Sincerely, The Choices I Made
Daniel was gone, a mirage scattering down the highway, rippling away from me as if he had never been here at all. I watched as the plates of his car disappeared, an illegible blur in the distance. I could barely make out the crown of Anna's head; light brown hair pulled into a lopsided ponytail. He refused to leave her; he refused to stay with me. What other choice was there but to let them go? Daniel didn't want me to fight for him, for Anna.
Before everything that happened, the choices I made, I had thought I didn't want to fight for them either. My Anna, yes. I would throw myself into the fire for her, but what if my volition set the fire? I didn't have an answer for that -- until now. The wind whipped out from the force of the car speeding away, spraying gravel and dusted air through my lank, oily hair that my fingers couldn't stop raking through — a distraught repetition of fear.
My heart clenched, tears welling and spilling for my Anna. I did this to her. I cried because it felt like she wasn't mine anymore. Maybe this was my punishment. Only it felt like the beginning of a final ruling; my heart collapsed at the thought, the reality of this new beginning. Not all new beginnings are a fresh and thrilling start to something full of excitement, shivering with the courage to surge forward. Instead, I was falling backward at the precipice of this new start. Falling and fearing I would never get back up.
Daniel had left me. After it all, there was no forgiving. The extent of my deceit, deception, cruelty of the heart, knife in the gut was unbearable to him. His body had revolted at it for weeks. Not sure how to be, what to do, where to go from here. But this morning, he decided. I watched as he threw open suitcases and tore open dresser drawers, leaving them open as if closing them would waste precious time. As if he couldn't get away from me fast enough. He snagged Anna's orange backpack of a hook by the garage door, the face of a monster built into its fabric. The cartoonish smile around the zipper on its small front pocket leered at me, the faded white teeth now a wicked smile grinning with payback where a cute child's character used to be. It wasn't lost on me that I had picked out the orange backpack for her, thinking how adorable and silly it was and how much she would love it. Looking at it now felt like a punch to the throat, knocking the wind out of me.
Daniel didn't stop in his whirlwind exit to give me a chance to hold my Anna, hug her, and tell her I would see her soon. How sorry I was for breaking our family apart. How perfect she is, how she deserved to be loved better. He swooped her up, buckling her in her seat and slamming the car door shut. Before he got into the driver's seat, he paused, looking back at me for a frozen moment. A swarm of emotions raced through his expression, compelling his eyes to express the depth of his pain, so much goddamn pain. I stood there, knowing I should say something. Knowing this was my last chance to stop him from leaving. If there even was a splinter of possibility left.
The words wouldn't come. Maybe there were no words left that mattered; they had all gone lost and couldn't be found. A tear slid out of those beautiful blue eyes, glistening gold around the center. The pain tore through me as it ripped over him and cried down his cheeks, wetting his beard, the neck of his shirt.
And then Daniel was gone.
Aeron was now at the edges of my existence, hovering, peeking over the edge of a cliff. The loop I had tied around him had loosened enough for me to slip out. Both of us let go, even if for different reasons. A suppressed but sick part of me wanted to take solace in him, that wanted to be able to find some peace in the arms of another human being that I had once believed cared for me.
Only there was no solace in his arms; no restful ease in his embrace. The drunk enthralling feeling that had lived in me, bringing me back to him, had expired. The delicious electricity I had felt in his presence, at just the thought of him, had lost its luster. Truthfully that feeling had been extinguished for months. I had lost affection for him long before I knew the flame was thinning, but I chose to ignore it. Finally disillusioned, I began to realize just how evil I had become and how heartless I was capable of being. Only a dark, emotionless person was capable of how much I had hurt Daniel.
I felt pitiful. Regretful. All my choices were flashing in front of me. My stomach turned and I heaved on the gravel, falling onto my knees, hands digging into the rocks and dirt as my stomach tried to empty itself of grief and guilt.
I don't remember finding my keys. I don't remember getting into my car and driving away from the house we had bought together, not bothering to shut the garage door. I'm not sure how long I drove without stopping. Eventually, in what felt like mere minutes, I found myself near the Oregon state line.
Maybe I was chasing what I had chased away.
I turned off towards the Washington coast, recognizing the signs for Cape Disappointment. I had visited the state park just a year before. The beaches were typical for Washington. Littered with driftwood and dead crabs, sections of the park dedicated to campsites, and cabins available to rent during the summer. I parked near the trailhead that led to one of the lighthouses, locating the spot quickly, existing on autopilot that guided me despite my numb state of mind. The cape had sharp corners and deadly bluffs. Deadman's Cove had been my favorite spot here. It was difficult to climb down to, but once you were there, that wonderful feeling of strained muscles and tired lungs being well worth it washed over you.
