made that perfectly clear, yeah."
Ryan dropped his hands from my face and took a step back. "Look," he said, and I could tell from the stiffness of his jaw that he was trying to hold back irritation at my reaction.
But, honestly, what did he expect? I was standing in his living room, crying, trying not to choke on my own snot, after he completely shot down my proclamation of… if not love, something close to it. How dare he be annoyed? In fact, I was starting to feel my own irritation rise.
"What are you trying to say, Ryan?" I cut in, and he glared at me.
"I'm trying to say that I miss you too, and that maybe we should deal with all this… crap between us!" He kind of yelled it at me, but that wasn't what took my breath away. Instead, it was what he said. It was the hope that he implied. It was the ever-present chance in his statement.
"Clearly we're both miserable," he said, probably seeing my face and needing to explain more. "Let's work this out."
He grabbed my hand. "Kate."
"Ryan." I smiled. And then, unable to control myself, I started to sob and I rammed myself into his body. He held me tightly, holding me so much closer than he had in months.
We both whispered apologies to each other, nonsense kind of things, stuff that didn't constitute the apologies that we really owed to each other, but things that were going to help repair our relationship, that would be the basis of our future. I don't know how long we stood there holding each other, but it was long enough to feel so much closer.
We needed each other so much closer. And now, as Ryan held me, stroking my hair, and as I buried my face in his neck, I knew that we would get there.
Author's Note: Let me know your thoughts!