I didn’t think it would be this cold. Yes, I was on the waterfront and summer was winding down but the weather had been so warm up until now I didn’t think it was necessary. I was even so bold as to go with apparel more suited for the dog days of summer than at the steps of autumn. It didn’t really matter how I got to this point now though, I was cold and it was distracting me.
This was one of my favorite spots in the city, aside from the time when the tall ships were in and the waterfront was crawling with tourists. I never minded the tall ships really but they blocked my favorite part of my favorite place, the view. Whether it was their masts or the crowds gazing at them the view from the bench was obstructed on and after Natal day. I just wanted to get lost in the sunset over the horizon on the Atlantic.
It seemed like the best place to do this, breaking up with David. If I was going to do it anywhere else it would end up tainted. Our favorite coffee shop on Quinpool. In front of the library downtown. Even in front of the clock on Citadel Hill, I didn’t want these places where we made all of our memories to feel sour by breaking up with him there. It wouldn’t happen on the waterfront, it couldn’t. This was too special of a place.
“Hey! Liz! How are you, babe?” He walked over and hugged me as if everything were normal. It was, to him.
I felt bad for David, as I felt bad for my beagle when we had to take him in to get neutered. Not in a darkly comedic kind of way but in the way that he didn’t know what was going to happen, he just knew he was excited to go somewhere.
“Hi. I’m good,” I paused for a moment. I was muted and I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want him to be blindsided by this but I also wanted to try and keep this as amicable as I could.
“Did you get anything to eat or did you want to grab something?”
“I ate but if you wanted to get a beaver tail or something we could split one,” he smiled at me and took my hand. God, why did he have to be so sweet.
“No, I’m good. I can’t really eat stomach anything right now.”
“Babe, you’re shivering,” he took his sweater off and threw it over my shoulders. I groaned and sunk into gap between the dock boards. He was making this much harder then I had thought it would be.
I nodded a thank you to him and took a seat on the bench. He followed my lead and we sat in silence for a few moments. A few seagulls were cawing as they tore through the air above the harbor. There weren’t many people around as most of the shops were closed at this hour. It was just the two of us and the occasional straggler jogging, earbuds in place and in their own world.
“So, I wanted to talk to you about something,” I managed to get the words out. I had been running over the introduction in my head and this was all I could muster before my mind jumped the tracks and was imagining worst case scenarios.
In one he jumped off of the end of the pier and threatened to drown himself if I didn’t change my mind. In another he threw me into the water while screaming obscenities at me. In a third, and bizarre one, a seagull dropped a crab on his head and proceeded to pinch both his ear and nose as he ran around screaming. In the last one I imaged that I ran off in a combination of horror and amusement because it was the only other option aside from laughing.
“Yeah? What is it? I’ve been thinking of a few things I wanted to talk about with you but I wasn’t sure when we were going to get to talk and I know you’re leaving tomorrow for Toronto and figured it could just wait.”
There it is, my in.
“That’s just it, I’m leaving tomorrow for Toronto. I’m going away to school. I’m leaving my family, my friends. It will be the first time I’ve ever lived alone,” I turned away from him and sat with my back flush to the bench. I stared out at the water as it rippled in the waves. I felt another shiver but shook it off.
“Yeah, I wish I was going away too. I really wanted to get into U of T but I don’t know. I guess even if I did I probably couldn’t get the money for tuition anyway.”
He didn’t get it yet. He didn’t know. This poor dog.
I nodded, “yeah. I told you to apply for those scholarships.”
He laughed, “I know you did. Oh well. You’ll be home for Thanksgiving though, right?”
My lips wouldn’t move. I couldn’t fake a laugh or lie. I didn’t want to go away and tell him something that I knew wasn’t true. It was the least I owed him, honesty.
“I don’t know if I will. It might not be until Christmas.”
“Really?!” It was the first time his tone changed. It was the first moment he realized something wasn’t right.
“Yeah, really. But that’s the thing,” I paused because I didn’t know what to say. I was going away to major in Journalism. I was taking English courses and thought of myself as a writer someday and I had no words. An entire vocabulary at my disposal and the only thing I could think of was a simple, clunky sentence without eloquence.
“I want us to break up.”
I didn’t turn my head. I couldn’t. I was trying with everything in me to not cry and if I saw even the smallest droplet in his eye I would lose it, but I could feel him looking at me. His stare was burning a hole in the side of my head and I needed it to stop, so I kept talking and the words continued to spill clumsily out of my mouth.
“I’m going away to school. You’re staying here. We both are moving on from our lives as a high school couple and becoming adults. I don’t want to hold us both back from something we might find because we’re being silly in thinking we’ll end up together.”
Still nothing. I couldn’t stop.
