It was almost dark. As Megan parked her car in the driveway and got out, she saw the movers take out a green couch out of the house. A little pang of nostalgia rose in her, then swiftly dissolved into an overwhelming sense of liberty. In the past one year, she had spent many hours lying on this couch. Most of them had been miserable.
When she had told her three best friends at lunch one afternoon that she was moving in with Patrick, they decided to have an emergency meeting that very evening. It was then that over several bottles of wine, they came to an agreement that this was a decidedly bad idea. Patrick was an outsider, both geographically and socially, they argued, a bit drunk. He had just moved to the city, and they didn’t even know any of his friends. Megan, equally drunk, responded loudly that their second reason was bogus and of course, he didn’t have any friends because he had just moved to the city. But she had known him for only three months! – her friends pleaded. How could she trust him so much as to sign a lease with him? She was moving too fast. All these arguments made Megan’s resolve stronger, as she realized none of this mattered to her. “I love that man!” she declared, and within a week moved in with Patrick to a small idyllic apartment that overlooked a hill.
The apartment looked much bigger than she remembered it, now that the movers had loaded all the furniture into the truck. She remembered the day they had bought the furniture. When she mentioned the idea of having a green and orange theme for the furniture, she had expected him to laugh in her face. Instead, he just nodded. “That might be interesting,” he said. So they got an olive green couch with dark orange pillows, and apple colored chairs with rust upholstery. Patrick even managed to get a bed with a mahogany varnish. They covered it with green sheets. The bed looked rather flimsy, but it stood resilient in the face of some serious lovemaking. “This is great”, she said and kissed him on the cheek, “I love you!”
They spent hours in bed locked in each other’s arms. They sneaked in to public parks to take walks after closing hours, roaming in shadows and exchanging silent kisses. They drove to a restaurant a hundred miles away on a whim to have dinner, then called sick at work and spent the entire week in that town.
But time went by and things changed. The silences between conversations grew longer, the sex became mechanical, and they tried to ignore the glaze in each other’s eyes as they went on yet another adventure that failed to excite them. Three months went by. And then one perfectly unremarkable evening, Megan couldn’t find her black cup.
The misplaced cup that like so many of its brethren – accidentally torn book pages, carelessly placed wine glasses, wrongly booked flight tickets – led to the fight that they had felt sitting around in the room, like an apparition of the proverbial elephant, just waiting to materialize. Out came the insults, the accusations. All the things that were never mentioned and assumed forgiven and forgotten were suddenly remembered, and listed in great detail. A broken wristwatch, given as a perfect birthday gift – and accepted as such – was suddenly evidence for carelessness. An unplanned work trip that had only warranted the response, “It’s okay love, I understand.” was suddenly a large fluttering flag for the lack of communication. In short, the relationship was ending, and as they realized it, and as they saw their future, bleak and lonely – as it always seems when things are ending – that future seeped into the past and colored everything. It turned all the dreamy afternoons and candlelight dinners into grey cloudy skies and poorly planned meals.
And so, finally Megan admitted to her friends that they were right. She and Patrick now had half a year to live together till the lease expired. They thought it was impossible after the ugly fight. They stayed in their rooms and avoided all contact. Patrick started going to office extra early, and Megan became a night owl.
But this hatred too, they found, was not as permanent as it had first seemed. Slowly, like their love, it faded as well. With time, the anger eroded, the uncomfortable stares turned into greetings, the frowns turned into little smiles, and eventually, every once a while, they could sit in the living room and talk about their day. They settled into a comfortable existence that almost seemed like friendship. The months went by, and finally the day came when the lease expired.
Megan entered the bedroom. Patrick stood staring out the window. He looked handsome in the light of the lamp, she admitted to herself. He heard her coming and turned. In his hands he had a pack of cigarettes that he held out to her.
“It’s against the apartment rules, you know?” she said.
“Let’s break this last rule together, for old times sake”, he said with a smile, and took out the lighter. She smiled back and took the cigarette. Had it really been so bad? – She thought as he lit her cigarette. If things had only been a little different, would it have worked out? She took a drag, and as she exhaled the smoke, she felt this thought too leave her and disappear into the darkness outside. She gave the cigarette back to Patrick, nodded, and turned around.
They had gotten their time together. It was time now, to move on.