"Three words that became hard to say
'I' and 'Love' and 'You'
What you were then, I am today
Look at the things I do."
~The Avett Brothers, "I and Love and You"
I guess I should start out by saying I'm sorry, especially for not apologizing sooner, among many other things. At the very least, it's what you deserve. But god, you deserve so much more than that. Apologies are all I can give. And they're just words; when it comes down to it, what weight do words have over anything else? Someday I'm going to apologize to you and it won't be just in my mind; someday I'm going to tell you all of this and you'll hear me, and you'll do what you will with my words. But you're not here, and I can't deal with my surroundings. This takes my mind off of everything he's done. This helps.
In a sick way, thinking of every way I've wronged you takes my mind off of all the ways he has wronged me.
As I go through everything about that time, I can't believe all the things I've done wrong. I'm sorry that I didn't say that I loved you the first time you said it to me, because I really did love you; I was just fearful of my feelings. I'm sorry that I didn't tell you that Will knew; it probably would have made you breathe a little easier if you were aware of the fact. I'm sorry that I lied to you back then, sneaking around behind your back while we were doing the same to everyone else. I'm sorry that I let you down like that, when I know you were looking to me as the one person who would never do anything to hurt you. I'm sorry that I couldn't give you everything you deserved, everything I wanted to give; when I realized how much you really missed out on while you were with me, I wanted to run to you and make up for it, but by then it was too late.
I'm sorry that I chose him over you. That was stupid, and I know you think so, too. If you didn't when it first happened, you must certainly feel it now. Everyone else does. Deep down, I could tell that you thought I should have stayed with you, even though you kept telling me otherwise (I can still hear your voice ringing, now that everything is crumbling, with those words you said while we danced at my wedding. If you're happy, that's all that matters. Look at me now. Do I look happy to you now?). And you know what? You were right. You always are. But you've known me for seven years now, Karen; you should know that I don't always make the wisest decisions.
You've got to admit, it was fine for a while, even if it took time to fully acknowledge it. We were both moving on with our lives, and while our affair was brilliant, it was proving to be a spell we eventually snapped out of. I had Leo, I had the home we made together in Brooklyn. We had our friendship again; we went back to that place with a little more sensitivity towards each other. You fell in love again, you were going to marry Lyle, and while I didn't quite understand, I knew well enough not to question it. I was in love with a man who did some good in the world; I had a sense of pride I never before felt. He would leave with Doctors without Borders to faraway lands, but he would always come back to me in every way.
Until one day, he didn't.
And now, as I look at myself in the mirror, and see him in the reflection, sleeping in the bed I once shared with him, I realize that I now stand where you once stood. Alone, although he's here with me. Betrayed. Thinking that you want to save something that you know is dead. Realizing that it's a waste of energy. Wanting nothing more than to be with someone who understands. I'm the exact same person you were three years ago, when Stan went off to prison, the same person I had already abandoned when you found him with Lorraine's arms wrapped around him. I'm you. You gave in to me when you were in these shoes. And I can't decide which is worse right now: taking this walk in your shoes, or knowing that if I came to you like you did to me, I might not get the same reception I once gave.
Leo says it was just one woman in Cambodia during that trip with Doctors without Borders, but how can I be so sure? He was ready to lie about it in the beginning—he did lie about it to Will at first, saying it was just a kiss—so how can I trust that he's telling me the truth now? He wants to reconcile, he wants me to stay. And the look in his eye tells me that he honestly feels horrible about what he's done. At least I think it tells me this. Looking back on when we first met, I can't be sure of anything. Knowing what I know now, knowing how he got me to try again with him when the only thing I wanted to do was run the other way, I can't help but think that he's manipulated me the entire time. Karen, you know that I was happy with you, in any way I was able to have you. And then he comes along and makes me question everything with just one glance in my direction.
How could I be so foolish?
God, you've been amazing through all of this. Don't think I didn't notice you at the wedding, during the ceremony. I could see you out of the corner of my eye, when I was vowing to devote my love to Leo, and I can't say I wasn't surprised to see you there. But once my shock subsided, I loved the effort. I always knew that you would come through for me, I always knew that you wouldn't be the one to hurt me. I think that's why I trusted you so easily with that first kiss. And after you realized you couldn't stay married to Lyle, after we found out that we both were a little more fragile than we made ourselves out to be, we took comfort in each other. Sure, we might have been a little cautious in our actions—we both know how this went the first time around—but I'd be lying if I said it didn't help.
