I never mean to leave.
It just happens.
I can’t even say why because there’s no real reason. He’s such a great guy, thoughtful and conscientious and sexy as hell, quick with a compliment and the stroke of his warm palm across the low sensitive part of my back. No other man has ever been so sincere or generous.
I’m an idiot.
This time the screen door flapped twice when the spring snapped it back against the green-painted frame. My feet sank into the springy blanket of pine needles, hid the sound of my departure and absorbed the breaking of his heart.
Such a simple act.
The rain-washed pavement blackened the soles of my feet. It was five miles to the interstate. I was barefoot, feet unhardened with calluses, on the verge of rediscovering one of the lost joys of childhood, blisters rising on my aging skin.
Maybe it was being here.
I’d enjoyed the casual intimacy of the converted camp. Not once had my parents banished me there for the summer, but many of the kids from my upstate neighborhood had spent every August in the tiny cabins scattered at the lake’s edge. They spoke of it with fond nostalgia now, their children grown and moved far away. Perhaps they missed the connection of common experience forged across generations.
I thought I might.
The man I’d just abandoned had charmed and coerced the hardness from my soul until at last I remembered how to live again. Each night he grilled line-caught fish over open flames, served it with the local wild rice piled to the side and poured me a narrow glass of sweet white wine.
Dinners were devoured only a flash slower than we consumed each other.
The sultry summer dusk brought swooping bats down to feast on the insects lured to our campfire. Full dark brought the fireflies like glowing embers dancing above the swaying water grass. When the moon rose soft and round and impossibly bright, concentric silver rings of water winked toward the shore where we huddled twined under a light blanket, arms wrapped around one another, time ticking away too slow to measure.
But some shadow in me marks the moments. The damaged bits that have seen too much death. The ugliness human beings visit on one another refuse to let me rest. I am the hard-edged blade of a psyche sharpened by homicide.
That’s really why I leave. What good could I bring him? A man who teaches third-graders about the goodness of the world shouldn’t want to come home to a woman whose adult life has been predicated by heinous acts.
The soft grinding of wheels on the road roll up behind me and I know it’s him. Come to rescue me. Again. To whisper he’s all right with my need to leave. Who understands why I sometimes scream in the middle of the night.
And who knows I never walk far.