Leaves. There are leaves everywhere. I almost forgot that the East coast actually has seasons. I wasn’t expecting this though; wasn’t expecting quite such a bombardment of stale color. Somebody should really take care of it. Briefly, I wonder if I would, if I would want to, for her. If we would spend cool mornings tending to what would be our yard, as our neighbors showered us with smiles and good mornings.
I look at the address scribbled onto the piece of paper in my hand and step out of my rental car. The neighborhood seems quiet enough; little suburban homes with freshly cut green lawns that are only marred by the excessive dusting of foliage that comes with the season.
I wonder what it’s like for her to live here, wonder what she’s like now, if she’s different, if I’m different; if intruding on her life is something I should even be thinking about.
I walk up the small drive and hesitate. I shouldn’t be here. She’s probably in there having her lunch. A warm bowl of soup, or chowder, or whatever it is that they eat here. That is, if she’s even in. I wring my hands and try to find the right words, but the hashed and rehashed lines I practiced feel inadequate. I feel inadequate. What can I possibly say? I’m ready, ready to love you; to have you; to need you; to want you.
I hate myself.
I hate what I said to her, what I felt toward her, what I did to her. She poured everything she had into what she said to me, but it didn’t mean anything then. So, I treated her like she was garbage. I passed on everything she had to offer, everything she had to give, and didn’t think twice about it, didn’t bother to look back.
“Prison just worked wonders on you, didn’t it?” I said. “I don’t know what you were expecting Faith, but it can’t be much. Not from me. I’m still trying to figure out who I am, and you… you want me to try and take on your baggage, too? Not to mention the fact that you’re a fugitive, Faith. A fugitive. You get that, right? I’m not even going to get into the fact that I’m not gay either. I’m sorry if I’m being harsh here, but I really don’t know what to say. I never do when it comes to you. You realize that you’re asking too much here, don’t you?”
She didn’t speak.
“I’m sorry, Faith, but no. I can’t even try to deal with this now,” I said.
Then she was gone.
I look up at her door and try to sooth the guilty thoughts running through my head. I breathe in deeply, hoping that the cold air will help. It doesn’t, and I feel like a fool. I want to knock, but I don’t. Instead, I drop my hand and walk back to my car. I can’t help but feel tired.
I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting here, but it’s almost sun set. The wavering colors don’t look nearly as beautiful as the California sky, but then again, nothing does. I want to get away from here. From her. I want to see the sky turn orange over the blue as night falls before I curl into my own bed. I can’t seem to bring myself to leave though. Not yet. Maybe if I stay another minute, she’ll come out and tell me that she still loves me. Maybe if I stay another minute, I’ll be able to knock on her door.
I hadn’t noticed anyone was outside my car until my door was pulled open. I look up and she looks, older. It’s only been three years, but she looks tired and worn almost. I wonder if I look the same.
“What are you doing here?” she asks. I shrug. Anything that I say will fall short of what I feel or don’t feel, I know it will.
“You came all this way. Must have something you want to say.”
“Let’s hear it then.” She crosses her arms possibly to shield herself from the cold. She isn’t wearing a sweater. Just a long sleeve shirt and jeans. No shoes. I step out of the car, but hold onto the top of the open door.
“I wanted to apologize. For what I said last time I saw you. I’m sorry.”
“That it? ‘Cause you really didn’t have to. You got nothing to be sorry for. Doesn’t matter now anyway.”
“It does.” I clear my throat. “Matter. I…” can’t find the right words to say. I look up to see her staring blankly at me. “I thought I was different. This morning, I thought I was different. I thought I could do this. With you.”
“Oh,” she says.
“I was so sure that I wanted you. I thought I was ready. I thought I could change, if you would just still love me, I could change, but maybe I can’t.”
“Buffy…” She shakes her head and reaches for me, but I pull back.
“I… I need you… For so many reasons, Faith, I need you…” I try to hold back tears. They fall anyway. “God, maybe I’m just… not… I don’t. I can’t love anyone, Faith, I don’t know how.”
“Well, I’m sorry for that,” she says as she pulls me into a loose hug. “I’m sure you’ll be all right though. You always are.” I sniffle into her shoulder. My arms hang limply at my sides. I don’t know how long we stand there, but it keeps getting darker and colder. Finally the street lamps flick on and I pull away.
I look at the loose pile of leaves on the neighboring lawn. “Somebody really should rake up all these leaves.”
“Yeah,” she says.