My mind is tired now. I used to be able to pretend to pay attention; I used to pretend for her, so that she would keep talking and no one would notice. But now I can't look at her face for very long without losing focus. It isn't that I drift away, I simply cease to exist for a few minutes, I take a kind of miserable refuge in nothingness - she owns every other space in my world.
She notices. She's asked me what is wrong many times, I always say I'm tired. It's true, I am, but I know I don't need to be. I'm only tired with her. I'm tired with me with her, if that makes sense. Tired when we're together, tired of what I've become, a part of two people, part of a couple, one half of a whole. It drains me; phone conversations, e-mails, instant messages, in the same city in the same day. When I'm alone people ask me where she is. And I always know, I always know where she is, exact to the minute.
"I'm going to buy some bread from the grocer," she'll say as she's walking down her steps, until her cordless phone is out of range. She leaves it with her watchman, to collect on her way back in. She pulls out her cell phone and looks through her the list of cutesy names she's stored my number under, twelve different names in all; it's supposed to be romantic or sweet or something.
I'm still holding onto my phone, I know she'll call back right away. Sometimes I don't even move it from my ear, I can push the 'talk' button on and off with my cheekbone, so it remains dangling. I have been trained well, for the most part I don't even notice the pathos of the situation. She calls me back and resumes her interrupted thought, but with more audible affection; having just chosen a name for me from her list she is reminded how wonderful we are together, how much we care about each other. Her day is full of such reminders, so is mine by extension. Her friends constantly and enviously tell her how lucky she is. 'She' meaning us both. We are a unit. People refer to us in a single gush of breath, my name the suffix, hers the prefix, carried on the shoulders of a soft but binding 'and'. Even my friends, some who don't like her and never did, always assume that we will both be attending any social event together, even a 'guy's night out'. Even a guy's night out….
"What kind of bread should I get? There's this new wheat bread that looks quite good, it's got thick slices like you prefer. But then…oh, never mind, I'll just get this." She's on her cell phone in the grocery store buying a loaf of bread that I will probably never eat. Her father hates wheat bread, but she is willing to sacrifice a week of his morning happiness for a slice of mine. She cares about her father too, loves him even, but she believes in throwing everything important in her life at my feet as a demonstration of her love. She expects me to do the same. I do the same.
Self-sacrifice, devotion, sensitivity, understanding, all these have become habit. I remember every significant date in our relationship, I buy the perfect gifts at the perfect moments, I am stubborn at the right times and yielding at the right times. We never argue. I unerringly apologize quickly enough to remedy a rare mistake, but not so soon as to lower myself. My compliments are a fine balance between flattery and truth. I am the perfect boyfriend. But I never try, never think. I'm never unsure, never wonder whether she'll like something or not. I know she will. We have the perfect relationship. She doesn't see the tragedy of the situation. She thinks she's lucky.
I have decided. Tomorrow I will step off the cliff of our relationship. First I will look down, so that every cell in my body cringes with the awareness that I am doing this to myself, that this is wholly my choice; then I will step out into nothingness.