Sarah sits cross-legged on what had been, until half an hour ago, our bed. Shared, and therefore neutral territory- an interpersonal Switzerland that refused steadfastly to be dragged into any conflict larger than an argument about whose turn it was to make coffee in the morning. There have been other such conflicts- more than there should have been, certainly- but they tended to be consigned exclusively to the living room, where we’d sit on a two-person loveseat with three spaces between us and wait for hours for the other party to give in and apologise. ‘So it’s serious, then?’ she asks.
How am I supposed to answer that? Either it’s yes, it’s serious, I don’t want to be with you anymore, or it’s no, it’s not serious, I care so little about you that I’m willing to throw it all away on some stupid fling. The truth of the matter is that it’s neither, or at the very least a little of both and nowhere near as polarised as she’s trying to make out, but we’re way past the point where the truth is going to make any sort of difference to the outcome of the evening. Whatever happens now, there will be shouting and screaming and in all likelihood the slamming of doors and the throwing of anything that she can lay her hands on. At the moment, though, she seems relatively calm and rational. She isn’t crying, which is good, but she also hasn’t started swearing yet, which leads me to think that her present composure is going to end up being a very small tip on a very large, very loud iceberg.
‘Well?’ she says, her inflection marking that little word out as a question in its own right. She’s prompting me as though I hadn’t heard her, which we both know is impossible. The neighbours could have heard a pin drop after she asked the first time, so it’s pretty obvious that what she’s doing is nothing more than attempting to psych me out.
‘You know I’m not going to answer that,’ I say eventually, which is an awful response but the best I can manage given the situation. She doesn’t respond, and we just sit for a couple of minutes. Outwardly, I hope I look concerned for her wellbeing, even if I can’t bring myself to look remorseful; inwardly, I’m willing to do anything to get out of this stalemate even if I have to put up with a few tears to get things moving again. If we play this game to a draw, all we’re going to do is have a rematch in a few days’ time. ‘So…’ I say to break the silence.
It doesn’t work quite as well as I’d hoped. ‘So?’ she asks. ‘Is that it? Is that all I’m getting?’
‘What else is there to say?’ I reply, and for the first time in this little exchange I find myself speaking my mind, the angel on my right and the devil on my left singing a perfect two part harmony.
‘Sorry?’ It’s a suggestion, not an apology or a request for repetition. ‘What about sorry?’ she clarifies almost immediately afterwards, just in case.
‘Would it make a difference?’ I ask. Her lip is starting to tremble, but that’s just as likely to be as a result of her holding back her anger as it is through holding back tears.
‘That depends,’ she says. ‘Are you sorry?’
I think it over. ‘No,’ I say eventually. She keeps staring at me, daring me to add to it. ‘If I was sorry, though- truly, deeply sorry- would it matter?’
It’s another one of those questions, but this time it’s mine and not hers, and I’m more than willing to let her sweat it out for as long as she needs to. I know the answer, though, and more importantly I know she knows it too, well before she speaks.
‘No,’ she says quietly, and that’s all.