Empty apartments and cars packed full of memories make the realiztion sink in that much deeper. He's gone, it's over, and you can't go back. Patrick Stump/OFC One-Shot.
It's amazing how much can fit into a car when a woman is determined not to make more than one trip. When she's sure that turning around after reaching her new apartment might just break her sanity in two, like stale matzah bread at Passover. It's amazing...and it also leaves for a lot of blind spots.
The spaces between three suitcases, a lamp, and two boxes full of her college books and notes were filled in with purses, shoes and Ziploc containers full of half the leftovers in the fridge. Even though all the food had been for him, Lauren had been the one to cook it and so they had decided that ownership was equally split.
As she started the ignition she closed her eyes. The vibration of her small, cramped car rattled through her and she took a deep breath. From the moment the car door had closed, she could feel the tears being squeezed from just beneath her eyes. The radio spurred to life, throwing Lauren into the middle of Edwin Mccain's "I Could Not Ask For More".
That did it. As she adjusted her rear view mirror, the romantic sounds of violins and slow drum beats hit her ears and large tears began to pour from her eyes. Making a frustrated, animalistic noise Lauren reached down and snapped the radio off.
'I need to concentrate on the road anyway.' she told herself, sniffing as more tears dripped down through the foundation on her cheeks. As the world around her went blurry from salt water, her thoughts wandered and she wiped away what she could of the memories spilling past her eyelashes.
She had known this was coming. That was the worst part. She had /known/.
Frustration made her fingers go white as she gripped her steering wheel harder and harder. A sob ripped through the air and it felt like all of Chicago had heard it. Even though Lauren's windows were up and the sounds of busy traffic surrounding her would have been enough to drown out screams.
She had known. But she'd never thought...never imagined for a minute that her time with him was already up. Him and his silly trucker hats. Him and his dorky laugh. Him and his stupid, worn down, soft as hell t-shirts.
More tears and a few exponentially decaying sobs followed the images in her head.
Months ago, she had felt this...this rift between them beginning to grow. She could remember that first, real argument so clearly. And she could also remember how she'd cried herself out on his shoulder and fallen asleep beside him that very night, an unspoken forgiveness lingering in the air as he'd held her.
They'd always been the bickering type. It was how they'd originally gotten so close as friends. Discussing politics, religion, philosophy, psychology. Together they explored the great questions of the universe. Who are we? Why are we here? Why is man so desperate for attention? What is it exactly about Kraft mac n' cheese that is so addicting?
Of course, they didn't agree on everything. In fact, they didn't agree on all that much. But before that night the discussions had always ended in truces, white flags and make out sessions. Their differences had never fostered real anger. Real fighting. Because if there was one thing the both of them did agree on, it was how painfully pointless arguing with your loved ones was.
Lauren felt like she was sinking deeper into her seat as she came to a red light. She waited a moment for the car to lose its sense of momentum and to settle back on its wheels before leaning back in her seat. Her fingers lost their death grip on the steering wheel and she sighed. As her bloodshot eyes scanned the view out of the window to her left, she could see a small park full of dog walkers and joggers. Happy couples holding hands.
Green light. Go.
When Lauren was three, she could remember sitting in a corner in the parlor of her large house. Her knees tucked up against her chest, her fingers playing nervously with her small, cold toes.
She remembered closing her eyes and praying for the arguing to stop. She remembered fighting back tears and trying to ignore the sailor's knots looping around in her stomach, making her want to vomit all over the rug beneath her. She remembered the way her father and mother turned into completely different people when they screamed at each other. The way her mother turned into a red, soppy mess of tears and pleading. The way her father seemed to grow three times bigger like the puffer fish she'd seen at the aquarium.
As the years went on, her perspective shifted around restlessly. It got harder and harder to figure out who was right and who was wrong. To take sides and find solutions. As the years went on Lauren had to accept that her parents were not in love. That they never really had been. That they were just fucked up people who needed things from each other, like everyone else in the world. Even though Lauren wasn't stupid and knew she wasn't going to come out of this unscathed, but fucked up in at least a few of the same ways as her parents, she vowed that she wouldn't settle the way they had.
