Praying for Warships by Sean P. Ferguson
She reached for the door and watched me from her car parked in the driveway as I stood in my front yard. Yards turned into miles. Miles turned into highways, exchanges, on-ramps, and states. This distance molding into something longer, a dark void that swallowed all light and happiness into a desolate nightmare. It opened a gap of infinite possibilities, none of which shortened the mileage between us, took her hand off the car door, or brought her back into my arms. I reminded myself this had nothing to do with me, it wasn’t punishment or condemnation for the person I was or could be. This was an opportunity for the love of my life and it did not include me.
And then I physically fell. The sidewalk leading up to my porch didn’t give and I felt it scream through my bones. I punched the concrete and it tore my skin. My fist drove through the nights we slept together and the nights we were curled up on the couch. On those nights we imagined the places we could go. We dreamed about the future. I finally felt whole with her fingers twisted in mine, a hurt and a hope in every bend that now breaks my heart. The air was knives, serrated and sharp, sawing at my lungs and throat. I refused to inhale, I refused to breathe. And I kept punching.
“Please don’t hurt me like that,” she said once, the sorrow in her eyes pleaded. I wanted to burn everything down for her and start again, like it all never happened, and give her the life she deserved. Forests would grow back and the birds would return, looping under the rainbows of God’s vow.
Instead, I agreed, giving her some long rambling speech with every word crafted for comfort, each pause laid before her to put her at ease. And then I punctuated my promise with a handshake. She made me stupid, and the official gesture had her laughing the way I knew it would. She nuzzled into my shoulder and a happy sigh rose from her throat, untying the bow around my world. This was what the poets wrote about, this need for which so many songs begged.
A warmth grew in that dark room.
And it grew the first time she kissed me. She wanted to be at this place with these people, none of which I knew, none of which I wanted to know. They weren’t malicious or suffering from poor hygiene. None of them were making faces or poking fun, or god forbid, discussing the stock market. They were just new and weren’t of any interest to me. They were antithesis of private time. She was midsentence with a bachelor’s degree-carrying enthusiast for combing out his hair gel, when she stopped, grinned her evil little smirk, and kissed me. The flecks of fire still burned in her hazel eyes, then.
“What was that for?” I asked. She shrugged and said that I looked bored.
The warmth grew every time she fit perfectly in my arms or tucked her head under my chin. Every time she curled against me, two warped puzzle pieces locking into place, that warmth expanded. Each time she called me by my name, omitting my surname and replacing it with my middle initial, it was a coy plea for my attention. The outside of her left foot acted as a pivot as her heel swung in time with her shoulders, her head tilted to the left, her dark chocolate ponytail, a direct contrast to her milky white skin, swaying, lower lip bitten; every time my mind wandered, she did this, this whine for my focus, to bring me back, a siren luring me back home. Then, that warmth exploded in my chest. She has been my salvation, my reward for growing up through all of the drama, the hurt and the pain that life brings.
And it grew when she rested her hand on my knee while we were out running errands. She talked about when all of our separate dramas were over and we could be official. Despite her looming departure, we could be together, and her father would want to make sure I was handy. He would want to know that I was aware of what a wrench looked like, that I could change the oil on her car, that his lovely daughter would be cared for and protected. Her eyes scanned the roadway into the future, and the smile on her face saw it all with certainty and joy. Our lives would straighten out and we would come together as more than just the emotional cushions that we were in that moment. It grew because I finally knew she felt it too.
Each day, however, was preparation for this moment, for this soul crushing sound in my ears, a cyclical dirge on the Top 40 station, going over and over in my head. The pop of that door handle. Both of us playing stoic and strong before she left for school. Signals and static sparking between us, thoughts and messages relayed through the humid air, fizzling out before it reached the other. Pleas for hope. Hope for peace. The unrequited cries to not leave me. Good luck. Drive safely. Please let me know when you get there.
Don’t forget to love me back.
I had a bad day once and she couldn’t deal with me. Days leading up to her leaving were getting smaller in both time and number. I don’t know what I was trying to do. Prepare, maybe mourn a little ahead of time, so I wouldn’t be so ridiculous, so I could be gallant when it came time for goodbyes. And I got so wrapped up and emotional in the preparation that she just couldn’t handle me. I was so immersed in the future emotion that I wasn’t enjoying and appreciating the time we still had together. The destruction to which this was all leading was greater than myself, and I conceded that I was being selfish, smothering her with half-hearted apologies that came from the bottom of my soul, and underneath it all that might have hurt more. Protecting her from me. From the words I wanted to say, the things I wanted to do. From wrapping my arms around her ankles, locking her keys in the car and pushing that damned car into the ocean. From launching torpedoes and watching it sink. Keeping her here, keeping her from following her dreams, keeping her all to myself.
Swallowing all of that has been bitter, but I’ve done it for her. Time and time again I’ve done it for her. I’ve prayed for warships armed to the teeth with torpedoes and dreamed about sinking her car over and over. I’ve wished I could drop to my knees and punch the ground, lash out and scream, break my bones and show the world, that this woman, this woman was my entire being. She had me, I was hers completely. Without her I am nothing.
“I’ll miss you,” she said.
And I smiled. I smiled for her.