Halt and return

On Saturday they went for another walk in the winter-deserted park, as on their first date. She little suspected what he was going to tell her when he spoke:

‘Adriana, I think it would be better for each of us to go their own way.’

They were sitting on two benches placed face to face. The grey naked bushes were filling the background with still more emptiness. She gaped for a second, her eyes wide in astonishment. Her blood was running excited through her veins anticipating the great news that she had for him and at once it was halted and froze.

‘I beg your pardon?’ she could only mumble.

He sighed a bit condescendent and resumed, faintly smiling like a self-controlled bigger brother.

‘Adriana, we are not what we need for each other. It’s obvious we were wrong when we assumed so.’

She almost shook her head to dismiss the insane message that seemed to be conveyed to her. What, he also knew what she was like? They’d just spent perhaps 10 hours together. Four weekend dates.

‘Hold on… what do you mean we’re not what we need? what do you need, for example?’

‘Well, when we met you were so warm and seemed so strong.. I’m not strong either, I’ve got my own faults, I’m not claiming to be perfect, you see. That’s why I’m saying neither of us is what the other needs.’

She blinked straining her eyes. The bush behind had so many frozen buds and the gloomy clouds could be discerned through the web of branches. What did that mean, he thought she was warm and strong?!… Did it mean she actually wasn’t?

Bullshit she wanted to burst out laughing but his confident smile and chattering somehow brought a chill along her spine making it plain that he was serious and at once detached. Already gone. He was just giving explanations now for a decision he’d already made.

Hey that’s not right, smiling and comforting were supposed to be her duty, and now look, he was paternal and in control, as if their roles had reversed. And it’s not fair either, how the hell can he be so sure who she was and presume to be telling her that too! And especially now that she’d found the key which she was supposed to play to, she simply had to be allowed at least a few words in the new role, but the role was lying idle like an abandoned overcoat and she, shoulders bare, could utter no words from the script. He must trust her that she could handle it, and he must just grant her a short while to come back to herself so she can perform a little.

What he gave her instead was that definite manner of uttering the words, no more toying with them, no kiddish intonation, no uncertainty in his voice, no questions but only answers. When he did give her room to speak it was just room to utter something, as the finality of his decision was shutting out any stage where she could have possibly acted out her role.

The only cues left to her would have been to argue that she was as he had thought her to be at the beginning, and even more; that he was wrong after too short a time spent together; that she had so much to give and was so willing to give it. Nonsense. That wasn’t a maths problem where things needed to be proved, but demonstrated, and demonstrations took time and, more importantly, participation of everyone concerned.

So she was left – again – speechless. Words sounded not like pennies for her thoughts, but like coins dropped on bare concrete. Her mind was blank and the muscles of her face paralysed.

It took a few days to put it into mental words. The astonishment was turning into mixed frustration, anger, dejection and all the dregs associated with being left hanging. She couldn’t even call it a failure, for failures involve battles fought and lost. But she had had no time to act in any way, let alone call it ‘fight’, no time to be herself. The repressed swing she had been ready to take, in full excitement at discovering how the strings worked, had left a choking sense of absurd behind. And then there was Matthew himself, who had first awakened in her the need for romance, by giving – or seeming he was willing to give – what Daniel hadn’t given, then had summoned her to become motherly and now eventually had turned into a cool, knowing stranger.

Beyond all the replays of the whole film, there was a bothering thought that kept popping up. Had it really been all in vain?, that is, had it all happened without any purpose, any finality, any good? She had believed, with the little life experience that she could boast, that everything made sense, no matter how painful it might be when experienced. From the fights with Daniel there had come out strong solidarity and attachment. From her dilemmas as to her choice of career, including the dilemmas as to her own abilities, there had come out fresh and well-thought-through certainty. The apparent failures had always taken her somewhere. Apart from that, all the hard experiences she had been through looked in retrospect beautiful. There was beauty in tears shed for John Lennon’s death, for her wish she had been a teenager in the sixties, or for her helplessness in turning back time. Feeling hurt at the end of a love did but reinforce the beauty of the story up till then.
What sense did all this make now? She had learned something?…That things can be senseless? That it’s not just in nightmares that you can run without advancing an inch? This story had just stirred in her longings that it then denied her, and on top of that it had taken away her peace with herself and with Daniel. His ghost had been a positive presence before, and it was just Matthew, being so wildly different from Daniel, that had cast a cloud on her memories, inducing the feeling she had long been unhappy. The whole affair, with both its struggle and romance, was taking her nowhere.

They had been so close in those few hours spent together, in which sad memories and feelings were confessed while the Vangelis or Pink Floyd waves of music were flowing on and on around the empty flat, that now the burnt bridges were leaving her dumbfounded. She would go about her routine as if frozen, unable to take it in that there was no way to Matthew. Little by little she got moments when she realized there was nothing else to do and then she would be overcome with frustration at her helplessness and wished she could do wonders. She was aware too that one wonder wouldn’t do – just to get back to him – but a second wonder was what it took to keep them together on a longer term. She would see herself next to him in her mind’s eyes and realized, against her will, that the two of them were at odds, that he had expected from her different things from what she had been prepared to give and the other way round. She was somehow aware that they had lacked that accord in the small things that made up the big things. But everything was still too present and confusing to be sifted through and grasped.

Finding no solution, be it imaginary, she would head for the future. The future brings unexpected turns of events, so she put her hopes in it. She would top the list of admitted freshers at university, to prove him she knew what she wanted and was ready and able to fight for it. And later, after the exams, she would give a party and invite him too, to wave this image of her before his eyes. To say to him through her presence, ‘That’s what I am’. Even if she and Matthew would never be together, she still needed him to know who she was. She had to find a direction and forge somehow a meaningful ending to their story. As it was, it was a chunk, in want of an epilogue that might pull all the strings together harmoniously leading to a conclusion.