The Upper Hand

He asked me when I left if I was angry with him. I said no and shrugged as nonchalantly as I could. Of course I was f*$%ing angry with him but we’re not supposed to show that. We’re never supposed to show that.

We, the broken-hearted. We, the dumped. Inside we may be raging, devastated, confused; but we will fight with every last ounce of our emotional energy to maintain a facade of calm, of cool. Because that might be all it takes to win you back. Ha. Ha bloody ha.

Of course our thespian performance in these last dying moments of the relationship is going to have no bearing on the final outcome. Truth be told that was decided long ago. Ad lib as we may, the ending is not for changing. We were never meant to be.

The thing that wound me up most of all is that I knew that as well as he did. At the outset. He was as wrong for me as I was for him. Yet neither of us was quite prepared to let the other go. And I was the one who was constantly trying to make it right. Correction: to make me right.

And the more I tried and failed, the more caught up in the game I became. I forgot what I had recognised at the outset. I forgot what it was I really wanted. By the end I think I may even have forgotten who I was. All I cared about was getting the upper hand.

The end, when it truly came, was a relief. There had been false dawns before but they had always felt like melodramatic playacting. The real end, by contrast, felt strangely devoid of hysteria. As if the helium filled balloon of our relationship was finally deflated. Finally, we sat and looked one another squarely in the eye and spoke in even tones.

I breathed deeply and sat tall on that kitchen bench, our kitchen bench. I looked him in the eye and told him I wanted more. I wanted to be happy. To be loved. He had no satisfactory answer to give me. It would have saddened me if I hadn’t already known the answer. Instead it gladdened me that I had finally had the balls to ask the question that needed asking.

Of course there were no surprises. No last minute redemption or recognition. It was what it was. There was nothing left for me to do except leave. It was then that he asked me if I was angry with him. I stopped for a beat as the old habit of masking my true feelings for best effect fought with my more primal urges. Then I shrugged. Sure, I was angry with him but that was nothing compared to how angry I was with myself.

*This post was written in response to the WordPress daily prompt: Connect the Dots. Open your nearest book to page 82. Take the third full sentence on the page, and work it into a post somehow.
– ‘He asked me when I left if I was angry with him’ is the third full sentence from page 82 of Bonjour Tristesse.

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