At night, we use the bathroom in shifts and hover awkwardly on the landing, waiting for each other to finish so that we can say goodnight. We hug loosely, guardedly, unused to the newfound fragility of our intimacy. He presses his whiskered cheek to my own; I can see him fighting the habitual urge to kiss me on the mouth. His eyes are dull with resignation. It has been two weeks since I moved into the spare bedroom, but stepping out of his arms and turning in the opposite direction breaks my heart, every time.
As I undress, I can hear the muffled shufflings of his bedtime routine. I sit on the stool of my dressing table and press my palms against the wall-mounted mirror. If I look long enough, will I be able to see him through the glass?
Does he know that I can hear him crying?
Guilt has carved out a hollow space inside my chest that cannot be filled – and perhaps it’s better that way. I will never forget what I have done to this man, after all he has done for me. I will never forgive myself. Every night I lie in the bruised dark and hope that he will find someone better.
I have forgotten how cold a bed can be when you’re in it by yourself. We slept naked, before, our bodies tangled in a hot pile in the centre of the mattress. Now I bury myself under layers – bed socks, pyjama bottoms, an oversized t-shirt, a dressing gown – and crawl beneath the covers alone. I am always so incredibly cold.
I know that I am doing the right thing, and sometimes I am thankful for the silence and the autonomy that come with solitude. Sometimes I am thankful for the simplicity of our friendship, for the peace that comes with knowing we will get there, one day.
Mostly, though, I just miss him.