Counting Down

Tick-tock.

Breathe in. Breath out. Repeat.

My chest feels tight. I’m holding a scream inside, feeling it wrap itself around my lungs. Once I heard that breathing was instinctual, something our bodies just do without us learning how. So I wonder why I seem to have forgotten how to do it.

Tick-tock.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. Not today.

As long as it doesn’t happen today I’m okay. I’ll worry about tomorrow when it comes. If it comes. Sometimes I’m not sure it will. I feel locked in a single moment in time. The fall and rise of the sun feel like a change of scenery but not like they’re marking time. Even regressing would be a relief because it’d be a way out. If I were to choose a moment to be locked into, it wouldn’t be this one.

Tick-tock.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. Smile.

One of my friends once said that the celebrities that are the closest to breakdowns always smile the biggest. I smile like I’ve seen the sun for the very first time. My cheeks tinge with exertion as I walk down the hallway to my office, internally focusing on the click of my heels on the floor.

My therapist says it’s not healthy to bottle my feelings. «What’s the alternative?» I had asked her, because I couldn’t let them out without exploding. She said imploding isn’t any better. But it doesn’t matter, it won’t happen today. Maybe tomorrow. If tomorrow comes. I wonder when I started thinking of the future like a threat when I used to try and race the clock to get to it sooner.

Tick-tock.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. Repeat again.

«Oh, Catherine, I’m glad I ran into you. I need you to finish the draft for next year’s budget by the end of the week,» my co-worker Angela said.

«Okay. I’m almost done with it now,» I said, tucking a piece of hair behind my ear. My wedding ring glinted under the fluorescent lights.

Angela’s eyes latched onto the ring and her expression turned pitying. The scream coiled itself even tighter around my lungs. «How are the kids doing?» Angela asked quietly, like it was a secret.

I weighed my answers carefully, knowing Angela wouldn’t accept a lie, but giving her the entire truth would be too much. «Confused,» I said finally.

So was I. Perhaps I was more confused than them. They didn’t understand why their father wasn’t coming back because they couldn’t imagine a world in which he would have a reason not to. I could imagine it, I just couldn’t find when we had entered that world, what reason lay at the heart of it.

«I faced that with my own son after the divorce,» Angela said, shifting her weight to one side. «He didn’t understand why his father wasn’t living with us, why he could only spend holidays with one of us at a time.»

«Then you didn’t face it,» I said sharply. Angela’s lips parted like she was about to say something but then blinked when she realized she didn’t know what to say. I decided to relieve her of that burden, «Excuse me, I really have work to get to.»

If only this was a divorce where we were still connected by our children. If only we were still sharing that responsibility. If only he hadn’t simply just left and the only contact we had wasn’t in the form of his handwriting on the child support checks he sent because he was legally bound to do so.

If only he hadn’t left abruptly leaving only a letter in the key tray without even saying goodbye to his children because he couldn’t face it.

Tick-tock.

Ticktockticktockticktock.

I closed the door to my office behind me, locking it, almost hyperventilating in order to get air into my lungs that were coiled too tightly, and barely succeeding.

Maybe it was today. Maybe today was the day I found out that surviving wasn’t enough. Maybe I’ve been falling apart all along, locked in the explosion that started when I reached the end of that letter, and this feeling like my chest was being ripped apart from the inside out was just the debris settling into my new reality.

A reality that was mostly the same but entirely different. Amazing how one flawed decision, one alteration in the otherwise perfect design, had the biggest effect. Ironic how the people it was affecting the most weren’t the ones who made decision.

Tick-tock.

No. I feel the tears overflowing.

Tick-tock.

It’s over. Today was the day.

Goodbye, Catherine.

I take the ring off. It’s over.

Note: I got the writing prompt from the following link: http://storybutter.com/writing-prompts/page/3/

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