Deadman’s Cove was mysterious and beautiful. Its ominous waters were deliciously shocking on your skin; the tall black rocks gave the illusion of being in a pirate's hideout, a hidden lagoon to languish in if you could get past the black rocks, mountainous in the center of the water. I liked to imagine saltwater-worn signs marked with a skull warning ships to turn back, visions of Neverland's mermaid lagoon sparkling behind daydreaming eyes. That was before I ended up back at Cape Disappointment for reasons other than relishing in its magically threatening presence.
The hike was hardly a blip on my mind, my legs moving without thinking about the effort it took to lead me to where I now stood, at the edge of the ocean, licking its salt water at the beach's shore. There were signs at the top of the crooked hillside path informing the public that no entrance was allowed by the rule of the state government. I didn't care.
The wind rushed around me, swirling thrushes that erased any other sound but the beat of the water. It swept up the prose of the ocean, flooding in and out of its sandy bed, throwing itself to the shore only to pull itself back as quickly as it came. I pulled my boots off, tossing them aside, my socks yanked off with them. I crept forward, stopping at the tide's edge, the autumn waters on the cusp of winter numbing my toes almost immediately. My breath caught in the force of the wind, sucking in air at the touch of the icy water.
Tears began to spill again down my red, raw cheeks, ravaged from a crying spell that had no end. I felt like I would never stop crying, never step out of this pitiful grief long enough to pull shreds of myself together, to make it all better, no matter how long it might take. Nothing was left of me that thought there might still be room for my person, my existence in my own life, let alone Anna's. Or Daniel’s. Not even Aeron, who, I grasped all too late, was never going to want all of me the way I thought I wanted, no, needed, him. Standing there with the ocean striking at my toes, saltwater mist dampening my hair and clothes, I realized something else.
I had pushed myself out of the hearts of all the people important to me.
And I was no longer worthy of them.
But most of all, I knew I had ended up in this despair because of the choices I made.
The image of Anna's ponytail getting smaller and smaller in the distance until she was gone altogether swelled in my vision; it was all I could see. Daniel's pain surged in my chest and burst; the wreckage of losing them by the hand of my choices consumed the beat of my heart; it was the only thing I could feel.
Without thinking, I walked further into the water, wading out as far as I could until I had to swim the rest of the way to the lowest rock. The tide rose as I struggled to heave my body onto the slick blacktop in one swing, determined to keep going. My clothes were heavy with wetness now, adding more weight for my weary frame to carry. I made my way to the top of the tallest rock, untrustworthy with the ocean, sharp at its ends. I slipped once, nearly losing my balance as I ascended, but the guttural suddenness of fear didn't rip through my bones.
No, I felt no fear. In its place, wild desperation stretched its talons into me, goading me to make it to the crown. I pulled myself up atop the tallest rock, standing before the ocean's razor edges crashing into the black walls at the tall mouth of the lagoon, the fringes of Deadman's Cove. The wind was louder here, deafening in a way you could only understand if you had experienced its might. My body shook with the brittle cold, the icy temperatures settling over me, chattering my teeth. I welcomed its cadaverous rime.
I looked down at the angry water pummeling below, slamming into the rocks, scattering itself up in showers of rage ebbing with a force that should have been frightening. My gaze bore into the water, searching for a bottom I couldn't find. My body shook, tears still tumbling relentlessly. My thoughts raced back to Anna and Daniel, flashes of warm memories reeling in a slide show of taunting reminders. The unbearable aching at what I had lost welled inside me; I couldn't stand the desperation of it, the finality, the lovely things I let slip through my fingers.
I had done this.
I had made each choice that led me to where I now stood, alone, on the top of a black rock in a black cove, closing my eyes against the wind and the danger before me. My limbs seethed with an ugly misery to take it all back — suffocating with the understanding that I had broken the hearts I was supposed to care for the most.
There was no reversing time, it would keep moving forward, and I couldn't bear moving forward with it. Not with Daniel and Anna gone. Not with this horrid undeserving person I had become.
The rhythm of roaring waves beats against my grief, repetitive in their harsh dance. Forcing myself to look into the eye of the world I had used and destroyed; I knew I had one more choice to make.