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Dear Prudence

by Katie Karambelas

Part 1 appears
in this issue.

He is speaking words I never wished to hear. There was a reason I never wrote, a reason I ran away. How could he have understood? “I burned them, one by one, until they were ashes. I never read a single letter.” I don’t tell him that it was the best kind of therapy; that burning his letters was like burning a needle. It sterilized me.

He seems shocked, as if that was never a possibility. The Prudence he knew would have read them. But I wasn’t his Prudence after everything fell apart.

“You never read them? All those days I wrote to you to convince myself that you still loved me and you never even read a word of what I had to say?”

His shock has turned to anger now and it makes me uncomfortable. The people in my life here are not passionate like Xavier. I have been cooped up in my own little world. I hardly know what real emotions feel or sound or look like. But here I am, staring them in the face. He slams his anger down upon me in a way I could never have imagined or prepared for. I’m unable to speak or return his gaze. I keep my eyes locked on the horizon.

“You left me, Pru, and you never even gave me a chance. You never let me comfort you. You never let me have a say. It wasn’t right, and you know that. What happened was awful but that didn’t mean we couldn’t have worked it out.”

He’s careful with his anger, as if he’s navigating a ship he’s afraid will sink if he speaks too loudly or too brash. I desperately wish he would yell and scream and just get it over with so I can be free of the uncomfortable feelings in the pit of my stomach that are aching to come back up and haunt me. I do not wish them into my head. I wish them away. They are distant memories that have haunted me for far too long.

Time has only lessened the pain to a bearable measure but his words are slowly pulling the memories to the surface like a fish being caught and shocked by the air it cannot breathe. I cannot breathe with these memories in my head. My chest is constricted and I’m not sure if it is from the corset or my emotions trying to burst through.

I take a deep breath, exhaling the memories away. “What we had was lost.” It is a heavy statement, one that we both find many meanings in.

He lowers his head onto his forearms, and I watch the steadiness of his breathing as he tries to calm himself. When he finally rises, I’m hit by a jolt of memories flooding into me before I have a chance to stop them. One in particular hangs on to me more than the rest. He’s looking at me the way he did the night I left. I can almost feel my heart being ripped to pieces as it had that night. His face is distraught and hollow and... hopeless.

When the first of the letters came, they caught me by surprise. I thought he agreed that all hope was lost, I thought he felt it in his bones the way I did. But I was wrong, for the letters trickled in day by day and for a while, it seemed as if his hope was building.

He had two years filled with hope and I wonder, looking at him now, if the next three were anything like mine. Did he sit up late at night and dream empty dreams? Did he lose sight of beauty in the world? Did he desperately try and create it the way I had through my writing and sketching?

Now that the guise is dropped, I see the pain that he had masked when I first approached him. His eyes look like they’re searching me for answers I cannot give. I didn’t just break myself when I left, I broke Xavier too. That realization brings with it a whole new kind of pain, one I didn’t realize existed.

To leave for one’s own good and protection hurts, but it hurts because I knew it was my pain to bear. But this, this is something different altogether. This is pain that I’ve caused. I never saved him from the life I ran away from. Maybe I even made it worse.

“You don’t mean that,” he says, slowly releasing his anger. His face shows his hurt but there is a hint of something else in it, something close to defeat.

I try to be brave as I look him straight in the eye like I did the day I left. “I do.”

“No,” he says. He is firm in his conviction. “No. What we had wasn’t lost. We could have fixed things. We could have persevered in spite of everything. But instead, you ran away. You gave up.”

His words hurt because he’s right. I gave up. But it was easier. I was convinced it would save him from pain in the long run. I was convinced he would have moved on by now. “Why did you come here?”

He grabs my hand and pulls me towards the end of the pier. I try to ignore the burning his hand sends through my body. When we are at the edge he looks out into the ocean as he speaks, keeping his voice steady and careful. “Do you see this ocean... how it goes on and on without us being able to see where it ends? That is like my love has always been for you. You never realized how much a part of me you were. When you left, it was like someone poured tar into the ocean. My world was darker and dirty; it suddenly wasn’t beautiful like it once was. It took me years to find happiness again. I wanted you to be a part of that happiness, Pru. I want you to come back with me. Be my ocean again.”

His words are beautiful. I wish ever so desperately that it is as easy as he claims it is to go back. But he doesn’t understand. He can’t understand. He did not lose what I lost. He did not feel what I felt. He did not bleed as I bled.

