"When nothing appears in a hurry,
to make up for someone's lost time"
– Song for the Life, Alan Jackson
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Another promise broken by constraint.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of sanity. Another thing she had to abandon.
They hadn't talked when Elliot ushered her inside, when she changed into a t-shirt and sweat pants that he had provided for her, and now she stood before him, draped in his clothes, hidden behind this curtain of uncertainty.
"What do you want to be?" Elliot sat in the corner of the old room, in a broken chair that was set under a little table. His head was collapsed in his hands, and he trusted himself to feel her there because he could not look at her.
His eyes would betray him to see something that could potentially not be before him, and he couldn't loose her like this. He could not let them burn brightly to a pile of ash right before his eyes when they had such potential to remain.
Scared and scathed and never the same, but remaining all the same.
Her cheeks were painted with black trails of where her mascara had run, her hair was in wet pieces, falling around her face, and she wondered if this was her greatest mistake.
She wanted to go back, but she felt herself fall through the point of no return, and she knew that she couldn't look back, because if she did, she would see only the tarnished ruins of where she had once been. She would see pieces of stone that had once been castles, darkness where there had once been magnificent light.
This was abandoning potential for the present and a chance and this was leaping without knowing how far down the landing was.
"What ever happened to William?" She didn't answer him, so he pressed on, "you said you could live with him, that you thought it could work, and then one day you just – you stopped talking about him." A deep sigh punctuated his sentence and this was frustration without the energy.
"I could have lived with him," she could breath better now inside this false place, and she refrained from telling Elliot that she could have lived with William, a nice investment banker who drove a BMW, but that she couldn't live without him.
She was embarrassed to tell him that when she had learned about he and Kathy and his life walking out on him that she had taken a chance that he would have never believed and let William go – that she had listened to her hope for just long enough to let go of William and still hang on to the strings that bound her to Elliot.
"You should sleep," he looked to her slowly.
"I'll get my own room. I don't want to interrupt whatever this is." Elliot didn't tell her that she already had - that even though she didn't want to be an interruption, she always was. When he was with his wife he would wonder where she was, when he was with his kids he wondered if she knew what she was missing, when he was working with her, next to her, close to her, he wondered if that was all they would ever be – he wondered if love really was all encompassing, or if it could be rationalized and broken up into specific areas; he played in his mind and wondered if there was such a thing as loving someone and being in love with them.
"Come on, Olivia. You're here. Stop lying, okay? Just – just stop." He slammed his hand down on the table and stood up. He felt like he was contradicting himself because she was the only true thing in his life at that instant. "You found me, for Christ's sake, you got on a plane and you rented a car and you found me. You want to tell me now that you can't even face me?"
"I don't know what I'm dealing with here, Elliot!" A wave of frustration was pulling her under and she didn't want to cry and she didn't want to yell and she didn't want to be here, in the pause in Elliot's life.
"Don't." Elliot walked to her quickly and put his hands around hers.
"What?" She was confused at the conviction that filled his eyes in reference to something that could have been anything.
"You're abandoning it all right now at this second because you think you've lost everything. Don't let this be a mistake, don't fall out of this now." His breathing became fast and he shook his head, biting down on his bottom lip. "Stay with me, Olivia, don't let everything fall away." He dared her to object with his words, and Olivia felt him trying to catch everything that she was slowly abandoning.
"I can still feel you," her voice was low and a smile fell slowly on her face.
She woke up a few hours later to the sound of rain still falling through the holes to heaven, and Elliot was sitting at the desk he had been at earlier, showered and wearing a white button up shirt, a pair of jeans, and the smile that stole her breath.
"I dried your clothes," Elliot stood up when he noticed that she was awake and looking at him.
"How long was I asleep?" Olivia rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and then pushed herself up from the bed, walking over to him.
"A few hours," Elliot shrugged, "I know it's not much," Elliot caught her eye as Olivia looked suspiciously at a pile of red sour patch kids in a pile on the table. "I got hungry and went to the vending machine, and this was all they had. I know you only like the red ones, so I saved you some."
This was the point at which Olivia would take her scars and retreat, but Elliot had already warned her against such things, so she cleared the tears from her throat and nodded with a smile.
"So, eat up and then get changed, we're going out."
"What? Where?" She looked to him quickly, and Elliot shrugged.
"I would like to say a nice overpriced restaurant, but we stumbled into a place where those don't exist, so, the guy at the desk said there's a local bar down the road a little ways that serves burgers and stuff. Thought we could get some dinner, have a few drinks." He raised his eyebrow to her, and Olivia didn't know what she had woken up to.