I'd be lying if I said it didn't bring back every single reason why I fell for you almost three years ago.
Call me predictable, call me mundane, call me whatever you want, but I couldn't help thinking of our time together while Stan was away. And I couldn't help thinking that every memory that came back up was one of pure joy. I haven't felt that in a long time. Being alone with you, in places I never thought you would set foot in, made me feel it again. And I know you felt it too. We became more daring, we wanted to see what we could get away with, so long as we didn't cross the line we once did. We came close—toeing that line like it was a game—when you asked me to dance in Brooklyn bar, when you held me close as the sun set over the sand in Coney Island. I don't think you ever feared that we would cross it, like I did. I could never trust myself to keep from kissing your skin when I was so close to it that I could smell the gardenia radiating from it. You did the trusting for me.
But I wish you weren't so willing to trust me that easily, at least when it comes to making the right choices. You could have talked me out of going with him in the first place. You could have talked me down from my damn wedding. You could have talked me out of the dinner I forced us to hold last night. But you didn't. And look where we are now.
Sometimes I don't understand why everyone goes along with these failed attempts of mine to make things right, when you all know that it will do no good. But there we were tonight, the awkward party at the Chinese restaurant, waiting for it all to implode. I could feel the glances on me as I walked in hand in hand with Leo, hoping that we still looked like the couple we had once been. Jack's was the weakest, Will's had a bit more scrutiny to it. And then there was yours, piercing my skin. You could have said anything against us and it would all have been true, and I wouldn't have fought you. When I looked up, though, I saw your false smile (there was no way that one was genuine), and it made everything worse. You did nothing but sit back and watch us fall to our inevitable destruction.
I can't say I blame you. I probably would have done the same thing, especially after the way I had treated you. But you had been so kind, so forgiving to me after the dust had settled, that I couldn't believe that you wouldn't get up and say something, that you wouldn't tell us that this charade was completely pointless. Maybe that was just your way of being nice. Maybe that was just your way of telling me that I was capable of figuring everything out for myself. But god, you made it so difficult for me to focus on anything but you, and you know why.
You shouldn't have kissed me last night, before you told me that it marked the definitive end of you and me. It was all I could think about, it was all I could do to keep from spilling everything at dinner tonight, from saying that I don't want to try anymore, that all I want is to find your arms. Nothing is ever definitive, at least nothing of that nature. Minds change, hearts change. But I knew what was going through your mind then. I knew you were thinking back to our relationship (screw it, that's what it was, even if we never said it out loud) and how we gave it all only to end up with nothing. I knew you were thinking that the time we spent over the summer was leading us towards the way we were. Spending time in parts of Brooklyn that you knew wouldn't remind me of him, getting me to do things I've never done before (you were always really good at that). And to be honest, I was happy. I was happy that we were finding ourselves back where we started. I just wish that you would have been happy about it too, although I understand your apprehension; it's my fault that it's there to begin with. I wish that you felt the same, because it would make things a lot easier on me now.
I'm not doing so well, Karen.
There have only been two people in my live to whom it was difficult for me to say "I love you." It's an easy gesture, a string of some of the most common words in the English language. I've said it when it's the only thing I've ever been sure of. I've said it when I didn't mean it at all. I've said it to make people smile. I've said it because they wouldn't stop asking for it. I've said it and regretted it. I've said it and had my heart broken. But it was always easy until I came across two people. One of them is you. You know how hard it was for me to finally say it, but it never meant that I didn't feel it. I always felt it. I was just afraid of how powerful those words could be—powerful enough to change everything, perhaps powerful enough for you to leave.
The other person—and it kills me to know that it has come to this—is Leo. And I didn't think it would happen; I wouldn't have made all of us go through the song and dance of dinner, I wouldn't have tried so hard after I found out, if I knew it would be so hard to say in the end. But I'm looking at him now, asleep on his side of the bed, his shut eyes facing me, and I no longer see the man I fell in love with. I no longer see the reasons why I decided to take a chance on him. I no longer see the reasons behind anything I did in the past year and a half. I can't do it. I can't say that I love him—not to his face, not in my mind, not out loud to no one in particular—and I'm not sure that I want to anymore. All I want to do is run, and I want to run now. But there's nowhere for me to go where I can get what I want.
Because the one I want to run to is you. I just can't find the key that opens the door to get there.