The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes: Regret, like Revenge served cold

Dave Burton

I remember sitting in our back garden one summer night facing our bedroom window, the curtains drawn, the light off. I remember picturing you on the other side in our bed, sleeping, snoring, your arm curled under a pillow, your head upon it, your knees far apart, still trying to push me away.

I looked away, up and away, and laid back on the grass, staring blindly at the distant, dead night sky, silent save for an occasional plane, their lights flashing, reminding me of lives elsewhere.
Sometimes I used to think my life was the only reality; that everything else was to fuel my being, what I wanted. Which is difficult, really, when I didn’t know. It’s funny the things that make you take stock and force realisation.
Still on that cool grass I carefully poured the remains of a bottle of beer into the side of my mouth and tossed the empty monstrosity over my head into the bushes. I knew where it’d gone, and also knew --despite my show of rebellion-- that I would seek it out the next morning and add it to the recycling in the shed. Your cat let out a teeny meow and I wondered whether I’d come close to hitting her, but I knew she liked sitting on the shed, not behind or to one side. Her call was more a "welcome to my garden, friend".
And, sure enough, within a few moments she was there, prowling around me, meowing some more. I reached out a hand and she came to me. How easy it was, and how much I miss it now. If only I’d known to appreciate it more. Or perhaps I did, but my mind wouldn’t let me acknowledge it. Within a few moments, though, she tired of my hand, my cold fingers, and, meowing once more, clambered up onto my stomach. We lay in silence forever, it seemed. I remember so many thoughts. No, not thoughts: more a discussion. As the breeze picked up and calmed; as the clouds moved seamlessly so far above; as you lay peacefully sleeping, blissfully unaware.
That was the first night the thought entered my head as something more than a passing fancy or doubt. I don’t ever remember loving you more than I did then, that cold night in our garden with your cat, warmed by the knowledge your love awaited my return. But then, I don’t ever recall loving you less, either. Just that it all started to seem like it was blurring into a same-ness; something we did; something we were. And I wondered whether it was something we still wanted. Okay, I wondered if it was something I still wanted. And I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t want to prolong an uncertainty. But then, neither did I want to discard it.
I think your cat realised this long before I did. She certainly never baulked all at my frequent questions. Unlike you did later. Having said that, what I remember you saying more than anything was: "How can you be sure?"
And I couldn’t. Of course I couldn’t. Who ever can be? There are risks, and we take them. Such is life. We know this, we’ve known it a lifetime, and so that’s what we do. The thing is, we don’t always know what we’re doing before, during or after the act; or why we began it in the first place. And sometimes that’s too late.
Before too long your cat would urge me back inside to your warmth, she --like me-- believing solace, peace and love could still be found there, despite all we’d discussed. I mean your cat and I. It was like she chose to stay out there for us, thinking my thoughts, considering my doubts, my fears, our future, suffering the cold. While she was doing that, for me, for us, it allowed us to be us. And it enabled me to return to you after entertaining such dark ideas. I should be grateful: she probably saved our lives, although even she couldn’t save our life.
And so, yes, as you know, I ended our time together. All those tears, smiles and memories in the making, all those assuaged doubts. Then, one night when your cat doesn’t happen to come calling on me in our garden --later, we found, because she’d died two doors down, probably listening to me one last time, realising the futility of all her efforts, and choosing to just give in, to concede defeat: I was a lost cause and you could do better; even I know this now - I decide that’s it, the end. And we were no more.
How harsh I was. How cold. Believing it might help you move on. But even now I can’t commend myself on my actions, for I know they were self-serving and disloyal.
One thing I never considered --or, if I did, I never considered it well enough-- was how wrong I could have been; how I would grow to miss you more than I dreamed possible, more than I dreamed you could miss me, even though I always thought your suffering would be greater. That sounds awful, I know, considering what I did. But I had no idea. If I had, I would never have left you; but instead would have done everything in my power to stay with you. I should have fought to retain your love, if you ever considered what I’d considered, and foolishly done. And yes, I know you said this --or words similar-- at the time, and for some time after, throughout your tears, but I couldn’t hear you back then. However, believe me, I’m hearing you far too frequently now.
© Dave Burton October 2005

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