How Far We've Come

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People who know me know that my parents divorced in a sensationally messy way; there was even a casualty, an honest-to-God dead person involved (and no, one of my parents didn’t kill the other). Mostly, it got to that point because they cheated on each other. I’ve been in some especially bad relationships, and I’ve seen friends in them, too. I’ve never been naïve enough to say people should stay together when they no longer want to- in fact, people usually cheat because they’re not willing to take that painful, frightening step away from a person and relationship that has become such a large part of their life.

So I thought I'd never be one of those people who cheat- I swore it to every woman I ever thought I loved (and the few it turned out I actually did). But I'm not the person I thought, or at least the man I've always tried to be. And I truly, truly, take responsibility for what I've done- don't think for a second I'm trying to distance myself from the reality of that, because I'm not. At all.

But I didn't cheat because I was lonely, or horny, or any of the reasons we usually tell people we do it. I did it because we haven't been together in a long time.

Don't roll your eyes. I know we just spent Valentine's together at the beach, and on Wednesday we fooled around, but... God, I don't even know how to articulate it. When was the last time you held my hand and felt something? More than warmth, or even chemical affection, but that what you were holding onto was a piece of yourself, that what we had mattered.

I can't answer for you, but for me, it's been months, maybe more than a year. And it happened so gradually, it's tough to place when it happened, exactly. Things were tense with my job, then your job, then both our jobs at once. Our bills only seemed to get bigger and harder to pay down, and for everything we agreed on, a dozen little things fell out of place in their stead. It seemed week to week we were fighting more, and agreeing less.

So we stopped arguing. I remember the fight we had, in the kitchen, while you were putting dishes away. You wanted to get rid of the Datsun, because you were tired of having it break down; I didn't think we had the money for something else, and I thought my stepdad might be able to help us fix it. But it really wasn't about the car at all, and we kept arguing until we were shouting, and the cat hid under the couch in the next room.

You threw a plate, not quite at me, but near enough. It shattered, and the pieces fell onto the linoleum. It wasn't only that it could have hurt me, though I know that was there, too, but that plate was part of the set your mother gave you, that you only took out of the cabinet when we were having a fancy dinner or having guests. Ever since your mother died, you'd treated those plates like a member of the family, and I knew... I knew that breaking that plate hurt you more than it ever could have hitting me. I held you for a while and said, “Okay. I don't want to fight anymore.”

And it was good that we stopped that fight- but it wasn't good that we stopped fighting. Because it meant we stopped talking, being honest- when something that could have been contentious came up we brushed it to the side; you'd go watch TV in the bedroom, and I'd get on the computer. We stopped knowing where the other person was, and so we kept moving further and further away.

It's no excuse, and there's no defending myself; I betrayed both of us. I hurt you, and that- that will take me a long time to forgive myself for, but I don't want us to end this way.

So I hope you can forgive me; you were my best friend. I want to know you, and I want you to know me again. But to have that, we have to start fighting again.

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