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4 minute read   ·   19/ Tutorials for Breathing
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“Where have you been?”


“Where the hell have you been? You just fucking disappeared off the face of this earth. Tell me you made babies, maybe a couple. Got married? Flew to Mars, what?”

I’d known her for quite a few years to that day, and never had she sounded so anxious to hear me reply. Usually she spoke, and I listened. Women like that, or rather, women like to think they like that, though they never really know for sure.

“I’ve been around. Life sometimes just goes on. I don’t know. Why?”

I really shouldn’t have said that. It was inconsiderate in ways I hadn’t imagined. I walked away from her one day, and I guess that wasn’t very nice. I mean, I didn’t mean to hurt her, anyone, anybody. I didn’t think it would make a difference. I didn’t think it mattered.

“You, you’re an asshole.”

See, she’s never had an excellent vocabulary. Not that I cared, but the girl always worked hard with her limited palette to come up with some rather derogatory terms in her time. But this was proving futile. She wasn’t even trying anymore. At some point, when anger and frustration are the only things that remain, you forget how to even hurt someone. You blurt things out expecting a miracle of pain, but that doesn’t work. Those who hurt you are never easy to hurt back.

“I’m sorry. I just needed time. I needed space. I needed to leave things behind for a bit. I didn’t mean anything by it. I just wanted to do something cathartic, to feel something again.”

I wasn’t sure what I had just said that triggered it, but she started sobbing. Tears squeezed out, ruining the mascara, darkening her eyes even more than before. I had no idea if she had slept in the morning, but my surprise arrival sure didn’t help. But the way she sniffled, though, that’s what broke me. Those were tears of innocence, the kind that pour out when you know you deserve better.

“Fuck off. It’s all about you, isn’t it? All about you, all the time. What else do you need? More time? More space? You go on about this shit for as long as I’ve known you, you’re a fucking broken record.”

I’d never been able to grasp some basic things in life, about love and caring, about compassion and empathy. I tried to calculate them into formulas, tried to reciprocate in return, but there were things I could just never grasp. But for her, this had become a joke. It’s just like she had said: A broken fucking record.

“Let me love you.”


“Let me love you. I haven’t fought for anyone in my life. Let me fight for you. Let me love you, let me fight for you. Make yourself worth it. You’re better than this, and I need to learn that.”


“I’m serious. Let me fucking fight. I need to fucking fight for you.”

“No. Go home. Get some sleep.”

On her doorway, hair wet from the rain, shoes bound to slip on the mud outside, I stood and contemplated my options. They had become fairly binary: fight now or spend the rest of my life wondering.

“No. I’ve walked away enough. My path has circled back to you, and I’m sorry. I should have known before, but I was too busy. I wanted you to be happy, and I thought it would be better without me in the equation. I always thought I never made you happy, but now I realize that it was just me being unhappy with myself. I always thought you deserved something more, but that something more was just me learning to love you the right way. Without doubt. Without reservations.”

“No. Go home. Just go home.”

“I can’t.”

“Yeah, you can. It’s too late. Life goes on, as you always say.”

“Let me fight—”

She slams the door shut on my face. Bewildered, I wait. After a minute, she slides a piece of paper underneath the door. The ink is smudged with tears, the paper wet.

Didn’t you always say that love has an expiration date? Didn’t you always say that relationships needed a two weeks notice? Ours has passed, and you gave your notice when you walked away from me.