They sat on a bench on the bike path overlooking the river. The late afternoon sun lazily making its descent to the horizon. The leaves rustling in the late fall breeze.
In days past they would have sat holding hands, or at least making some sort of physical contact. Lately, they didn’t mind the space. As a matter of fact, they felt more comfortable with a bit of separation.
They looked at each other at the same time and knew that they were both thinking the same depressing thought. They sighed.
She broke the silence first, as usual.
“How did we get here?”
“Seriously? We parked the car at the park, then followed the path to the bench” he said.
Another one of his ill-timed jokes that she used to find adorable, but now she found irritating.
“Sorry, I just don’t know how you want me to answer that.”
“I want you to be honest. I want you to tell me how you feel. Why do I always have to drag things out of you?”
“You always have to drag things out of me? You’ve got to be kidding. I always tell you exactly what’s on my mind, you just don’t like the answer” he said.
“I just don’t understand why you never take things seriously. You always have to insert one of your stupid jokes to ‘lighten the mood’” she said, mocking him.
“That impression sounded nothing like me” he said, trying to lighten the mood.
“See, there you go again.”
“Well, excuse me for wanting to do things that will make you smile. You’re right, I’m the fucking asshole” he raised his voice just as an elderly couple walking their golden retriever walked by, “sorry, beautiful day isn’t it?”
The couple gave a disapproving look and continued down the path.
“Don’t yell at me” she said through clenched teeth.
“I wasn’t yelling. Those two probably couldn’t even hear me anyway” a smile formed on his face, “hey, remember that time we saw that old couple making out behind the port-a-potties at the county fair? That was so romantic…”
“Don’t change the subject. This is serious and I am not in the mood.”
“That’s just it, I think you are taking this way too serious.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right. I’m the bitch, as usual.”
“No, you’re not a bitch. I’m sorry. I – I’m just bad at this and you know that.”
“I know” she said with a sigh, “it’s just that you said last time was the last time, but here we are again dealing with the same bullshit.”
“Last time was different and you know that” he said, tears were starting to well up in his eyes, “and, you said that you wouldn’t bring that up again. How are we supposed to move forward if you won’t let it go? Jesus Christ, how many times can I say that I am sorry?”
“I wasn’t going to” she said as she hushed her voice due to the man jogging by, “but here we fucking are again.”
“What do you want me to do? How can I make things right?”
“We went over this. There are two options and, at this point, I really don’t care which you choose. You just need to decide so that we can move on.”
He looked out at the water rolling by. He had been stalling, of course. He knew the decision was his to make, but it just felt like a big one. Regret has always been one of his biggest fears.
What if he made the wrong choice?
What makes things worse is that he knows that this is only going happen again. No matter how hard he tries, it will happen again. It’s just who he is and she just can’t accept it. But, he was tired of fighting. He just wants her to be happy. He wants to see that beautiful smile that he fell in love with years ago.
“Did you decide?”
“Yes. I did.”
He stared at her, determined to make the words come out of his mouth, but before he could, she broke the silence.
“So? Where do you want to eat tonight?”