Harrison takes a drag of his cigarette, “I broke someone’s heart today,” said before his exhale.
Chelsea asks, “Why?” as she sat on the swing.
“I don’t really know,” he answers taking the swing next to her.
“So you broke her heart without knowing why,” she says surveying the empty playground in front of their apartment building. “Did she do something wrong?”
“Love me,” he replied with a solemn chuckle.
“Wow, that’s all it takes huh? I’m glad I stopped loving you when we were 9.”
Looking over at her with a sly smile, “You’ve always loved me.”
“Nope, not since you kissed Maria Gutierrez when she was my best friend in fourth grade.”
“Fair enough, she was a little hottie,” Harrison says with nostalgia written across his face.
“Dude! That’s gross she was like 11 when you last saw her,” she says with disgust.
Laughing, “Yeah she was a fucking cutie pie back then, that I know thanks to the FackyBook is a smoke show now. She has been hot through the years. But the current Miss Nebraska version takes the cake.”
“Justify it however you want, you’re still a perv.”
“Eh, I won’t dispute that,” Harrison says. They both laugh, disrupting the silence around them. There was no traffic, their neighborhood was quiet enough to rival a graveyard at 3:00 am. They sigh in unison. Comfortable in the silence, they lost each other to their own thoughts.
“This heartbreaking you started telling me about. Tell me more. Who was she? Where was she from? How did you meet? Were you in love with her too? How long were you together? How was the sex? Was it that Bad? Is that why you broke her heart? Give me them detes,” Chelsea says with an unexpected perk.
“Right, well. Let’s see. Her name was Darah. Not was – Is – Her name Is Darah. It’s not like she died,” he says visibly shaking off his mistake. “Umm, She’s from Azerbaijan. She wasn’t the hottest woman ever, but she was truly beautiful. She works to make the world a better place, NGO’s and all that shit. Her smile was radiant, which was strange cuz her teeth weren’t the whitest,” said with another sad chuckle.
“Ohh k,” she says formulating her comment, “Yoou, really liked this girl.”
“She’d hate being called a girl.”
“Oh Damn. You REALLY liked this woman. What the hell made you end it?” she said with honest surprise.
“She wanted to fix me. She wanted us to settle down. She wanted me to feel worthy of love,” he says looking at his feet, “It’s not that I don’t think I’m worthy of love. She just… I just… I couldn’t… I mean I’m just not ready for that.”
“What the hell do you mean?”
“I honestly don’t fucking know.. I just know I couldn’t do it. Not to her.”
They watch a cat scurry under the slide in front of them. Though they lost it in the night, they continued to stare. Both unsure what to say next, they sat.
“I mean, the idea of settling down has always scared me. I never liked the phrase,” with air quotes he says, “settling down.” Harrison pauses. “Why do you have to settle down?” Knowing the question was rhetorical Chelsea waits for him to continue, “Like I don’t want to settle. Settling sounds like giving up. I don’t want to give up. I don’t give up.. Ok well I do, but I still don’t want to settle down. I like being able to do what I want when I want. Does that make any sense?” he asks hoping for reassurance.
“What if I wanted to move again. I wouldn’t just be able to pick up and go like I do now,” he says in an attempt to convince himself.
“Well, true. But, if you did move again you wouldn’t be going alone.”
“But, I couldn’t be selfish anymore. I’ve become quite good at being selfish.”
“You’ve always been good at being selfish, that’s not gonna change. But, in a relationship, both people are selfish from time to time. In a relationship for one person to be selfish, the other must be selfless. And for a relationship to work they both have to take turns,” Chelsea says matter-of-factly.
“But…” Harrison stopped himself before finishing what he knew was a stupid thought.
“You used to want a family, kids, a house, a dog, and a cat… What happened?”
“Life… The World… A sharp increase in my cynicism…”
After waiting to be sure he was done, she asks, “What did you mean by ‘Not to her’?”
Caught off guard he asks, “Huh?”
“You said, ‘I couldn’t do it, not to her.’ What couldn’t you do to her?
Taking a beat, “I couldn’t let her… I,” his hesitation continues. “I couldn’t let her love me and depend on me. Knowing I would do something to make her want to kill me.”
Her left eyebrow raises in confusion, “Ok, and that means”
“I know me, I always fuck things up. Once things get toOo good, I destroy everything. I lie. I cheat. I take her for granted. I get bored and resentful. I forget what made me love her and I do something drastic,” Harrison rattles off as if rehearsed on a daily basis.
“Whow! Is that what you’ve done? Or are afraid you’ll do?” she asks trying to digest what she heard.
Looking as far away from Chelsea as possible, “Both,” his voice strained with remorse and sorrow.
Letting the weight sink in she squeezes his shoulder, “Look at me.” He shakes his head, “no”. With light pat, she says, “Come on, look at me.” He gradually faces her. Forcing eye contact, “You know your past doesn’t determine your future. You don’t have to make the same mistakes… You can learn from them. I know you never liked learning, but you I heard you read a book, a whole one without pictures. So we know you can,” she finishes with a nudge and a smile.
Allowing himself to laugh with a half smile, his eyes still filled with pain, “I’m just… I’m scared to do it again… And she admitted, granted unknowingly, that any of my usual transgressions would lead to violent blackouts,” he says rotating his head forward.
“I’m sure she was just being hyperbolic.”
Confused he asks, “Like the chamber?”
“No, you idiot. Exaggerating to drive home her point.”
A breeze rustles the leaves, as they sit. Their seats squeak as they shift their weight and shuffle their feet.
“So, what do you want now?”
“I don’t fucking know,” he says desperately, looking for stars where there were only clouds. The chains creak as he aimlessly sways.
“Well, you’re going to have to figure that out.”
Harrison nods, looking at Chelsea but avoiding eye contact.
“How do you know you broke her heart?”
“I don’t… I kn… I know I broke my own,” he says as his chin hits his chest.