Here’s another short story that I submitted to The Write Practice. This one was on the post announcing the “Show Off” writing contest: The Love Story Edition. This isn’t exactly a love story, though love is involved in it (and I know this will cross some of your minds, so yes, it is partially autobiographical). I also submitted it late, so I had no chance of winning the contest, but I decided to put it out there anyway. Let me know what you think of it.
Mike sat on the edge of the cliff. He could feel the cold roughness of the granite beneath him. This was his favourite thinking place. Peaceful. A beautiful view across the wooded valley. The sun was just setting, painting the sky and clouds fiery colours. But his attention was not on the sunset today.
His eye was drawn to the jagged rocks far below, at the base of the cliff. He contemplated how it would only take one quick lunge forward and it would be over in seconds. No more pain. Not even from the impact. It would be so fast his brain would not register any pain. The easy way out. The selfish way. But that wouldn’t be fair to the kids. They had done nothing to deserve this.
How had it even started? Something trivial, as usual. Just an excuse to let out pent up emotions. They had been enjoying a nice family dinner. It had started small, dark clouds gathering, the storm building steadily. Finally, she threw her plate at him. He ducked, and it shattered against the wall. She stormed out. The bedroom door slammed.
Without saying a word, he got up and cleaned up the mess. He didn’t want the kids to cut themselves on the broken china. Didn’t want to see the pain on their faces. Then he left, wandering aimlessly, finally ending up here.
Dysfunctional. Borderline personality disorder. Transient psychotic episodes. Such clinical terms. So abstract. They gave no sense of the pain behind them, the lives ruined. He tried not to blame her. He knew her past, how terrible it had been. Could he have even survived it? Probably not.
It wasn’t just her, either. He knew he was emotionally distant. An automatic defense mechanism. He had survived his own childhood by shutting down his emotions, shutting people out, isolating himself.
He had thought originally that they could help each other, could put their pasts behind them and move forward. And at times it seemed they had. Their marriage wasn’t all bad. They had some good times together. But never completely happy. The undercurrent was always there, waiting for the chance to pull them under again. All it took was one misstep.
He couldn’t remember for sure how many times they had separated, had reached their limits of endurance. Was it three? Maybe four? It all seemed a blur. Each time, when they saw how it hurt the kids, they had reconciled. But there was more to it. He was afraid to leave the kids with her. She could never hurt them when she was rational, he knew. But he feared her dark moods, what she might be capable of at her worst. And who was he to talk of dark moods? He knew he didn’t have what it took to be a single father. And so he felt trapped, no way out of this marriage that was destroying all of them.
Did he even love her? He knew he had at one point. He could still recall the feelings. When their daughter had been born, and later their son. Each of their milestones. But it seemed like another lifetime now. Or scenes from a movie. It felt unreal. Reality now was the frequent battles, punctuated only by uncomfortable pauses, knowing each was just the calm before the next storm.
What else was there to do? Once more unto the breach. He sighed, lifted himself up, and began walking home though the darkness. All he could feel was darkness.