I pointed two fingers into his chest. In our ten years of back-and-forth, I had never felt this bold in his presence except at the very beginning. Fear of loss wore away at my edges for a long time but life had washed me clean of my timidities. I knew what I needed to say.
"What's going on with you, huh?" I folded my arms. I came prepared for an argument.
He kissed his teeth and jammed his hands in his pockets.
"Oh, come on, Lee! What are you talking about?" he started for the door.
His longs legs didn't match the fire in my feet. I bolted to the door, pushed his hand from the knob and backed against it. The slam echoed through the room.
My arms were folded again.
"What do you want me to say, Lee?" He was looking up at the ceiling now, eyes rolling.
"Do you treat her right? Huh, Michael? Do you?" I inched toward him, my eyes following his head as he looked everywhere but directly at me.
"What are you doing? You hate the situation you put yourself in and you take it out on her and she's too weak to leave you. You think this here, what you're trying to do with me is better than breaking it off?" a chuckle of mock-amusement pulled itself up from a deep grief and a deeper fear. Tears were meeting each other beneath my chin.
"And on top of all of this, you want me back? How?" I paused because for the first time in five years I really envisioned the two of them sitting side by side. "Why?"
He looked at me directly for the first time. "How is that even a question?"
A lump rose in my throat. It was my turn to look away. I reached for the door knob.
"Do right by her, Michael!" I turned and pointed my clutch at his face.
"This may be a mess but it's one you created. So either do right by her or let her go. Don't you treat that girl like last week's paper. She doesn't deserve that and you know it."
His hand covered mine and gently pushed the door shut again. He leaned down and rested his lips on my forehead. "It's not that simple, Lee, and you know it."
I knew it. All the little details that kept us just out of one another's reach for ten years fell over us in that moment. Held us sweetly but firmly.
"I know you have it in you to do the right thing. God knows I'm rooting for you because I'm rooting for us. I'm still rooting for us!" I knew I was yelling but how much should volume matter when you're unloading years of the unspoken?
"There's goodness all in you, all over you. You know I can feel you some days? I can feel you. I didn't believe people when they said they were so in tune they could literally feel everything about one another. But I do now. God... I believe 'em now. It's like I feel your misery and I just shake it off because I'm thinking, "Well, he's not my problem." But you are. You're my problem. You're my burden. You're my spark. You have been for a long time. And I quiet that in me because as much as I care for you, I don't know how to do this and I can't be dragged around trying to figure it out. As much as I know your heart and who you can be, I'm not kneeling down to lift that up out of you anymore. Knowing is enough for me. Even if you never fully recognize it, I'll always know who you are. And God knows I love you."
My neck was wet. My heart was beating in my ears. I needed to go.
The click of the door closing behind me sounded like the end of something.
Or the beginning.