Time and tide wait for no man.
-St. Marher, c. 1225
He takes the exit. He’s not sure he wants to– he’s on his way to somewhere else–but when she texted, and then called, and he heard a frantic urging to “please just make something work before you go,” he knew he didn’t have much of a choice. She picked somewhere nondescript in a town neither knew, a halfway point for both between where she was headed and where he’d just come from. Two years, two towns, nearly a world apart. And yet. He pulled into the lot and saw the message come through that she had a couple miles to go. That would give him the time he needed to shoot off the reassuring text to the new one–is new the word? The first, and only, after her. It won’t be long, he said. And I can’t blow her off.
It was duty driving him, forcing his hand and taking his time. It always came down to that: he felt like he owed it to the world to try harder, be more, and he owed it to her to do better. Or he did, and he tried, and it fell through anyway. The loss wrecked him. He’d taken all the love he had for her and he’d built it into a happiness contingent on the rare moments she gave back. A foundation so shaky that when she dropped it, dropped him, he was forced to watch as the thing he’d fought hopelessly for slipped through his fingers like sand. It wasn’t violent and it fell without making a sound. Sand, that’s the thing about it: there’s no fixing what’s been broken. What you build with sand you forfeit entirely at its collapse; each grain inconsequential, incapable of being pieced together again. He wishes he’d known then what he does now, but he was young and dumb enough to think that if he only tried hard enough he could pick up where they’d left off. He’d spent months, years, battling the ebb and flow of emotion and change that–much like a tide–washed over any progress he thought he’d made at rebuilding. In a vicious cycle he’d start again, take all of his frustration and fear and passion and love–always love– and lay them down, put them on the line and step back to find the same mess he’d started with, muddied now with false hope and broken promises. That’s when he’d kicked it, walked into the cold, rough unknown–nearly drowned in all the lies he told himself about his faults–and washed ashore, broken and tired with a desire to be someone new. Anyone else. Duty would push him out to sea, far from the life he couldn’t have and now no longer wanted. And yet, he took the exit.
He gave the time. He listened as she faltered– he heard it behind careful words, saw it behind pleading, striking green eyes. But it came too late. So when they left the café with a pizza he could have taken but made a point of not wanting, he let her take it all. She could have his regret, his sleepless nights, the pacing and the questioning and the– goddammit, they could have built it better–together–the second time around. She could have all of it: He would watch as she made it her own. Not for self, but country.