So, this happened, last night and this morning…
— Thursday morning, 5:58am —
It’s probably a crime in some countries to leave your relationship when it’s at its very best point, right?
I rest both hands on the bathroom counter and examine myself. Pale face, swollen eyes… I looked like the victim.
I’m not. I’m not, I’m not, I’m not. I am the worst person in the world. I am the bad guy. I always will be.
— Wednesday evening, 5:36pm —
“You must be happy to be home earlier, huh?” He looked up from his computer screen. “I’m going to Fred Meyer’s to grab some stuff for dinner. You want anything?”
Yes. Freedom. To be by myself. To be spontaneous. To take advantage of my 20s. To explore people and places. For you to understand all this…
Nevermind. I swallowed. “I think we’re missing green onions? Could you grab some?”
“Yeah sure. The pork’s already defrosted, so could you please start chopping up potatoes and stuff? We can have the soup cooking by the time I get back.” He smiled his we’re-so-good-as-a-couple smile.
We’re good at our routines, this is true. We always have. The day-to-day was not hard for us. This, at least, was comforting.
— Wednesday evening, 6:03pm —
Beep! Beep! Beep! the microwave complained.
We were in the kitchen, warming up leftovers. What if I just said something casual?
I looked at him, grabbing spoons for us. I put on a lighthearted smile and wrapped my arms around his waist. “If we broke up, would you be able to date other girls?”
He broke into a goofy grin. “OH HELL YEEE. I’m a G, son.”
I smiled sadly and looked into his eyes for a couple seconds. His grin went down a notch. His hands tightened reflexively around my hips.
His smile flashed back in, trying to reinforce that joking demeanor. “Baaaaby, don’t you wanna be with me?” He always elongated his vowels when he’s trying to be cute.
I looked down. Now’s the time.
I looked back up. “I don’t know.”
— Thursday morning, 6:12am —
I don’t know. Well, that whole going-for-casual thing was a disaster.
I don’t know. What a thing to hear from someone you’ve dedicated four years to.
I put out leftovers on the counter to prepare my lunch for the day.
That very same counter was the one on which we argued last night as our dinner slowly got cold. No more playfulness at that point.
I want to grow, I want to experience the world, I want to be the better, more vibrant person that I know is inside me, and I can’t do that with you, I can’t do that if I’m committed right now, thinking about the future makes me scared, I’m 23, I want to LIVE MY LIFE and make mistakes… On and on I had gone.
You need to grow up, you’re not in high school anymore, stop trying to make up for the fun you didn’t have back then, because that time is over, and we love each other and want to get married, have children, and you know this… We have everything, don’t we?? … On and on he had gone.
Lunch packed, check. Bus pass, check. I need to get my scarf and a hair tie.
— Wednesday evening, 6:39pm —
His roommate had come home mid-shout. I took my completely forgotten, congealed leek soup into the bedroom, where I proceeded to stare at the wall lifelessly, seated on the corner of the bed.
My eyes shifted to two photographs we have of each other, between our two computer screens. We looked happy, cute together.
After four years together, we finally have pictures of us somewhere in the house… We fucking celebrated that, when we printed out pictures and finally framed it. Now, there’s real, hard evidence we’re together. Anyone who saw these photos would see a couple in love.
And now it’s all about to fall apart – again. We should never have put up photos.
I heard him try to make casual conversation outside with his roommate, making nonchalant noises.
After a few minutes, he stepped into the bedroom, into my room of gloom. Paths of tears had dried on my cheeks, leaving them sticky and itchy.
I heard a heavy sigh, and felt the bed move under his weight as he seated himself behind me. He put his arms around my waist and held me, his chin gently rested on my shoulder. He was silent, his breathing even. His breathing was always even. His everything was always even. It was infuriating how even his world was. But it was comforting, too.
And me. My shoulders started shaking again, my throat catching.
There’s something else I have to tell you, sweetheart…
“You know, there’s something else here,” I croaked out. “You know that person I keep wanting to be friends with again?”
I turned back at him, his eyes all sad denial.
“It’s always bothered me that you never let me see him. I know things happened between him and I, and that you were there… but you have to understand the connection.” I sniffed defiantly. “I will never lose that connection. This is why I keep asking you.”
“Baby,” he started, “You have to forget about him. You can’t move on in our relationship if you keep bringing him up. Why can’t you just let it go? You guys had one night together. He took advantage of you. You were sad, you were hurting from breaking up with me, and you fell into it with him. How many times do I have to tell you…” His voice drifted away.
Resigned, he fell back on the bed and covered his eyes with his forearm. He remained quiet.
Shame. I felt shame. It didn’t happen quite like that.
