The key

Some people think substance is style. The chip on his shoulder is a gaping hole that spreads to his navel. It’s sexy. It matches mine.

We’re holding a tiny wooden box of keys between us. All shapes and ages, found scattered in this old house. I wonder if there’s one here to unlock his chest. I wonder, too, if I hadn’t pursued, if he would have let me walk by.

His smile is broken. It hurts my heart. John Mellencamp had it right: “It’s a sad feeling when you’re living on those in betweens.” I am. I’m not sure what he’s living on. But it’s not hope.

Our timing is not in this moment, but it may change in the next. That might be all I know. I trust the universe. I have to. Because I have to believe in something. I wish someone over the age of 10 would believe in me.

My tendency is more toward steamroller than delicate flower. (Lifelong struggle.) He doubts me, and maybe everyone. He doesn’t say, but I feel it.

Still, when this woman says, “You are the only exception,” she means it. Every molecule she is comprised of backs those words.

Some things cannot be given, no matter how hard you try or how badly you want to bestow them. Faith is one. Fidelity and compassion also come to mind. He has to earn his. I cannot help him.

I know that I don’t want to be alone. I’ve been alone too long in this marriage. I believe joy, hope and happiness expand exponentially when they are shared. This year, some pretty amazing things happened to me. Some that I will never experience again. I didn’t have anyone to celebrate with. It sucked.

The sparks on his tongue taste like warm milk. They pull me down, hard. I like the way he looks at me. I like the way I feel sitting beside him.

This is not a dash for the finish line. This is a slow sip of scotch by the fire. A grin. A thoughtful pause. An intimate parting of lips.

But will we follow-through?

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