An End to Flight
by JOSIANE CURTIS
finifugal, adj. [fan’ee-fyoo-gal]:
(from Latin fini-s end + fug-a flight + -al)
Of or pertaining to shunning or hating endings; someone who tries to avoid or prolong the final moment of a story, relationship, or some other journey — like a child who doesn't want a bedtime story to conclude, or an adult who's in denial about how it's finally time to wrap up long-unfinished business.
We break up in every room in his house, and twice in the backyard.
The first time it happens, we aren't even officially a couple. Maybe it doesn't count as our first breakup, then, but it feels like one. We weren't exclusive, because he was leaving town for the summer and I didn't want to do long distance. It was my choice not to give ourselves a label, but when he tells me he slept with someone else, it still feels like betrayal. We sit on a bench in the backyard and I don’t cry or leave, so we sit, mostly quiet, until we can’t stand to sit quietly anymore. We have dinner plans so we keep them, and I finally make sense of all the times I've waited on couples who sit awkwardly across from each other and barely speak throughout their meal, some mix of caring and caution in the air over the table. I sit up straight and tense; his shoulders slump. We speak only when necessary, expelling words gently, apologetically, as if they have to walk over shards of broken glass to reach each other. He spends the night in my bed and I curl around the edge of the mattress, pulled so far away from him that he might as well be sleeping in another city already.
Sitting on dining room chairs at the corner of his kitchen table, he takes my hands in his and we break up and become an official couple in the same conversation, depending on who you ask. He’s moving back to town and thinks we’re starting a serious relationship, and I think we’re ending things because he isn’t ready for a serious relationship. We have what I think is breakup sex and what he thinks is make-up sex. At a bar later that night, I’m ordering a drink when I feel his towering frame, his arms wrap around me from behind. He rests his chin on the top of my head. “I have the prettiest girlfriend in the world,” he says.
I enter through the back gate and sit in one of two patio chairs he’s arranged, facing each other. I tell him I’m done. I think we’re done until he moves closer to me, his long legs encasing mine, elephant trunk calves pressing my own knobby knees against each other. Skin touches skin, sweat touches sweat, and like that we’re liquid, we’re inside, we’re changing our minds, deciding, again, that we’re not done, not yet. Since the night we met, our bodies have always had a way of finding each other, each part fitting effortlessly, a hand in a hand, a head on a shoulder. In private or public, we flow intuitively together, the way water in a river never has to think about where it’s going.
That bed in the basement, where after, I feel something grab hold of me in the dark and understand that we have crossed some dangerous threshold. While he snores, I gently trace the outline of his face: strong jaw, Italian nose, lips that, when they smile, pull his eyes into a squint, stretch every part of his face wide along with them. I feel happy but trapped. I wonder how this will end. Understand, now, that it will hurt both of us when it does.
When you realize you are in love with someone in the same moment that you realize you will one day leave them, there is no way it won’t end badly. He tells me that as a child, he could see the way events were going to unfold before they happened. A confession: I write most of this essay while we are still together.
We break up once in our subconscious. He falls asleep on the backyard bench after going outside to smoke and I doze off waiting for him to come inside to bed; both of us, confused and angry at being alone in sleep, pass breakup dreams back and forth like a breeze through the sliding screen door.
On the loveseat by the entryway, angry and hurt, five minutes, I keep my shoes and jacket on. I stand before he finishes talking, afraid I won’t be able to stand my ground if I sit; if we touch. The next week it snows, and I show up at his front door without a jacket and say, “Some nights the best place to find warmth is inside of another body.” I’m not ready to be done. His arms are always open. He is always waiting for me to leave.
My head on his chest on the living room couch, with the TV on in the background, finally. I say I need to take a break, knowing that if I call it the end, it won’t be. He nods, a calloused hand brushing the hair back from my face so he can kiss me on the forehead.
“I know,” he says.
What happens to the child who wants the bedtime story to last forever? A little girl who knows how the story ends, but still begs for it to start over, and over, and over – what happens to her when it finally concludes? She sleeps. She takes deep, steady, peaceful breaths in sleep, and the next morning she wakes up.
Maybe, she’s relieved.
Josiane Curtis is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Portland. She last wrote in these pages about trash in the yard. You can find her twitter here. You can find her website here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.
Photographs by Stephanie Crocker.
"Two of Us On The Run" - Lucius (mp3)
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