How long till you're goneBatman arrived as promised, just twelve hours later than expected. He buzzed the gate right after breakfast yesterday morning and I greeted him without even unlocking the screen door.
From every troubled thought?
Cause you're still here to heal what's wrong
And it was only my fault
Such a beautiful view
With a long way to fall
I was afraid how it could hurt
To leave the safety up above
But if it doesn't, it's not love
Hi, Bridget. I brought you something. He holds out a small, soft package wrapped in pretty paper. The Mermaid Parade t-shirt.
I unlock the door to step outside and I take the shirt. I'll have to pay you for this. I can't take gifts from you anymore.
Don't be ridiculous. Nothing has to change.
Yes. It does. It's time.
Let's go for a drive and talk. Can we do that?
You need to go. I'm sorry. Jake is already relocated. I told you I wasn't going to change my mind. You asked me to choose and I chose family. This is the way it's supposed to be.
What happens when something goes wrong?
It already did. Look. You push too hard and you cease to be a part of my life. You'll be the third permanent absence. Only you get to keep your life. Be thankful for that, I guess.
Don't lump me in with your ghosts, Bridget.
I can't help it. That's where you are now. The past.
Maybe I should speak with Ben.
This isn't Ben's decision, it's mine.
What about the rest?
Again, nothing to do with them. I speak for myself. Don't come around anymore. It's not like I'll leave some gaping hole in your life. Hell, you called once a year for over a decade. You don't need me.
See, that's the thing. I might. You got under my skin.
Then peel it off and I'll escape and you can keep going. It only hurts for the first hundred years or so. But I'm forever grateful to you for everything.
I shake my head. My plate is full. I whisper it.
He puts his hands in his pockets. He's going to make it easy. I know it is, baby. I know. He fishes out a business card and takes his pen from his breast pocket. He scribbles a phone number on the back and a word. He moves in very close until we are kissing distance and he takes my hand and presses the card into it. If you ever need anything, you simply call this number, and say this word. Can you do that for me? Bridget? Promise me.
I shake my head and press the card against his chest. No, I can't. I have what I need.
Then put it in a drawer and when you turn one hundred years old, burn it.
I close my fingers around the card and nod. We're getting to that point and he's going to leave and that will be that and it's over and maybe this is a bad idea.
I'm going to return to the previous schedule and we'll go from there. I can respect your wishes but at the same time, you are woefully irresponsible and unprepared so I'll call on New Year's Day. Like I used to. May I?
I nod again. Yes, out of words. My brain is reverting to stunned purposeful silence. I did this and I don't like it when they're not within reach, no I don't. Only he isn't part of "they" and I am doing okay now. I don't need a safety net under the safety net, I've walked this line so many times I can do it in my sleep. Built-in redundancies are wasteful and complicated and unfair to everyone involved. That's why I gave outs. I gave chances and I gave tries and I gave excuses and I gave in. I gave a little curtsy and a tiny almost-bow when the lights went up and I swore I'd never climb the ladder again but then I did, addicted to the lights, and the gasps of amazement and the cheers. Addicted to all the eyes on me. Sated on pure adoration and drunk on near-misses but presently sober and right on target again.
The lights are no longer trained on me. I have abandoned my mask of makeup and my costume and I've abandoned the appreciative stares and the held-breath and the compliments and smiles at the end of the evening. I've abandoned the fireflies and dirt roads and burned-out bulbs and unnamed towns. I've abandoned stacking the boys like armies against the night, against each other, against everything and I stepped back in front quite abruptly. I am so small from here, but it's not nearly as scary as it once was.
You may. I'd like that. My voice comes out strained, formal and weirdly strangled and he understands perfectly. He steps forward even further and kisses my cheek slowly, with purpose before stepping back. He hesitates and then reaches forward and squeezes my fingers even tighter around the card and he searches my eyes for confirmation that I know what I'm doing. I nod and try for a small smile but it fails and he picks it up anyways and returns it to me. Then he turns and leaves.
Not a backward glance.
Not another word.