Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Sudden tryst death

Be it a creak, a rattle, a slow swoosh, a click or sudden snap, no other sound will catch your attention, force a pause, or shift the nature of your actions quicker. You know the signature of your own front door better than any other sound in your home, and you are conditioned to hear it, especially if you live alone. Save for the dog and cat, he lives alone.

That's why, when I opened the first of the double doors this morning, its click and creak catapulted my stomach into my heart. Most of me preferred a clean escape. If I am ever to confront this incompatibility face-on, I wish not to do it with smudged make-up, yesterday's clothes and morning breath. And, I'd definitely prefer see it through on neutral territory, and not surrounded by his things, his history, his everything familiar. The rest of me was reluctant to acknowledge the impossibility of creating a healthy, balanced tryst, though, so I consoled my palpitating little heart with possible justifications for this situation which had me running.

I'd wakened alone in a bedroom that wasn't mine. It was my second night in his bed, one beyond decorum. The one was cuddly and warm, innocent and uncomplicated. But today, the sun was up by the time I realized there were only three of us sleeping there, the dog, the cat and me. My pride crumbled, the dog snorted and stretched, unaffected. The absentee had slipped away so quietly that not even his codependent pets noticed; he was that careful. If only I could manage the same. Thanks be that the bedroom is nearest the main entrance, my exit.

It should have been an easy feat. I mean easily executed, not to suggest it could be done with emotional ease. I gathered my things, wrote a short note (to salvage some pride), and regretted my decision to stay at his place that one awkward night too many. All the while, I could hear my mother sucking air through her teeth and saying "it's better to know sooner than later." The note, penned to prevent future awkwardness, and to imply that I understood that this would be the friendly end, read: Good morning! Sorry to run you from your bed. It was comfy, though...

I added the exclamation point to imply that I was still cheerful. And the ellipses, because I didn't want to believe the tryst would end so gracelessly.

Sure we are incompatible. His interests aren't mine, and he didn't venture forth to find common ground, instead he stood his own, and waited for me there. He phrased questions to assess my familiarity with the things he already loves, and with each substandard response, I felt pushed farther from either of our comfort zones. Our senses of humour are not entirely shared, nor are our definitions of moving, intriguing or profound. The schism led him to another bed, and me to the exit. To his creaky, clunky double doors.

I consoled myself that perhaps he simply couldn't sleep, and resorted to the lullaby of a late night film. Or, perhaps my own unresponsiveness left him feeling uncomfortable. Maybe I pushed him out of his bed. The last he'd touched me after all, was to deliver an unsolicited back rub before I rolled away, wished him sweet dreams, and he wished me the same. Maybe I could, after all, preserve a portion of my pride. I was willing to adopt all fault for the privilege.

I clunked and creaked my way out the first set of doors, and I knew he must have wakened; anyone would have. I knew that in the adjacent room, in front of the television, he remained still and quiet and blameless. This would be his chance to intercede my clumsy departure, to suggest a next meeting, to explain his behaviour or ask about mine, to make it better. Or, he could let the tryst die a sudden, merciful death. I dislodged the heavy lock of the front door from the frame, tripped on the rug in the entry, pulled my hat over my ears and stepped out into the cold. I closed the final door behind me, aware that he would likely wait a few moments before checking to see that it was shut tight, allowing me time to add my footprints to the few that already marked the snowy sidewalk, and turn the corner.

I looked back briefly, to reflect on from where I'd just come. The impressions of my heeled winter boots in the fresh snow, so distinctly feminine, marked the only trail from his doorstep. Like for those who came before me, I knew it would never lead anywhere but away.