“I can’t,” I say to him, shaking my head, shaking away the warmth his words have bestowed upon me. “This is my life now.”

“I was once your life.” It’s barely a whisper.

“A long, long time ago, Xavier. We can’t go back.”

“Why not? Who makes the rules, Pru? We are our own selves. Why can’t we go back? If you don’t want to come with me, then I’ll stay here. I want to be with you. I don’t care where we go. I just want to love you.”

The walls I’ve built up around me are slowly coming apart. I can feel the emotions slipping in, as if someone is physically prying tears out of my eyes. The more I hold them back, the more they flow down the familiar paths of my cheeks until I’m sobbing uncontrollably. My body heaves with each sob, bringing with it a rawness of pain that I thought I had closed off. I should have never come. I should have stayed far, far away from Xavier.

“I cannot be the person you want me to be. That Prudence is dead,” I say between sobs. He tries to touch me but I jerk away with enough force that he doesn’t try again.

“You can honestly say that you don’t love me anymore?”

I can feel the heaviness of his gaze, and as I slowly turn towards him I am hit with the realization that this will be the last time I’ll ever see Xavier’s face. This will be the last time I break his heart. “Yes. I don’t love you, Xavier. You coming here was a waste of time. Please leave and never return. Forget about me.”

His face betrays his emotions and I can see that even though he acts as if my words haven’t hurt him, they actually have. “How is it that easy for you? I have tried moving on. I’ve tried forgetting about you and it has been impossible! How can you stand here and look at me the way you are looking at me!”

“What do you want from me?” I practically scream at him, unable to keep my anger at bay.

He grabs my hands and brings them to his face, stroking my fingers against his cheekbones. “I want you to remember. I want you to remember what our life was like before you went away. You were my bride, Pru. You were my everything. You aren’t being honest when you say you don’t love me anymore.”

I jerk my hands away from him. “Don’t you dare tell me to remember! I have spent five years forgetting everything that happened, everything we were. Don’t you dare tell me that it would’ve been better if I hadn’t left. Don’t pretend to know anything about me anymore. I meant what I said. The Pru that loved you is long gone. She will never come back. She is lost, Xavier.”

He reaches to me again in a last attempt but I hold up my hand in a command that he cannot ignore. “Go home, Xavier. I’m not your home anymore.”

He holds himself together and does not speak. He gives me a slight nod, showing his surrender and puts a few fingers to my cheekbone, swiping them to my lips before bringing them to his own. It is a kiss that burns from my head to my toes and after a second, the feeling is gone because he pulls away and walks down the docks until he is swallowed by fishermen and customers. He does not look back.

I am alone on the end of the pier, and five years worth of emotions starts to swallow me until I’m curled up against the wooden beams and feeling as if there is nothing left inside of me. This pain was always mine to bear. I wished for the longest time that Xavier hadn’t been caught up in the hurt that I caused. It was always my fault, my body that was wrong.

When the pains started, when the blood seeped down my legs, I knew that it was because of me. I knew that I was broken, dysfunctional, wrong. I thought I had made a beautiful masterpiece but it was taken from me because I wasn’t any good. I wasn’t worth enough. I would never be enough for anyone.

The more I stare at the water, the more Xavier’s words about our love being like the ocean cling to my mind. I came here to feel safe and alive but I was never really able to be alive as I once was. Now his words have left me even hollower than before. The ocean was like a friend to me but it now seems uninviting, reminding me of the love I’ll never have. Our love has ruined even this.

I have a flash of a memory as I watch another boat pull in, full of dead sea creatures. It’s the one thing that I’ve never been able to escape, even now.

Xavier running into the room, hearing my screams. Blood everywhere. So much blood. Xavier asking if the baby is okay. I know it’s gone. Dead, not gone. Dead.

Death. That is the answer.

The only way to really let go of it all is to let go of myself. Living in a world without Xavier has been excruciating. How can I live any longer?

I look back down over the ledge at the water. The brilliant blue color now feels hauntingly beautiful, tempting me to discover what may lie beneath it. All I’d have to do is climb over the rail and jump. Drowning doesn’t scare me. In fact, it seems like a peaceful way to go, blanketed by the ocean without the sounds of the human world, without the sounds of my own screams.

No one would know I was gone. Xavier would be truly free of me. I would be truly free of me.

Just one small jump.

Copyright © 2013 by Katie Karambelas

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