Bewildering Stories

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Breaking Up, Breaking Down

by Sean Hower

Carrie, dressed in a white suit and hat, was sitting on the edge of the nightstand on Doug’s side of the bed. She was waiting for him to wake up so they could have the talk that she had been rehearsing for the past several days.

Doug rolled onto this side facing her. He grumbled as he always did just before waking. It was another of his boyish refusals to meet the world.

“Morning,” Carrie ventured. Her nervousness disappointed her.

Doug stirred and when his eyes, still heavy with sleep, met hers, he let out a frustrated sigh.

Carrie felt her courage falter. “We... we need to talk,” she mumbled as she braced herself for the worst.


Carrie looked away from him. “You. Me. Us,” she said, focusing on a picture of the hiking trip where they had met several years ago. Their bond had been immediate and intense but now she felt like he hated the sight of her.

“I just woke up, Carrie,” Doug said. “Can’t I at least get dressed and have a cup of coffee before you start in on me?”

“Our relationship is more important,” Carrie said. Hearing herself say those words brought back some of her shaky confidence.

“Fine.” He was obviously upset with her and he rubbed his temples with his index finger and thumb as if to emphasize it.

“Okay.” Carrie straightened her back and took on what she hoped was a more authoritarian posture. She looked down at him and smiled in the way that always put him in a good mood. She was terrified though. “I understand that you want to have some private time, but it just seems like you’ve been spending a lot of time away from me. It seems like,” did she really need to say it, “like you’re trying to avoid me. I feel like you’re pushing me away.”

“Christ,” Doug groaned. “Can’t I go one day without this, Carrie?”

Carrie felt like withering away. She began to regret broaching the subject but she had rehearsed her speech and she needed to finish it. “We used to do everything together. We used to go out to clubs, go camping, go to the gym, stay in and take a bath together, but now if I suggest something you look at me like you wish we’d never met. What’s going on?”

Doug sat up and scowled. “What do you want me to say,” he growled.

“Nothing, I suppose. Something. I don’t know. I just need to know that we’re all right.”

“You want the truth?” He was breathing heavily. “I’m sick of you, Carrie,” he yelled.

Her body tingled and her chest felt as though it would burst. She struggled to keep perched on the nightstand.

“I’m sick of how you’ve invaded every aspect of my life,” he continued, oblivious to the abyss he had put before her. “I can’t get through the day without you disrupting it.”

“But.” She couldn’t find a response in the tangle of her thoughts. “But we need each other,” was the only defense she could muster. She touched his shoulder as much to steady herself as to make some kind of contact with him. Her face burned as she tried to stifle her grief. When the first tear trickled down her cheek, she gave into her sadness and cried.

“I don’t want you any more,” Doug said more sedately.

“But we need each other. We’re just a lost fragment without each other. We’re only whole when we’re together.”

“No, Carrie. No.” He took her other hand in his. “I need to end this thing. It’s just not right any more.”

“What’s not right about it? Who kept you focused through graduate school? Who kept up your strength after Paul’s death? Who gave you the courage to quit that dead-end job at InfoTech and start your own business? I’ve always been there for you and I’ve helped you to get everything you have. I’ve never asked for anything in return but commitment.” The recital of all she had done for him wiped away her sadness with indignation.

“I know what you’ve done for me.” He pulled her down beside him on the bed. “But honestly, I just don’t want to rely on you any more. I want to do things on my own.”

“This isn’t about want.” She looked into his eyes and felt a rush of love. She ran her fingers through his hair and reveled in the contact. “It’s about need.” She rested her forehead on his.

“I don’t want to need you.”

“But you do. As surely as I need you. We’ve been together for so long. We have so much history. We can’t just walk away.” She wasn’t sure if she was pleading with him or commanding him.

Doug touched her cheek and the tantalizing caress put aside her fears. Euphoria steadied her body as their lips met. They embraced and Carrie felt herself dissolving into his body and spreading through his bloodstream. With giddy delight, she danced across neurons and swam in the rising tide of dopamine that was drowning his synapses.

Copyright © 2005 by Sean Hower

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