She remembered in biology class, reading about relationships in nature. Bored out of her mind because physical science had never really interested her much, her eyes had found a surprise when they snagged on the last relationship and coincidentally the only interesting one.
Parasitic: A parasitic relationship is one in which one organism, the parasite, lives off of another organism, the host, harming it and possibly causing death. The parasite lives on or in the body of the host.
Though she had opted not to raise her hand in class and share her bit of self-discovery, Lauren had immediately recognized the parallel between romantic relationships and parasitic ones. She had immediately thought of her parents.
Countless vows that she would never use somebody or let herself be used. Night after night. Storm after storm. She loved her parents. But she would commit suicide before she got herself stuck in the same place they had. Before she repeated their mistakes.
'If I had only known...there are thousands of way to use someone...' The tears had all but subsided and now Lauren's elbow was resting on the car window sill, the side of her head being held up only by the palm of her hand.
Use someone for their time. Revel in the fact that it's yours and no one else's. Because the rest of the world can wait.
Use someone for the way you feel when their eyes are playing over you. The way you pretend not to notice how he's staring at you. The way it makes your heart beat speed up. The blood in your veins want to cry for him. Every bone in your body want to break for him.
Use someone for the sound of his fingers on ivory keys. Don't even thank him the next morning for putting you to sleep with a smile on your face.
Use someone for an adrenaline rush. Like that one time in the airplane bathroom. Even Pete thought that one was gross. But even now, with the memory of it shredding Lauren's heart, she couldn't deny that it had been worth it. Worth the look from that pretty stewardess. Worth everyone's teasing about how they were seemingly always having sex. Worth the way it had tussled her hair and made her cheeks sweaty.
Use someone to make sense of love songs. To finally understand what everyone is talking about. That whole love thing. To feel special.
Use someone for a hand to hold on holidays. To not feel misplaced on your birthday or lonely at Christmas or unwanted on Valentine's Day.
And she hadn't meant to use him for all those things. But thinking back on it now, she realized that she had. She realized that's all love ever was. Using people. Maybe hurting them in the process, maybe not. It was still personal. It was still with selfish intent.
Even worse was how she was going to miss the way he had used her.
Used her for home cooked meals. The peas mixed with the mashed potatoes. The chicken never touching the gravy. The pizza always cut into funny shapes. The iced tea flavored with oranges instead of lemons. Just the way he liked it.
Used her for self-confidence boosters. Promises that someone loved him just the way he was, just for him. That he was good enough.
Used her for the late night (early morning) massages when he came home from the studio at one am.
Used her to rant to. Used her to argue with. Used her to laugh at someone when there was nothing left of his sanity. And because she'd loved him so much and because she could never get mad at him, she'd always laughed too.
Used her for sex (although, she was guilty of that one too). Used her for attention. Used her for someone to smile with.
Used her for someone to bounce ideas off of. Used her to play Risk with because she was the only girl he knew who had ever liked that game and the only person he knew who would still play it with him. A faint smile decorated Lauren's mouth as she remembered that. Basked in the pride she'd always felt when he told her that.
Lauren sighed and clicked her blinker on before she turned right on to East Whitman Road. Her new apartment was in a pretty good area. It was spacious enough for her and her thoughts. The hardwood flooring looked like the kind that wouldn't mind getting lost under all her clothing. The walls were thick enough so that she could play her music at least somewhat loud. The two windows looked down onto Whitman, which would be a nice change from the view of suburbia from Patrick's windows. The pool in his backyard.
"Who owns a pool in Chicago?" she'd always teased him.
"People who's nights are as hot as ours." he'd finally told her one day. And she hadn't been able to argue with that. Not using words anyway.
