Living through that night felt like falling down an endless flight of stairs, without pain. I slid through routine, stumbled over his surprises, and slammed against a few of my own. Parts of the evening excited me, others frightened or disappointed. The negative canceled the positive, leaving me on an even keel of numb.
I had never considered myself a keeper of secrets, especially from him. He listened well; I talked better. I shared the details of my past, gave him my present, and included him in my dreams. Often, I told him I loved him, and how much I appreciated and enjoyed our relationship. I offered him a smorgasbord of me and allowed him to choose what and how much he wanted. That's what I would have said before that evening, anyway.
In contrast, he guarded his past and reserved his emotions. Even without the words, I believed he loved me behind the stoic exterior. That was enough for me. I knew the odds of any man relinquishing bachelorhood after the age of forty were close to impossible, and would not risk what we had to play those odds.
My life was complete without him; I was the best me I could be with him. It worked for me.
We ordered pizza and ate from the box, content with our laziness. When finished eating, I curled into my corner of the couch with a pillow under my head and my feet tucked behind him for warmth, ready to shut down for the evening.
He took the pizza box to the trash and sat on the floor beside me when he returned. I predicted the massage, and the exact moment I would wonder how he could possibly know my body better than I did. I was not surprised when he read my mind and said yes, it was my turn to be pampered. Nor did it startle him when I thanked him for lying, or not really keeping score.
The first bump arrived when he asked me not to fall asleep. Had he forgotten that relaxing me to the point of unconsciousness was the benefit of his magic touch? He wanted to talk? That peculiar request somersaulted my emotions to the positive side of curious. I rolled over to face him.
His already kneeling position negated the bended knee ritual. True to character, he skipped all but the necessary. He loved me and wanted to marry me.
Those words appeared to frighten him more than the yes, yes yes that almost slid off my tongue frightened me. Maybe more than the you can't do this that rolled out instead hurt me. I crashed hard against indecision, wondering to which of us I had spoken.
The fear in his eyes silenced the screaming teeth marks on my tongue. I couldn't retract my words any more than I could stop the fall. Nothing would heal the wounds I had inflicted on each of us, or mend the fractures to our relationship.
Or, had he ruined everything by speaking the forbidden words? He forced me to see that I was the keeper of secrets. Damn him for knocking me against a reality that I had kept from myself, spilling my independence, deflating my strength, forcing me to roll all over my power.
He caught me in a hug. Surprise, he understood that I was rolling fast and needed a breather. I eased through a comfortable stretch, slid a few steps without touching or losing another thing. The reprieve ended when I bumped into my conscience, tossed my truth at him, and tumbled headfirst into dangerous territory.
My tears lightened the load for a second. His fell on me like boulders. I wanted to escape his arms, feel the pain he denied me. I begged him to show anger, resentment, or hatred - anything that would allow me to know I was alive.
My truth hit the bottom, on his shoulders instead of mine. I sent him away with my pain.