I got up and laid next to him on my side, propping my head on my hand. “You know that night things happened between him and I, when you picked me up the day after? Well,” I continued, “In classes, I… had been flirting with him. We would spend hours together, studying. You and I were having problems. I had my insecurities, and I think I slowly pushed you away. You and I weren’t working.” I looked down, certain this was the end, bracing myself. “He didn’t take advantage of me. I liked him already.”
I heard a swift intake of breath.
He pushed himself up on his forearm, to look down at me.
I gulped. “I’d already had feelings for him… before he took me with him for Christmas. I… I know I keep talking about our connection. But I think I’ve had feelings for him all this time. That’s why I keep bringing him up.”
I looked directly at him this time. His eyes… I always could lose myself in those eyes. Light brown in the center. Amber, in the sun. Green, around the edges. His eyes were like a forest in the spring.
Not now, they weren’t. I felt my betrayal of him reflected back at me in those eyes. They were sharp as thorns, piercing me to my very soul.
I burst. I blubbered. Oh my God, did I blubber.
“I-I-That’s why I feel so heavy all the time! I-I-I’m so sorry! You-I-can’t-give-you-I’m not-!” I stopped talking. My shoulders shook uncontrollably as tears gushed out anew. The dam had broken. I was sure his roommate could hear through the walls.
I looked at him through waterfalls. There was a bitter twist to his lips that I had not seen there a moment ago.
“So…” I saw him, felt him try out the words in his head.
“You’ve been cheating on me. Emotionally.” His eyes were worse now. They grew soft, like the way a man might look taking his dying breath.
His eyelashes flicked downward, following the path his eyes took, to my fingers resting on his. Oh my God. I was breaking his heart right now. This is what breaking his heart looks like.
Well, I’m on a roll now, might as well keep going… shit.
“I think,” I stopped again, took a deep, shuddering breath. “I think,” I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…
“that you love me… more than I love you.”
— Thursday morning, 6:15am —
Shit. I won’t make the 6:20.
I’ve gained a few minutes ’til the next one, I guess. What should I do?
Normally, I’d snuggle with him in bed for a minute. Smell the sleepiness coming off him. One of the best smells in the world.
But now what? I can’t do it.
He had blinked when I told him. Blinked twice. As if his eyes were trying to do the processing of this new data that his brain was refusing to do at that moment.
“What the hell,” he had said. “That’s fucked up.”
And it got worse after that. But I just… don’t want to think about this anymore. I have to go to work.
I slid into the bedroom, saw his sleeping form through the ray of light coming through the door. I sat next to him, and played with his thick, black hair. We would’ve had beautiful kids. Beautiful, smart kids.
I leaned over and kissed him on his cheeks, his forehead, and his mouth.
I even like the smell of his morning breath. I do love him…
He opened his eyes, squinting at the light. I saw those dying embers in his eyes again, the remainder of a burning forest. “Hi baby,” he whispered. “I love you.” He swallowed. He blinked twice. “Have a good day.”
My eyes burned with the strain of trying to keep the tears down. How can he still say this, knowing he doesn’t have me 100%? Why does he still think I’m worth it? Why has he always thought I was worth it? I’m not it, I’m not it for him, I’m not, I’m not.
I’m not. He deserves someone’s 100%, he will make someone else very happy, he doesn’t have all of me. Why can’t I give it to him? Why can’t I just be… content?
“Hi, sweetheart.” I smiled at him shakily. “I love you, too.”
He closed his eyes. He was quiet for a long time. I was just about to get up to leave, thinking he’d gone back to sleep, when he muttered, “That doesn’t mean anything anymore.”
My heart stopped. Fuck. Well, this is what I wanted, right?
DAY 14 ASSIGNMENT: Recreate a Single Day
Setting limits on your writing can be both liberating and productive, as you may have noticed in Day 1’s timed free-write and yesterday’s word count exercise. Let’s incorporate a different restriction: write a post that takes place during one single day.
It might seem hard, at first, to tell a compelling story with such a limited temporal horizon: you have no recourse to flashbacks, backstory, or foreshadowing (unless it’s in reference to something about to take place that same day). But the narrow confines of one single day will encourage you to zoom in on rich, telling details.
But remember: recreating a single day doesn’t automatically mean describing every detail. This assignment is very much about editing — and focusing on the right details.
How will you use 24 hours as your story’s canvas? Here are examples:
- Start in the middle of the action, then zig and zag through time, from the moment you woke up to the last thing that happened before you retired for the night.
- Structure your story as a play-by-play (or hour-by-hour) account, complete with precise time markers.
- Zoom in even further, limiting yourself to just one hour of your chosen day.
- Ignore these instructions and reveal one day’s significance indirectly, through focusing on its aftermath.