Lauren wondered if she would ever be able to shake the layout of Patrick's house from her mind. She could lead anyone on a tour blindfolded and handcuffed while riding a bike. In fact, she'd tried that once when her brother had come to visit. Patrick had it on tape, the video sitting in a box under one of the many racks of shoes in his closet.
"Aren't shoe fetishes are a girl thing?" she'd laughed the first time she'd set eyes on his closet. And the teasing had been very ongoing throughout their relationship. But secretly, under all the laughing at his expense, she'd found it to be one of those odd turn-ons. The way he got so excited when he went into shoe stores. The way he took forever just looking for that one perfect pair to add to his collection. The way he kept them neatly lined up on shelves in his closet. The way he wore them everywhere, even in the house. But her favorite thing about his shoes had always been watching him kick them off. Something about how his right toe came around to the back of his left foot and the way his sock clad foot emerged had always made her smile.
Swallowing, Lauren closed her eyes and leaned back in her seat as she turned off her car in the parking lot of her new apartment complex. The more she imagined opening her car door and getting her stuff out, the less her body wanted to move. For a few moments the idea of spending the night in her car just sitting there felt very appealing. Even with the crime rate and wind chill considered. She was at the point where she didn't even give a damn anymore. She was ready to give up. If the afterlife wanted her, it could have her. There was nothing left in her to put up a fight.
It wasn't that she didn't have a reason to live anymore. Lauren had never been one of those girls. "I can't live with out him!". She was alive, wasn't she?
It was just...after all the fighting she'd done with him, after the struggle she'd put up to make things with him work, every part of her was sick of trying. She was burnt out.
The change would be obvious in her. The apathy, the quietness, the strain in her voice, the way her eyes would pull down, the way she would walk slower now. Her family would worry at first, her boss would tell her to get with it, her friends would stop inviting her out on Saturday nights. She could see it now. The way her life would shut down for a long time.
And the worst part, was how she was ok with that. She didn't even care. The apathy was almost suffocating.
After a good five minutes of just sitting and staring at the other cars in the parking lot and the way they looked under the blue tint of dusk and an overcast sky, Lauren opened her car door and stepped out. Immediately her skin bristled with goosebumps from the fall chill in the air and she leaned over to the passenger seat, grabbing her hoodie.
It was plain red and thick and cozy and had always been one of her favorites. She had complained when Patrick had stolen it one time because he'd given it back a little stretched out which had detracted from the cozy. Of course he'd made it a point to steal it even more once he realized that. So now it permanently smelled like him. His soap and cologne and skin.
And if she was honest with herself, she could also smell his passion for music. His smile. She could smell the sound of his laughter. She could smell the sunshine as it fell through the windows in his house.
The fact that it smelled like him isn't what was drawing more tears to Lauren's eyes as she opened her trunk and began taking out only the things she would need for the night. It was the fact that the scent of him held so much emotional power over her that hurt. The clichÃ© way it brought back all the memories and made the muscles in her arms desperate to fit around him. It was how she had become those stupid girls she had read about in books. The ones who took break-ups like this really hard. The ones who cried themselves to sleep for weeks. The ones who had at one point been so blind that they had convinced themselves he was "the one".
She'd fallen for it. Love. She'd gotten so caught up. Gone so crazy over him.
As she struggled up the stairs, Lauren couldn't help but think that if Patrick were there he'd be taking all of her things up for her no matter how hard it would be for him. He'd always been a gentleman like that. It had been a quality she had cherished because so few men were as polite and courteous as he always had been. It was one of the qualities that made her wonder if she'd ever find someone as perfect as he had been.
Perfect for her anyway. Because she knew no one was perfect. Everyone had their good and bad qualities. It was just about finding someone who fit into your qualities and balanced them out. In that way, love was like a game of Tetris.
When she began searching for her key to the apartment she could feel her eyes welling up again. She didn't want to be in this new place. She wanted to be home.
Did home even exist anymore? Would she ever get it back?