Elliot was going to make her do this without ever saying the words because there were none that could explain what they were about to venture into.
"Elliot," she started.
"Stay with me," he stepped closer to her, and Olivia nodded.
This was everything and nothing and oblivion and definition and this was an interlude that Olivia had fallen into and she needed to make it longer and she needed for it to become him and she needed this. For the first moment of her life was right here, with Elliot's eyes promising hers something that she had still yet to determine, but that she would follow him through his mind to find out.
She would play in the ashes with him and abandon control for him and she would tape together the dreams that had shattered for him.
"Give me 20 minutes."
Elliot opened the door for her and waited for her to walk through first before he entered the dark bar, wooden floors and wooden boards outlining the ceiling. It was dark and there was a little area with a jukebox on which a two couples were dancing at a pace somewhere between slow and fast, and everyone seemed to know each other and Olivia had remarked that she felt as if they had just entered the southern rendition of Cheers.
"It's cool, Liv. Different." He smiled as they sat at a little table that was up against the wall with two chairs, and when the waitress came over they ordered two burgers and two beers.
"Yeah, that's what scares me." The blonde waitress set two beers before them, and Elliot took a quick drink immediately.
"So you don't want to be a mid-life crisis." He leaned forward, and for the first time Olivia didn't move back. If they were going to burn she at least wanted to feel the heat for a moment before she was disintegrated to ash.
"Elliot, let's, just," she couldn't find her words in the mess of her mind, and she shook her head with frustration and brought her beer to her mouth, feeling as if she was going to need it. "Is that country?" Her nose scrunched up and she smiled and even though there was no resolution she felt, perhaps foolishly, as if they were going to figure this out, even if it was in an interlude of reality.
"I would assume," Elliot laughed at Olivia's face, "it does seem appropriate, given the setting." He waved his hands in the air.
When he needed a boat all he had was an umbrella, and he stood strong in the flood of her eyes and her smile and the fact that they were hundred of miles from anywhere and tucked away within the years of his life that he had finally let go – the mistakes and the regret and the wrong choices and the control and this was where he was now and this was who he was now.
"There's still New York, Elliot. There's still our lives and I don't want to be what happens here, what happens when you have to get away and I have to come and find you and –"
"You have to let go." Olivia's hand sat flat on the splintered brown wood of the table, and Elliot placed his hand on top of hers.
Olivia swallowed hard and she felt them being launched into this when they had simply been crawling before, and the pace was faster and the stakes were higher and her heart was still beating and her mind was still reeling and she still didn't know who she was, but with Elliot's hand over hers, and his eyes locked tight on her she felt herself that much closer to who she could be.
And she let go.
"You make this whole thing sound like I have a choice." Olivia took her hand out from under Elliot's and took a drink of her beer as their waitress came back with their burgers, and they ate in silence.
"Think it's still raining?" Elliot asked when they finished, getting up off of his chair and pushing his chair out from under him.
"What?" She asked, but he was already up and heading out of the bar, and Olivia ran quickly after him, ran out into the little parking lot filled with pick-up trucks and old beer cans and Elliot stood looking at her as she walked out.
And beneath the low hanging stars in southern skies Olivia abandoned the dark.
"Are you okay?" Olivia walked to him slowly, and Elliot looked up to the constellations, reaching his hand out to Olivia, who took it, and they stood beneath the big dipper and let it pour the universe all over them, and Elliot caught a few scattered pieces of light and placed them in Olivia's eyes.
Elliot moved the stray pieces of hair out of Olivia's face with his thumb and then nodded slowly.
"Moment of truth." He let everything that was not this moment go, and he leaned in and kissed the tears off of Olivia's cheeks. "The opposite of a mid-life crisis would be, what?" He pulled away from her and waited for an answer, but Olivia couldn't speak, and that gave him all he needed. "A few weeks, maybe? How about a month, would that be good enough?" His words were soft and he added to them a smile.
"Shut up," she laughed through her tears and placed her hand on his chest to push him away, but he grabbed her hand as it made contact with him.
Years of an absent nothing had accumulated to this one moment, this one-second of everything.
A sinner's prayer was released as Elliot leaned in and kissed Olivia hard, giving her his control and his pieces and whatever else she would take because he had just abandoned everything for her.
He touched his forehead to hers as the rain started again slowly, warm southern rain that brushed against their skin like short kisses.
"At least a month," Olivia smiled as Elliot pressed himself into her again.