“And we’ll both be better off for it too. Unencumbered we can experience so many firsts all over again. First dates. First kisses. First- anythings.”
“Lasts too,” he broke his silence finally and it stung.
“I’m sorry,” was all I could muster to that. There really wasn’t anything else to come back with.
It was sincere too. I am sorry. I don’t want to do this. I wish we could stay together and continue our relationship but we can’t. We shouldn’t.
Yes, its very cliche to say think that we all have to end our relationships when we go off to school but it’s that way for a reason. There aren’t great statistics of people staying together through university when you live so far apart and are meeting so many new people. Plus, he could meet someone new here. Maybe someone coming to Halifax to go to university that he falls in with. It’s really for both of us.
At least that’s what I was telling myself. I was most likely just telling myself a lie so I would feel better because if I wasn’t telling this same argument to him then was it actually true?
“Why?” He asked the dreaded question.
“Because I just don’t think we should hold ourselves to this idea that we’re going to stay together. I don’t want you or I to be hindered in new possible friendships, or more, because we feel we have to stay beholden to each other.”
Did I just say the word beholden out loud?
“I don’t want you or I to feel guilty if we want to experience something new with another person. I just think this is for the best.”
“For you,” oh no. Here we go.
“You think this is best for you. You want to acquit yourself of any wrong doing ahead of time so you’re breaking up with me now. You want to give yourself a free pass to do whatever you want.”
“No I,” he was angry and I just wanted him to not be angry anymore. I always felt the need to apologize. To give in and admit guilt without admitting it but taking the blame nonetheless. The truth was though that he was exactly right.
It was everything I had told myself up to this point. I wanted to be honest with him. I wanted to be a friend still and a friend wouldn’t lie. Telling him the truth up front was the only thing I could do because ghosting him once I met someone else wasn’t an option. I’d end up telling him the truth and then I would be the bad person who cheated on him. This way was supposed to be better for everything. It sure didn’t feel like it.
“So why don’t I get a say in this, huh Liz? Why didn’t we at least discuss it?” Oh no, not the rebuttal. I didn’t want this to turn into a debate.
“It seems to me you went and made up your mind without even asking me if there was anything we could do to resolve this. What if I got a student loan and went to school there at a different university? What if we saw each other every weekend some how or skyped all the time? What if could keep everything the way it was with a little change?”
I sighed. The tears were coming and I needed this to end.
“Because it can’t. It won’t be the same. This is the only way we escape as friends.”
“Friends? How can we be friends? You’re breaking up with me. I don’t want to be your friend. I want to be your boyfriend. You just don’t think we can last. I said I loved you and I meant it. Why don’t you just believe in us enough and we can make it through this. We can make it through anything.”
Finally I turned to him and was thankful he didn’t have any tears in his eyes. His face was red. His brown hair brushed back and his dark eyes strained on me. He was angry. I couldn’t blame him. I wasn’t as lucky with the tears.
I wiped my eyes before they started falling down my cheeks. I didn’t have anything else to say except another trip through the same conversation with a different route. We could have done this all night long, over and over again using different words but saying the same things.
I looked at him and gave him a sad smile. I reached out and pressed my palm against his cheek and his anger softened. He really did care for me. His eyes loosened and his shoulders slumped. It was over and he knew it even if he didn’t want to give up yet. He reminded me of that same beagle again, only the look no longer was of innocent excitement before something terrible. Instead it was the look he had when he was dying on my kitchen floor. His big, sad eyes knew it was his time to go and there was nothing he could do it about it no matter how badly he didn’t want it to end. The tears I cried were the same though, even if they weren’t as fierce.
I leaned forward and kissed him on the corner of his mouth. I slipped his sweater off of my shoulders and gave it back to him then stood up, apologizing again before my escape.
“I wish it didn’t have to be like this. I hope we can still be friends in the future. You’ve always been a great friend. I-I have to go now. It’s getting cold and I should have brought a cardigan or something. Bye, David.”
I walked away and didn’t look back. I had to leave because if I didn’t he would have eventually broken me down. I would have apologized again. That wouldn’t have turned into me listening to his side and my heart would be pulled by his voice and his eyes. It would have been a car crash and I would just want it to stop so I would agree to anything. It would have still been over but one of us would have done something we promised not to and we would be in the same place but now a friendship damaged.
So I walked away. The further I got the quicker my steps went. I didn’t smile though. It wasn’t a happy moment. It took everything in me not to crumble into tears. I left the next day and didn’t see him. I didn’t need to. I said goodbye on the waterfront. I said goodbye for leaving and I said goodbye in case we never talked again because of it. Either way I think I did the right thing. Either way, it didn’t matter anymore.