“This could be the last night. It could be the last time we see each other,” he said.
“I know.” They were laying next to each other on the bed staring at the ceiling. “I wish it could have turned out differently,” she said softly.
“Me too,” he said, speaking as much to himself as to her.
The light from the street outside filtered through the hotel room’s thin curtain. It was a cheap hotel and they could hear people laughing from another room down the hall. Someone walked by their door; they heard the footsteps fade and then stop followed by a door opening and closing.
He was pretty non confrontational by nature and his instinct was telling him that the nice thing to do would be to give her some kind of assurance that they could try and work it out even though he knew that wasn’t true.
I should probably say something to let her know that I still love her and that I’ll be back again, he thought. But why lie? He knew that it would never be the way they had imagined it. He couldn’t help reaching out for her hand though and he interlocked fingers with her to reassure her. She must have known the truth because her hand was as limp as a deflated balloon. When he squeezed it to comfort her, she just let it lay there. Finally, she pulled her hand back and rolled away from him facing the wall.
“Hey,” he whispered. “Are you ok?” She didn’t respond. “Hey,” he said again.
“I want to die.”
“You what? Now don’t say that. It’s ok. It will be ok.” He rolled over on his side toward her and rubbed her back gently. “Hey come on now. Really, it will be fine. I still care about you, you know.” There, he’d said it without even meaning to. He’d gone and told her something that wasn’t true.
Truth be told, he cared about her the way you care about an acquaintance or a casual friend. You care about them enough so that you wouldn’t want to see them get hurt. But you don’t care enough to change your life for them. You don’t care enough to spend more time than is necessary with them. He wished he could love her. In his mind they’d passed a certain point. They’d passed the point where he could go back and feel that way again. But now that he’d said he cared, he couldn’t very well take it back.
“I still care about you and I really treasure the time we had together. It could be the last time, but it doesn’t have to be,” he said, hating himself for letting the words escape his mouth. “I just need to think about things. That’s all. I think we should just step away from each other for a little while and figure out how to make it work.”
“I’m really sorry. I really didn’t mean to,” she said still facing the wall. Her voice had a quiver in it and he knew she didn’t want to let him see her crying. “I don’t know why I acted the way I did. I know I probably ruined things but I wish we could have another chance.”
He pulled her gently back toward him and she relented, rolling over to face him. He swept the hair away from her face and looked at her.
He thought for a moment. Once you made up your mind about someone, it was very difficult, if not impossible, to change it. It had all seemed so perfect when it began. It was funny how quickly the way you felt about someone could change so completely. His eyes had adjusted to the dark now and he could see her face.
“Well,” he said. “Let’s just give it some time.”
From somewhere down the hall they heard a baby crying and then a door slamming.
The next morning when they left, they didn’t leave a tip for the hotel maid. You don’t tip at a hotel you don’t want to remember.