We had a fight and I am waiting it out at a coffee shop, ignoring the work I need to do and torturing myself by reading Modern Love—tales of love that worked out, and relationships that fizzled. I don’t know which makes me feel worse. I wonder when you can get to that place where you can safely point to how things shook out, and I realize you never can until it’s over. It’s a little dark, isn’t it?

Our story might go:

We met, drunk, at a bar and the next night we made dinner and then we made love. He moved in three weeks later and we traveled across the country together that first summer. We held each other every night and I kissed his back while he slept. (I always woke up first.) But he’s a vagabond, born to ramble, as the song goes, and when summer comes around he’s got this need to fly and this time I can’t go with him, and I can’t stand that he doesn’t want to stay here with me, and he packs up his things and goes and I cry for months. I am never the same; this was my big love.

Or else:

We meet drunk, at a bar, and we’re inseparable ever after. Speed bumps along the way, of course, and one day I’m sitting sad in a coffee shop, close to tears, unable to touch my tea. (I was crying in a coffee shop the day he told me he loved me, too.) An hour later, his car pulls into the parking lot and he sits down across from me and says he loves me and he is sorry and he doesn’t want to go. We hold each other every night and we finish each others’ sentences and we cook something together when we’re invited to a potluck. After seven years together we get married in a forest or by the ocean, or we don’t get married because it’s not necessary, but it’s me and him, my love and I, we are one, we are together, and we never won’t be.

I fought with my mother last night, and I haven’t stopped crying since. She was awful and cruel and it makes me wonder what I should do. I want to be free. I cried and cried today, and we kept the blinds closed, for once, and it felt dark and quiet and still in the apartment. I thought it was nice. You held me as I cried and I apologized, but you said don’t worry, baby and my tears ran down onto your chest and you didn’t mind a bit. You told me you want me to feel better. I can’t believe there’s someone like you that cares about me and wants me to be happy and warm and good. I watched a movie the other day, this couple was in love, but it was new, and the boy said, I want to be your family. They both smiled and held each other and it was a little sad and very lovely. I wonder if one day you will be my family, and wouldn’t that be perfect?

     We are both crying into our pasta and all I want is to hold you but I am scared. Scared to hold you. You have spent every night for the last year in my arms and I am afraid to reach out and put my arms around you and so I keep crying. I look up at you and I say that I am sorry. I am very sorry. You say that I shouldn’t be. We both feel miserable and cruel. I never want to hurt you. I never want to make you cry. We haven’t touched our dinners. Our small wooden kitchen table feels like an ocean between us and I am too scared to move toward you.

    This has been a very bad day. I have been silent and moody and harsh, and you are walking on eggshells and it’s my fault. Earlier, I looked across the room at you. You were playing my favorite song on the guitar and you were as beautiful and gentle and kind as you always are but all I could think is, I hate you, and I was filled with an awful rage and I wanted to yell and scream and kick you out of the apartment and I never wanted to see you again. I went into the bathroom and I shut the door and I opened my mouth and clenched my fists and let out a silent, enraged scream. I did it until I was spent, but I was still angry. We went for a walk in the park and you held my hand and you said that you wanted to make me feel better. I thought about what a monster I am.

     We are crying into our pasta and I love you and I really, truly do not hate you, not one bit, and I’m scared that I could think that I do. I love you and I want to hold you and so I take a deep breath and I stand up and I sit in your lap and put my arms around your neck and kiss your cheek. I run my fingers through your long, blond hair and I tell you for the first time, I say, baby, I love you.

     I went to bed mad at him. It was stupid, I knew, and I didn’t want to be angry, but I was; I couldn’t look him in the eye so I just stared at his lips, chapped (as mine were) from winter and too much kissing. And I put my arms around him and snuggled close to him, I kissed his chest over and over again, hoping he’d know that I still cared, that I knew how crazy I was being, that I couldn’t help it.

     And in the morning, I still felt sad, but mostly better, and I kissed him, and he said, I think I’m going home, soon. Home, thousands of miles away. I had known he would have to, eventually. But now that that time was here, I didn’t know what to do. And I couldn’t help it, but I started to cry and he sang to me and it made me cry more because I wasn’t sure what I’d do without him.

     We went for breakfast and I wouldn’t look at him. I heard him speaking to me, but I didn’t listen. I folded my arms on the table and rested my head on them. I was exhausted, and I was tired of it all. I can’t quite explain it, but trying to keep up with him was positively wearing me out. I probably didn’t really have any real reason to be mad at him, but I was.

     But then he reached over and stroked my hair and it was the sweetest, gentlest gesture. Baby girl, he cooed. Face hidden in my arms, I smiled. But anyway, I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. Not yet.

    I apologized, but I wasn’t really sorry, or at least, I didn’t think I had done anything wrong. So when she went on the offensive, I was ready to bail. Like, fuck this friendship. “It doesn’t matter, but…”
    Apologies or acceptances of apologies with qualifiers, they don’t count.
    When do you give up? When do you fight back? When do you say nothing and accept it, even though you’re still pissed?
    It’s been my experience that friends will always let you down. Why do I try?