Those questions danced in the back of her mind as she opened the door, flicked on the light. Nothing had changed since three days ago when she'd looked around with the landlord. Same hardwood flooring, same walls, same emptiness.
Wiping away her tears, she dragged what she was carrying into the empty living room, which was also the bedroom since this was indeed a studio apartment. One large, square room directly in front of a galley style kitchen with a small bathroom and closet making up the only bits of hallway. Without a second thought, she sat down, grabbed the pillow she'd brought inside and curled up in the fetal position on the floor, eyes wide as she tried to sort through everything.
He was gone. Gone forever and for good. Gone as friend and a lover and a companion. He was completely out of her life. It was like he had died.
And the worst part was, as much as she had seen this coming she was not ready to let go. She still loved him. It felt like she always would. As much as she knew time would heal this and that she would eventually get over him, right then that seemed like a bad joke.
Who could ever match up to her boy? Who would do the quirky things he did? Who would hold her like he had? Who would sing her to sleep like only he had the voice to? No one. No one ever again. Right then, it felt like the best part of her life had come and gone. Like the most joy she would ever feel was behind her. And it wasn't coming back.
The only thing making this even the slightest bit ok, the only thing allowing her to work through her feelings, was that this had ended revolving completely around the two of them. No cheating. No lies. Just fighting. What divorce courts would call "irreconcilable differences".
And that was okay. Because that meant that they had always been nothing but raw and honest with each other. Right up 'til the end. Right up 'til the night when he had sunk onto her side of the bed. His fingertips had brushed the hair out of her eyelashes as she laid on her side feigning sleep. He'd always been able to tell when she was pretending do to do anything. Even orgasm.
"We can't do this anymore Laure. I can't." A sigh like the wind off of Lake Michigan had fallen from his lips. His fingertips moved down to brush her cheek and as she had opened her eyes, caught his hand in her own.
"I love you, Patrick." It hadn't been said to make him change his mind. Just to let him know that she still cared about him. That this was hurting her just as much as it was hurting him.
"I love you, too. I think we've just gotten to that point where love's not enough anymore." His lips pressed against her forehead then lingered there for a moment. She could tell he had wanted to kiss her mouth too. Had been debating it and had struggled to refrain before sitting up. As much as she had been desperately hoping to taste his lips then, she was so grateful he hadn't done that to her. It just would have made everything that much harder. "I'll see you in the morning. Sleep well."
She could feel the those words like a blade across her stomach.
'Kill me with kindness.' she thought to herself in semi-bitterness. Why did he have to be so good to her? Why couldn't she just hate him to make this easier? Why did everything have to be complicated?
The sobs were hitting her hard now and making her whole body shake and spasm. Her spine curved in over and over again, her chest repeatedly coming in contact with her thighs as she squeezed herself tighter and tighter into a ball.
As she laid there and felt so out of place in that apartment on East Whitman Road, something hit her that made her want to scream. Something that made her sobs get so loud that they began echoing off of the plain, white washed walls.
Sure she had gotten herself out in time not to fuck her entire life up, but she had just done everything she'd been vowing not to since the age of three.
She had become her parents.
And what was worse, was it had been with the boy she had been so convinced was just the kind of salvation that would save her from that fate. The boy who had been fucked up in all the same ways and had completely understood every vow she'd ever made to herself. Every cross she'd ever had to bear. The boy who she knew couldn't fix her but would understand and cry with her, hold her hand and stay up all night with her.
She had been given the chance at heaven. At Eden. At the most perfect mess, the loveliest of wrecks. And she'd been stupid enough- no, crazy in love enough- to let her past rip that chance to shreds. And of course she would get over this. Of course these wounds would heal with time. Heal for the most part, anyway.
But the fact that she couldn't escape her past would forever haunt her. The pain of that realization would never fade. And poor Lauren, she would just never get out from under its shadow. All she could do was look back and bask in the memories. Smile and remember the warm fuzzies he had put in her stomach and under her skin for two full years. Hold as steadfast to the that short, crystallized place in time when love had been enough.