It's like holidays and heroes. Done well, you celebrate all year. When it is done wrong, you only get a month.
He tried remembering the first time they met. They allude to it sometimes, but the details remain unclear. There was the “hello,” the smile, the drive, the police, the restaurant... Maybe the restaurant. He was not sure.
He remembers that night. Rolling around on the empty apartment floor. There was lots of space then. There was no need for what they called “adult” furniture. A futon and a small table in a well-lit apartment was all that necessity mandated.
The cat enjoyed being the same height as the two of them. He jumped, batted, and clawed as the figures wrestled, secretly testing the other for strength while stealing subtle exchanges of warmth.
When their bodies could no longer take the impact of childhood merriment, they slid through the side door for air. They leaned on the perfectly polished railing of the balcony that was home to the plants that decided not to finish growing. The untroubled darkness provided enough light to see the outline of the family of spruce grouped together hiding the local road. They were alone, and life was beautiful.
The turtle was there in his Rubbermaid container that seemingly held the essentials of a hospitable habitat. He had just begun digging a suitable space to avoid the coming winter and refused to acknowledge the shadows hovering above him.
He found the turtle while hiking the Appalachians and hastily named him Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson was the only animate creature he found on that climb, though he would cautiously stop at the sound of dry leaves crunching under him hoping to catch a glimpse of a white-tailed drawn from a daybed.
Upon reentering the apartment, the drinks, physical activity, and calm of night rendered them exhausted. The pressing yet unspoken expectation of respect and virtue interrupted their initial slumber as they anxiously tossed and awoke nervously before allowing sleep to dominate the remainder of the evening.
The sun shined on a new day with optimism and hope. They survived the first test. They said their good-byes with all of the faith dreamers were allowed to possess.
A cloud of fury and anger holds them captive now. The slightest incident is cause for a breakdown, which leads to yelling, screaming, and, most disheartening, the need for space and time. Most times, neither knows why they are arguing. What goes unsaid is usually what needs to be said to bring the appropriate resolution. But neither wants to risk being the one to end it.
This is why they are as they are. No one wants to be the bad person. There are no shoulders to cry on when you are the bad person. People shun you, poke fun, or speak freely.
People don't understand love. They can't comprehend the push-pull factors that leave you in a perpetual state of suspended movement. They can't see past your smile or “good riddance." You don't have the right words to transfer the hurt or pain to inspire empathy.
So, you put on your brave face, operate with calculated precision, clutch the last of your sanity, closely carry your pride, silently petition for a redo, grasp for a new world, and demand understanding all while refraining from noticing that you did holidays and heroes the wrong way.